How to ward off those pesky mosquitoes


OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer


Summertime is full of fun stuff, but one part of summer that’s not so fun is those pesky bugs that chase the kids and adults inside.

One unwelcome guest, the mosquito, can clear a patio or deck quickly by rudely buzzing and dive bombing every human in sight.

How do we repel those nasty insects and enjoy those lazy, hazy days of summer without using a lot of chemicals?

May I suggest adding natural repellents to your landscape?

Each year, I make up flower pots for my daughter-in-law. Her filler request is always the same – something that will repel the mosquitoes and it will not die if she forgets to water.

For several years now, the go-to plants have been lemon grass and the citronella plant.

According to Gary Bachman, Mississippi State Extension horticulture specialist, the top herbs with some scientific evidence for deterring mosquitoes are citronella, bee balm, thyme, lemon balm and lemon grass. He says that, “other scented herbs, including rosemary, lavender, basil, mint and catnip also may help deter these pests.”

Citronella is a common ingredient in mosquito repellents. Make sure you get the varieties Cymbopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus, as some other citronella varieties won’t have the same effect. These plants can grow up to 6-feet high and take up space in your yard or garden.

Planting the plant is not enough, however.

Bachman says crushing leaves and stems, then rubbing on your clothing and/or skin is likely more helpful than just having the plant close to you. It would be wise to check a small area of your skin first before applying overall because the compounds are volatile oils and may cause skin irritation.

Grown as an annual in our area, lemon grass, Cymbopogon citratus, is an attractive, easy-to-grow garden plant whose foliage grows 2- to 3-feet tall. A bonus to growing this plant is the stems and leaves impart a strong lemon flavor when used in cooking.

To reduce the mosquito population, Bachman suggests eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed, and keep fresh water in the birdbath.

Mosquitoes are a cause for concern. They are the vectors for the West Nile and Zika viruses. Keeping them away from you and your family – as well as your pets – is important for disease prevention and enjoyment of the outdoors without swatting constantly.

For information on using plants and fragrance to repel insects, check out the video and fact sheet at