Thursday, June 9, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: Insect-Repelling Plants for the Garden

From Home Deco

I recently read an interesting article about nine garden plants that are effective insect pest deterrents.  I thought I would quickly summarize them here, as pesky bug season has started in full force here in Georgia and I am going to have to add these selections to my garden ASAP!  Most of them have the added bonus of being attractive plants as well:

Marigolds (from National Garden Bureau)

1) Marigold (Tagetes spp.)

The distinctive smell of the colorful marigold is a deterrent to mosquitoes, squash bugs, and tomato hornworms.  This annual plant contains a compound that repels harmful nematodes as well.

Lavender (from USA Today)

2) Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

Lovely and fragrant lavender is anathema to insect pests but irresistibly attractive to bees.  This shrubby, drought-resistant perennial is a double winner!

Lemongrass (from Lovely Greens)

3) Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Tall, graceful lemongrass contains citronella, a common ingredient in mosquito repellents.  An added bonus is that side stalks can be broken off of the main plant and used in many southeast Asian recipes!  Lemongrass is a tropical grass that cannot tolerate cold (even our part of Georgia is too cold for it), so plant it in a pot and overwinter it indoors if you live in a colder climate.

Garlic (from Éclectique)

4) Garlic (Allium sativum)

The strong odor of garlic is avoided by many insect pests, including mosquitoes.  The plant itself may not be especially attractive, but planted in and around the garden it will help keep garden pests from more susceptible plants.  (Although it was once thought that eating garlic would help to repel mosquitoes, studies have not found this to be the case.)

Rosemary (from HubPages)

5) Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Like lavender, rosemary is a shrubby, drought-tolerant perennial that is loved by bees but detested by insect pests (and deer will not eat it either!).  It is also a favorite culinary herb and very easy to grow.

Basil (from The Growing Company)

6) Basil (Osimum basilicum)

This cold-sensitive annual is one of my favorite herbs for cooking, and will grow abundantly when given the right conditions.  The fact that basil also repels insects like mosquitoes and flies is just a secondary bonus as far as I am concerned!

Catnip (from Floral Encounters)

7) Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Many cats find this aromatic herb irresistible, but garden pests (insects as well as deer and rabbits) avoid it.  Nepetalactone, the essential oil found in catnip, has also been found to be a highly effective mosquito repellent.

Petunias (from Finke Gardens & Nursery)

8) Petunia (Petunia spp.)

Who knew that this rather ubiquitous and profusely blooming annual also repels destructive insect garden pests like aphids, tomato hornworms, and squash bugs with their licorice-like scent?  However, petunias are susceptible to their own destructive invertebrates, in particular slugs and caterpillars, so the plants should be inspected periodically for signs of infestation.

Spearmint (from Biopix)

9) Mint (Mentha spp.)

The strong and distinctive aroma of mint is repellent to ants and mice as well as mosquitoes.  There are many species of mints, as well as numerous hybrids, and all are relatively to insanely easy to grow (I only have trouble with pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens 'Variegata'), which unfortunately is my favorite, while peppermint (Mentha x piperata), which I dislike, and spearmint (Mentha spicata), which I love, are practically unstoppable).


Interestingly, over half of the plants listed above are in the mint family (Lamiaceae) except for marigolds (Asteraceae or composite family), lemongrass (Poaceae or grass family), garlic (Alliaceae or onion family) and petunias (Solanaceae or nightshade family).  The Lamiaceae are frequently aromatic, which is why they are so popular for cooking, but aromatic compounds are often a plant's defense against herbivory, which is why plants in the mint family are so good at repelling insects and other pests.  Luckily for us humans, we find many of these plant odors attractive, so why not plant a few or all of these garden selections to enjoy a fragrant and relatively bug-free summer?

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