By Kerry Ann Mendez
Swat! Slap! Whack! Pesky mosquitoes can quickly turn a relaxing outdoor gathering into an aerobics class. It's time to stop the madness by growing plants that naturally repel these little devils with their fragrance.
Thankfully, the same fragrance that drives mosquitoes away smells heavenly to most people. Plant the following in the garden, as well as in containers, to double your protection. Oh, and another bonus, these stalwarts are also deer resistant!
Lavender - As a perennial, Lavender might be as highly prized as Hydrangea is as a shrub. The lovely silver-green foliage, lavender, violet, pink or white blooms, divine scent, and love of heat and drought make it one of the top sellers at garden centers. This no-fuss perennial only demands full sun and sharp drainage. Hardiness ranges from Zone 4 and up, depending on the cultivar.
Catmint - Nepeta, commonly called Catmint, is a tough love perennial that produces billowy lavender, white or pink blooms from late spring into summer. Shear the plant to within inches of the ground after the first flowering to encourage a second flush. Iowa State University did a study and found Catmint to be ten times more effective than DEET, the chemical used in most insect repellents.
Beebalm - This native perennial is adored by hummingbirds and other pollinators. The flowers can be red, pink, purple and white. Many newer cultivars are more resistant to powdery mildew, a fungal disease that can plague Beebalm. For containers, use shorter varieties such as those in the 'Balmy' and 'Pardon My' series that grows between 10-14" tall.
Marigold - This is an annual that many people either love or hate. For those who hate it, which is worse, the flower's appearance and pungent aroma OR blood-thirsty mosquitoes? According to New York Botanical Garden, Marigolds also discourage aphids, thrips, whiteflies, Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs and tomato hornworms. With so many new cultivars available, there is an abundance of colors (shades of red, orange, burgundy and yellow plus creamy white) and flower shapes (standard pom-pom or single petal) to choose from.
Floss Flower - Ageratum, commonly called Floss Flower, is a popular annual with fluffy, button-like blooms. Blue is the most commonly sold flower color but there are also varieties in white, pink, lavender and red. Heights can range from 4" to 36". Floss flowers are not fussy about soil conditions as long as they're well-drained.
Other plants that repel mosquitoes include Basil, Rosemary and Allium. Estabrook's offers a great selection of these natural repellents, as well as other plants that can both beautify and enhance your outdoor activities.