Living in South Florida, one of the major pests during the summertime is mosquitoes. Summertime in South Florida can be very damp and humid. It’s not uncommon to experience a week or two of afternoon thunderstorms. The result is a lot of moisture, plenty of standing water and hot, hot weather – the perfect breeding grounds for my least favorite pest – the mosquito.
The average Floridian spends a small fortune in insect repellants during the summer. But there are natural ways to keep nasty mosquitoes at bay. One way is to add mosquito repelling plants to your home’s landscape. Here are a few of my favorites.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Personally, I cannot grow catnip in my garden, no matter how hard I try. My cats roll over it and tear at it until they manage to extinguish the poor plant’s existence. However catnip is probably one of the best natural insect repellants. Recent research has found that the essential oil extracted from catnip can be 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than the commercially common mosquito repellant DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide). Catnip is actually a member of the mint family, and will do well in climate zones 3-9, or in any indoor planter with access to daily sunshine. It will bloom continuously during the summer, and has a nice scent that is supposed to be calming to humans, so be certain to plant it … if you can.
Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)
There is a reason why citronella candles are so popular. It’s because they’re made with citronella oil. Citronella oil is extracted from citronella grass. Citronella is a clumping, tropical grass that needs to be grown as an annual in most areas, and does not do well north of zone 10. If you’re fortunate enough to live in zones 10 to 12, you’ll get a planting of 5 to 6 feet high. If you’re north of zone 10, you can grow citronella grass in large, movable planters. Keep them on the patio or around the house in the summer and move to a warmer area in the winter – either indoors or in an area that will protect your plant from freezing. Citronella grass has a light scent that most people consider to be very pleasant, and most mosquitoes hate.
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citrates)
My husband is a Publisher’s Clearing House fan – hoping one day to be the big winner. As a result, we get plenty of junk mail that, unfortunately for us, he reads. One Publisher’s Clearing House ad was for “mosquito grass,” and my husband bought some. When it arrived, I read the little info sheet that came with the tiny tuft of half-dead grass, and realized that it was actually lemon grass. Lemon grass oil is something that I use often in my beekeeping hob by – used to scent new hive boxes to bees will want to stay, and used to entice and capture swarms of bees. Lemon grass – aka mosquito grass – smells like lemon furniture polish, and is a great herb for cooking. It is hardy from zones 8 to 10, and can be moved indoors in colder climates.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is a popular herb, often used in cooking, and traditionally used as a symbol of friendship, loyalty and remembrance. Rosemary is a woody evergreen bush with fragrant needles, and is actually a family to mint. In addition to being an excellent herb for lamb and many Italian dishes, it is also a natural mosquito and moth repellant. Like citronella grass, rosemary prefers warm climates (zones 8 to 10), but it can be grown as an annual, or moved inside during the winter months.
Try these natural mosquito repellants this summer, and keep those mosquito bites to a minimum.