Insects have an important role in our ecosystem. They aerate the soil, pollinate blossoms, and even help control other pests. But what if you just want to sit on your deck without getting eaten alive by mosquitoes? Or maybe you want to create a space that is free of bees to reduce your kids’ risk of getting stung?
There are a variety of plants that repel certain bugs. You can plan your garden around them, and at the same time avoid the use of smelly chemical repellants on your skin.
There are a variety of plants that will repel mosquitoes. Many of them have a strong aroma that the mosquitoes don’t like. Pick a few of these plants whose scent you enjoy, and you’ll be set.
Catnip - This leafy plant will get all the neighborhood cats to come visit you! Catnip likes full sun and can really take off, so you might want to control it a bit once the plant gets established.
Citronella grass - This is the plant that is used to create the citronella oil you find in citronella candles. No need for a candle, though. The plant is tall, gorgeous, and fragrant. It grows really well and likes to be watered often.
Peppermint - This herb will also grow like crazy, so you’ll need to control it too. You can never have too much peppermint, though. Harvest it and use it in cooking, in tea, or even externally to control itching. Bonus: Peppermint is also a natural way to control rodents, so you can grow a border of peppermint around other plants, and the critters will stay away.
It’s not easy to repel bees, because most plants will attract them for pollination. There are a few plants that people claim to have bee-repelling properties that might be worth a try.
Marigold - This flower does well in a variety of climates, and it appears that red marigolds do the best job of keeping bees away. Marigolds need a lot of water during hot weather, but they’re also very hardy.
Geranium - This colorful perennial also repels bees (and mosquitoes too). They like full sun, and you can plant them in clusters around areas you particularly want to protect, like your kids’ sandbox or the doggie wading pool.
Basil - This herb also grows easily, and you can harvest it all summer to use in your cooking. Basil plants prefer a steady water supply, and they will also produce little flowers that you can pinch away to get a more flavorful plant.
If you’re cooking out on the grill this summer, you might want some plants that deter flies. Ditto if you like to eat outside on your deck. Put some of these plants out on your deck table, and you’ll spend less time swatting the flies away from your plate while you eat.
Lavender - This pretty plant has a very pleasant scent that flies don’t like. Lavender grows well in both gardens and containers, and it is very tolerant to heat. An added bonus to having lots of lavender? It also attracts butterflies.
Rosemary - This easy-to-grow herb also has a lot of cooking and baking uses when you harvest it. Rosemary likes its soil on the dry side, and it also prefers a little breathing room in order to flourish. Interestingly, cats dislike the scent of rosemary, so if you plant some catnip to keep the mosquitoes away, you can balance that with some rosemary to keep the cats away!
Keep in mind, of course, that you don’t want to keep all bugs away. They do serve a purpose, and you could end up with a doomed garden if you are overzealous about deterring insects. A few plants here and there to keep the pesky bugs away is just fine, though, and I promise you’ll have a more pleasant summer! Enjoy your time outside!