Readers often request plans for a garden that will repel mosquitoes. My first reaction to this idea is that you’re asking too much of a garden, at least in a warm, moist climate where mosquitoes are a common problem.
There are a number of plants often touted for mosquito repellence—such as a citronella-scented pelargonium and Cymbopogon nardus, a relative of lemongrass—but it is generally their essential oils that have that quality, not the plant itself, unless its leaves are rubbed or brushed. (Click here for a list of plants that repel insects when crushed.)
In my experience, nothing is as effective as burning a mosquito-repelling incense or candle on the patio or in the area outside where you’re working.
Also, look to cultivation techniques to discourage mosquitoes. For example, drip irrigation or soaker hoses are better than overhead watering, because water goes directly into the soil and doesn’t collect in the leaves and flowers and puddle on the ground. Mosquitoes are drawn to water, so be sure that you don’t have any water standing or collecting in the garden. In birdbaths, water features and small ponds, use a product such as Summit Mosquito Dunks or Summit Mosquito Bits (around $10), which are not toxic to birds or pets.
Having fewer mosquitoes is a benefit of choosing drought-tolerant plants. (Click here for more on xeriscaping.)
This mosquito-repelling garden incense product contains citronella, rosemary and thyme, but its main ingredient is andiroba, a tree from the Brazilian rainforest. The incense is very effective, but works only in a small area for as long as it’s burning. Amazon Lights also makes mosquito-repelling candles and torches.
Kathleen Halloran is a contributing editor of The Herb Companion.