Mosquitoes aren’t just a nuisance you have to endure when you go outdoors, they’re a legitimate cause for health concerns. They buzz around, searching for people or animals to dine on, sucking out their blood and bringing all sorts of diseases and viruses with them, like Zika, malaria and west Nile virus, none of which you’d probably wish on your worst enemy. But, dousing yourself, and your family, in chemical sprays come with another set of problems that can negatively impact health.
While citronella candles are often laden with chemicals, the citronella plant (officially known as the citrosum plant and often referred to as the mosquito plant) can be grown in your garden for mosquito control. The plant carries the fragrance of citronella in its foliage, and when a leaf is crushed and rubbed onto the skin, the aroma is very pleasant, yet it helps to naturally repel those mosquitoes. While not as effective as bottled repellents, it comes without the high price or potentially hazardous chemicals, and when grown in the garden, you’ll always have it on hand.
This perennial clumping grass grows 5 to 6 feet and can be planted in the ground or kept in large pots. The plants tend to do best in full sun in areas with good drainage. If you live in a drought-prone area, you can still plant citronella as it’s relatively tolerant of summer stress.
The green leaves of lemon balm have the scent of lemon with a hint of mint, which should be no surprise as it’s a member of the mint family. Not only does it offer lots in the way of healing properties, it’s known for warding off mosquitoes while also attracting important pollinators like butterflies and bees. For a quick mosquito repellent, all you need to do is crush a handful of the leaves in your hand and rub them onto your exposed skin.
By growing lemon balm near your back door or in your garden, the leaves will be handy when you need them. Just keep in mind that while this plant is especially effective for keeping mosquitoes away, it’s also considered an invasive species, you can avoid a takeover by planting it in a pot, rather than directly in your yard or garden. It’s drought resistant, fast growing and reseeds itself, making it ideal for container gardening.
Not only will your feline friends be especially appreciative of having catnip around, it’s considered one of the best natural insect repellents. It contains a natural chemical known as nepetalactone, which is both a useful insect repellent and a feline attractant. In fact, studies, including one reported at the 222nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, have shown that catnip is about 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET.
Of course, if you’re not a fan of cats, you may want to consider one of the other plant options. Otherwise, be sure to plant it in a spot where cats can rub and roll in it without hurting adjacent plants. Some cats like it so much that they lie on it, roll on it, and chew it to the point of destruction.
Catnip is easy to grow – it grows readily as a weed as well as a commercially cultivated plant in some regions of the U.S. While it will repel mosquitoes that are in close proximity to it, some people apply the crushed catnip leaves for optimal protection.
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