This summer is shaping up to be a beautiful sunny and warm season, perfect for swimming, backyard games, cookouts and fireside lounging. Nothing can put a damper on all the fun quite like pesky bugs, especially the ones that buzz and bite. Maybe you are an insect magnet, or chances are, you know someone who is. If you are not a fan of dousing yourself and your family in stinky chemical sprays, there are still ways to keep these pesky pests under control, and you won’t have to resort to noisy neon purple zappers. Fight nature with…nature! Put down the chemical warfare and opt for natural insect-repelling plants in your landscape!
Basil is easy to grow in your container garden, and is a healthy addition to your salads, baked dishes and tastes great paired with freshly picked tomatoes, but it is also known to repel house flies and mosquitoes! Place your basil containers near the entrances of your home and in the places you like to relax to keep these bugs at bay. If you would like to go one step further, you can make a homemade repellent from basil to keep in a spray bottle, ready for battle. Boil 4 ounces of water and add to a spray bottle that contains a handful of fresh basil and let the leaves steep for a few hours. When the water cools, squeeze the excess water out of the basil, and add 4 ounces of vodka. Voila…spray around your outdoor living spaces as needed for an organic keep-em-away!
Mint is a great herb used mostly in cooking and to make fresh summertime drinks, but it is also an effective herb to keep away mosquitoes, ticks and fleas! Growing this herb in between your other plants in the landscape will keep these bugs at bay, and also give your landscape a fresh and clean aroma. Beware that mint is an aggressive spreader that is difficult to remove from your landscape once established, so growing mint in containers and placed in your landscape will save you some elbow grease down the road. You can also move these mint containers around your property once you figure out where the bugs are at their worst!
Lavender is a landscape trifecta. It is very pretty, fragrant and it is also an important component in fighting against moths, fleas, flies and mosquitoes around your home! While most of us love the simple sweet smell of lavender, these bugs absolutely abhor it. Naturally repelling mosquitoes, plant lavender around seating areas, pathways and near doors and windows. Cutting stems of lavender from your landscape and placing them in bouquets in your home and around your outdoor living spaces will also keep these buggers out of your hair. You can use the oil from the lavender flowers as a natural mosquito guard by pinching the flowers and rubbing the oil on your ankles, wrists or even a little behind your ears before weeding through your garden.
While Chrysanthemums aren’t specifically grown as an insect repellent, this flower does help to repel a slew of buggy pests. Most all natural repellents on the market today call upon its essential oil Pyrethrum as its primary natural ingredient! The scent is usually enough to keep bugs away, but if by chance they break through the smell barrier, the oil will actually end up killing the big. Most notably, the Chrysanthemum is known as a companion plant, which means it prevents the plants around it from being attacked by insects and other pests. Consider it your landscape’s best friend.
Citronella grass is an old favorite and go-to, most commonly being used as an ingredient in citronella candles used on your patio table. This plants belongs to the geranium family, and it is known as one of the most effective repellent scents on the market. Besides its repellent properties, one of its most notable characteristics would be how low maintenance and hardy it is. This plant is able to thrive in a variety of climates and has indoor and outdoor versatility. While there are mixed reviews on if this stand-alone plant repels pests, it is most effective when the leaves are pinched or crushed to reveal its pungent scent. By doing a little extra work to pick a leaf, crush it and rub it on exposed skin or sprinkle the leaves around your sitting area, grants you some pest-free time to enjoy the weather with your company.
Another plant, not as popular as citronella, but works just as effectively is catnip! Catnip is a perennial herb in the mint family which thrives in most areas of the U.S and has shown to repel cockroaches, ticks, mosquitoes, mites and houseflies. Obviously not harmful to humans or pets, but toxic to insects, the essential oil Nepetalactone in the catnip plant, is comparable to the effects of Deet. Directly rubbing the catnip leaves on your skin will prevent most bites, or you can boil water and make a spray from the leaves, just as you would with basil. This plant is highly recommended to plant around your outdoor social areas, but only for houses without cats. We want to get rid of insects, not drive your cats bonkers!
While there are many varieties of plants that work as insect repellents or insect agitators, incorporating these plants into you landscape is a mere suggestion for improved outdoor living. There is no fool-proof plan in eliminating pesky bugs all together, but you can give it the good ol’ college try!
For help deciding which plants would work for your home and landscape, reach out to MasterPLAN Landscape Design! MasterPLAN has an extensive background in plants as well as their function, and how they will work for your property. When you are ready to take control of your outdoor living space, we are ready to start the conversation!
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