Let’s face it. Mosquitoes are the most annoying flying pests! There is nothing worse than trying to garden or enjoy some relaxing time in the backyard when the little buggers are buzzing around your ears.
Chemical laden sprays and mosquito netting are no fun either.
Plants can help. It won’t be an invisible forcefield where no mosquitoes dare enter, but it will help keep their numbers down as they will prefer hanging out in the neighbor’s yard.
Now, let’s dig into some perennial plants that repel mosquitoes starting with shade plants.
Perennial Shade Plants That Help Repel Mosquitoes
First, we will cover perennial shade plants that repel mosquitoes as the shade is where they prefer to hang out. They like cool, dark, and humid locations during the day (PDF on mosquitoes).
Mint (Mentha Spp.)
Mint plants have larvicidal and insecticidal compounds that repel mosquitoes, which are a part of the group of essential oils used to prevent mosquito-borne diseases (NIH – PDF).
And along with keeping mosquitoes away, the plant is also great for you! Mint is rich in iron, fiber Vitamin B6, vitamins A and B6, folate, calcium, manganese, and magnesium. And drying mint can increase nutritional value over fresh mint.
Mint is a rapidly growing perennial plant with various varieties that can grow to 3 feet tall and overgrow an area quickly. So you may want to contain mint in a pot or use an underground container since mint spreads by using underground rhizome runners.
Mint thrives in full shade to part shade. It should be planted early in the season and is usually resistant to temperatures of -20 degrees F.
This plant prefers moist soil. But, avoid excessive water as it can trigger leaf and root ailments.
The leaves and stems of mint can be harvested throughout the year and trimmed to about an inch from the soil three times per season in the days before it begins to bloom.
Another benefit is that mint is a perennial that deters mice.
Container Water Garden For Mint
A great way to get the benefits of mint and keep it under control is to grow it in a container water garden. Water mint (Mentha aquatica) grows well in water. But, you will want to use a pump to circulate the water. As mosquitoes breed in standing water, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.
If the container is large enough, you could also add a couple of mosquitofish. The fish will eat any mosquito larvae.
For more on creating a container water garden, check out this PDF.
Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)
Also a part of the mint species, the lemon balm plant works to repel insects and attract others that can be beneficial. But unlike mint, it will not spread aggressively. However, trimming it down a couple of times a year is good.
This will keep the plant looking better and prevent too many seeds from germinating.
Lemon balm works because of the following chemical compounds:
- Caryophyllene oxide
It will throw off a mint and lemon scent that is said to help deter mosquitoes. Lemon balm blooms with small white-colored flowers that attract honeybees in the summer.
Honeybees are a part of how this plant got its name. The scientific term “Melissa” means “honey bee” in Greek. And to attract bees to newer hives, beekeepers will use lemon balm oil.
Lemon balm thrives in climate zones 4-9 and likes cool weather.
There are additional benefits if that wasn’t enough to get you interested in lemon balm. You can use it similar to mint and brew herbal tea, add it to drinks, or cook with it.
Citronella (Pelargonium Citrosum)
One of the most common mosquitoes repellents is citronella. Often used in natural bug sprays, candles, and essential oils. So it only makes sense this plant would make the list.
Although, it should be noted that citronella is a part of the geranium species and can get confused with lemongrass. Lemongrass is not a shade-tolerant plant and will be on the sun plants list.
Citronella is an evergreen plant that grows well in climate zones 9-11. It is not a good choice if you are in a colder climate because it doesn’t do well indoors.
It will provide pink blooming flowers and does well in partial shade and moist soil.
How effective is it? Well, one study showed a 90% reduction using DEET, and citronella showed no difference (link to study). But, there are studies that show otherwise. So, the jury is still out until more studies are done.
Allium (Allium Sp.)
The allium plant includes species like onion, chives, and garlic. Garlic has known mosquito fighting properties.
“Garlic oil encapsulated in an exempt attractive toxic sugar bait (ATSB) formulation, and applied to riparian vegetation that shelter mosquitoes during the day in the arid lower Jordan Valley of Israel, was able to decrease biting pressure by Anopheles sergentii adult mosquitoes by 97% (Revay et al. 2015).”Garlic and Garlic Oil Profile PDF
It was first studied in an attempt to discover a natural alternative to DDT.
Allium is typically a bulb plant that has globe-shaped flowers. The bulbs can have clusters of up to 100 or more florets.
Alliums do thrive in full sun but tolerate partial-shade locations. So it would be great for a place that gets some morning sun, but it then shaded the rest of the day.
In general, most alliums do well in climate zones 3-9.
When planting, make sure to plant them deep enough. Alliums need to be planted three times deeper than the bulb’s width.
Also, ensure the soil can drain well, as bulbs can rot if the soil is consistently too wet.
Perennial Sun Plants That Help Repel Mosquitoes
There are sun-loving mosquito repellent plants. Although if you’re in a hot climate, you may want to make sure the plants get a little shade so they don’t get too much sun.
Horsemint / Bee Balm
Bee balm or horsemint prefers full sun. But, it will tolerate partial shade with the risk of powdery mildew and not as many flowers.
Horsemint can quickly grow to be three feet tall and spreads easily. Preferring a well-drained sandy soil.
Can be grown in containers, but you’ll want to prune the structure of the roots to help control it.
This plant will help attract hummingbirds, bees, and other beneficial pollinators.
Catnip (Nepeta Cataria)
Catnip is a vigorous, unruly perennial herbaceous native to Eurasia within the mint family (Lamiaceae) hardy within climate zones 3-9.
Not only will cats love the plant, but it is an excellent mosquito repellant.
Researchers have discovered that nepetalactone, catnip’s essential oil that creates the plant’s distinctive scent, is about ten times more effective in stopping mosquitoes from breeding over DEET (full study here).
The size of the catnip plant you grow will be dependent on soil quality and moisture. Catnip likes well-drained soil. So, sandy soils are excellent. Catnip also prefers soil that is mildly acidic pH. If you need your soil to be more acidic, check out this article.
You can use catnip in homemade bug spray or rub the leaves on your skin for a natural mosquito repellant.
Like citronella, lemongrass produces essential oils, which release an appealing citrus scent that can ward off unwanted animals and insects.
Lemongrass is undoubtedly one of the top plants that help repel mosquitoes and flies (gnats). And is also reported to help keep snakes away.
The downfall of it is that it is considered a tropical herb. And, you will need to be in zone 8 or warmer to have lemongrass as a perennial.
Although, you can grow it in a container and bring it indoors during the winter. The only difficulty is that it might get quite significant in size as it has been known to grow three to six feet in height.
Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Since a study was completed in 2002, lavender has been used to keep mosquitoes away. The study showed all four essential oils worked at keeping adult mosquitoes away:
- Lavender officinalis
- Eulcalyptus globulus
- Thymus vulgaris
- Rosemarinus officinalis
Lavender likes well-drained soil in a sunny location. And does not need much in terms of soil fertility. It is recommended not to add any organic soil when planting.
Plant in alkaline to mildly nuetral pH soil.
Grows well as a perennial in climate zones 5-8S. Pick a variety that is well suited to your location for the best results.
It is also good to trim lavender each year after its second season. As the roots can get woody and the pruning will stimulate new growth.
Final Thoughts: Perennial Plants Mosquitoes Hate
As stated in the intro, don’t expect to plant a couple of plants and never see a mosquito again. These perennial plants that repel mosquitoes are just one tool in the toolbox.
They can help deter mosquitoes, snakes, mice, and other unwanted guests and provide additional benefits for yourself, such as herbs for tea or adding flavor to soup.
Not to mention who doesn’t love the beauty of some of the plants while they are flowering. Which also benefits honeybees and hummingbirds, to name a few.
If you don’t know your climate zone, here is a map.
What are you waiting for? Get planting! :)
Rodents deterred by peppermint plants: researchgate.net/publication/228505668_The_Efficacy_of_Pure_Natural_Repellents_on_Rat_Responses_Using_Circular_Open_Field
Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.