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The Santa Barbara Garden: 10 Plants To Spruce It Up While Keeping Mosquitos Away

August 12, 2021

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Mosquito repellent plants infographic isolated on white background.   Plants to use as a natural mosquito repellent. Lavender, citronella, basil, rosemary and catnip. Stock vector illustration.

Do you know there are some beautiful plants that can safely act to keep mosquitos out of your Santa Barbara garden and yard? Here are 10 that are most effective:

1) Mint
Mint is an effective mosquito repellant that also helps to keep flies away. It's also a great addition to an herb garden.

It can be invasive, however, "and can take over an area very quickly," says "Plant mint in a large coffee can with the bottom cut out to keep it from taking over your garden."

Lavender Flowers Field. Growing and Blooming Lavender

2) Lavender
Besides keeping those pests away, adding lavender to your garden brings with it beauty and a lovely scent. How does this plant keep mosquitos at bay? It's simple: they don't share our love of the scent.

"Have you ever noticed that insects or even rabbits and other animals have never decimated your lavender plant? It is because of their lovely fragrance, which comes from its essential oils that are found on the leaves of the plant," reported Garden Design. "It is even argued that lavender oil hinders a mosquito's ability to smell! This plant is very tough and drought-resistant once established and only needs full sun and good drainage. And while it can endure many climates, it thrives in warmer areas."

READ: Local Spotlight: Montecito’s Lotusland: One of the World’s 10 Best Gardens

3) Catnip
Catnip works as an excellent, natural mosquito repellent thanks to the ingredient nepetalactone.

Nepetalactone is "10X stronger than even DEET in a recent study," according to Best Plants. "It is a good non-toxic alternative to traditional chemical sprays."

4) Citronella
I hate those stinky citronella candles in my yard and for good reason. According to Natural Living Ideas, they're "often laden with chemicals." But go the citronella plant route and you can get the mosquito-repelling qualities in a more natural manner.

"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," explains the experts at Natural Living Ideas. "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."

READ: Around The World Ideas for Santa Barbara Gardens

5) Lemongrass
This ornamental grass contains citronella, and most humans find the scent to be pleasing. However, not mosquitos. To help deter mosquitoes with this herb's strong fragrance, plant lemongrass along walkways and in locations close to seating areas. While the strong citrus scent does scare most insects such as whiteflies and other bugs away, the plant itself may not be strong enough to battle a mosquito infestation.

In that case, HortZone recommends, "crushing the leaves to extract the natural oils. You can then apply the oil where you want the mosquitoes to be deterred."

Flowerbed of orange marigolds

6) Marigolds
Marigolds also have a distinct smell that repels mosquitoes, according to the experts at Angi, formerly known as Angi's List. They say you don't have to have a green thumb to grow marigolds, but once they bloom, you'll look like you do!

"They also deter insects that prey on tomato plants," says Angi, "an added bonus for gardeners."

The online portal that connects homeowners with vetted pros, verified reviews, and fair pricing for any project or service says to start from seeds or use a starter plant anyone can easily find a nursery. Also, by planting them close to doors and windows or in outdoor living spaces will help ensure that mosquitos stay away from the places your family typically congregates. 

READ: Santa Barbara Landscape Design: Complementing Your Home’s Architecture

7) Lemon Balm
Not only will Lemon Balm keep those bloodsuckers from invading your Santa Barbara garden and yard.

"This member of the mint family has white flowers and a gentle lemony scent, as well as some healing properties," reports Rodale's Organic Life.

Because this plant is considered a calming herb, lemon balm has been used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion including gas and bloating, as well as colic.

8) Rosemary
Rosemary is a great fresh herb to add to roasted chicken, potatoes, and steak, but do you know it's also effective at repelling mosquitos?

"Plants can be grown in containers on a patio and shaped into ornamental pyramids, grown in herb gardens or planted in landscaped beds, where some varieties can grow quite large," notes Mother Nature Network (MNN).

READ: Santa Barbara and Montecito Landscape Design

9) Lemon Thyme
Lemon thyme is a perennial that is a popular herb to use in cooking. It also sends mosquitos away.

"The plant itself will not repel pesky mosquitoes," says MNN. "To release its chemicals, you must first bruise the leaves. To do this, simply cut off a few stems and rub them between your hands."

10) Basil
Another excellent and fragrant plant for your Santa Barbara herb garden is basil.

"Basil is another herb that can also double as a pest repellent," according to Garden Design. "The pungent smell the basil leaves give off is what keeps pests at bay. This herb likes to be kept damp, needs good drainage, and enjoys lots of sun. You can plant basil in containers or in the garden, alone or with other flowers, as long as both plants meet the same requirements."

You can also use your basil plant to make some delicious homemade, fresh pesto. This yummy delight will not only help you to stay healthy but is known to prevent serious illnesses, like cancer, from developing.

Sprucing up your Santa Barbara garden to keep mosquitoes away will also add curb appeal to your home when you plan on selling your luxury property in Montecito or one of the other upscale Santa Barbara communities. Selling or buying, give me a call at 805.886.9378 or email me at and we can discuss your plans -- and other pest-repellent plants that will make your yard look (and smell) spectacular!


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