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Sat June 14, 2014
The Garden Report

To Repel Insect Pests, Consider These Plants

Studies show that catnip rivals Deet as a mosquito repellent.
Credit Claudia Daggett / Flickr - Creative Commons

Anywhere there is standing water, mosquitoes will thrive. While chemical repellents are big business, there is a natural alternative. The scent of several plant species help to keep mosquitoes away. 

Tom Throgmorton describes some plants with scents that deter unwanted insects.

Use these plants in containers around the deck or patio, or add them to areas of the yard where you and your family congregate.

  • Agastaches release a scent that repels mosquitoes.  They grow about two feet tall and wide, dieback in the winter and need to be cut back in the spring. These summer bloomers have a wide variety of colors and are drought tolerant once they are established.
  • Ageratum, another mosquito repellant, is ideal for flower pots. This plant adds small blue or white flowers. While some varieties grow a few inches tall, others have a trailing habit.
  • A perennial that you can rub on your skin or clothing to repel mosquitos is catmint.  These mounding plants grow spikes of flowers. Remove the spent flowers to keep the plants blooming all season. These plants provide great border plantings.  An Iowa State study from 2001 showed catmint was as effective as DEET to repel mosquitoes.

If you are growing a vegetable garden this summer, mosquitoes may not be your biggest concern. Some varieties repel other insect pests while attracting pollinating insects.

  • Marigolds have been long used as a companion plant to ward off munching insects. At the same time, the bright colored flowers attract pollinating insects. Planting them along with veggies is an old organic gardening trick that works.
  • Bee balms are perennials that grow from six to eighteen inches tall and come in a wide variety of colors, attracting bees and butterflies. Part of the mint family, the scent repels mosquitoes but can also be invasive. Plant a few bee balms to repel mosquitoes but don’t be afraid to pull them out when they spread into other plants.

Contemplate using some of these plants as an alternative to chemical repellents to keep those pests at bay. 

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