With news of the Zika virus, an emerging mosquito-borne virus first identified in Uganda, on the rise worldwide, concerns over protecting ourselves from infected mosquitos hits a new high as the season warms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using insect repellent regularly, keeping doors and windows closed or screened, and emptying or covering containers that hold water.
In regard to repellents, they advise, “Repellents should contain DEET (N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide), IR3535 (3-[N-acetyl-N-butyl]-aminopropionic acid ethyl ester) or icaridin (1-piperidinecarboxylic acid, 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-methylpropylester). Product label instructions should be strictly followed. Special attention and help should be given to those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately, such as young children, the sick or elderly.”
In March of this year, the CDC announced the U.S. is anticipating more than 4 million cases of Zika in the Western Hemisphere. As of May 4, the CDC reports 472 confirmed cases within the United States. Obviously, that number is expected to rise.
While we need to follow safe precautions in regard to mosquito repellent, many are turning to natural repellents to help ward off insects attracted to their yard and garden.
The following 8 plants have mosquito repellent properties — and you may already be growing them in your garden. After an evening on the patio, you might want to consider planting them in containers as well.
Mosquito Repellent Plants
1. Lemon-Scented Geranium
Most scented geraniums are natural mosquitos repellent, but the Lemon-Scented Geranium is highly favored. They are recommended by PlantShed, BBG, and NYBG. The beautiful blooms have a strong fragrance which keeps several types of pests away. They are fast growing and like warm and sunny locations.
2. Lemon Grass
Popularly known as Horsemint, this plant not only repels mosquitos and other insects it is especially fragrant and easy to grow.
Marigolds have long been a favorite among gardeners and with its ability to repel insects, it makes it a perfect choice for any garden. It’s also a great candidate for companion gardening in the kitchen garden (vegetable garden) when planted near tomato plants as they ward off unwanted pests.
Lavender and Lavender essential oil is used to make commercial mosquito repellents and DEETS. The plant is easy to grow, loves containers, and is drought resistant once established. It does best in a sunny location.
While basil is a powerhouse in the kitchen, it also works wonders in the garden as well. The pungent aroma keeps pests and insects at bay. Basil works well both in the soil or in a container. It does need to be in a sunny location, kept damp with good drainage.
Rosemary is a perennial in my garden. It is simple to plant and maintain. The pungent woody aroma keeps bugs like cabbage moths and carrot flies away along with mosquitos and other insects. Both the New York Botanical Garden and PlantShed recommended this plant. They do best in hot and dry climates and thrive in containers. Serving double duty, it is wonderful to have on hand in the kitchen.
7. Lemon Thyme
This container herb is a powerful mosquito repellent. Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario found crushed lemon thyme leaves reduced mosquito (Aedes aegypti) biting activity by 62 percent, compare to being unprotected. The same study also found a popular chemical repellent to have a reduction in mosquito biting activity of about 90 percent.
Catnip is considered to be a medicinal herb. Although it is favored among cats, it’s also considered to be a mosquito repellent. Catnip is an herb that is easy to grow and works best in containers as it can be invasive. A study at Iowa State University found catnip especially useful in warding off mosquitoes.