Plants that keep mosquitoes away from your home

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Mozzies are an unfortunate part of life in Singapore, but they turn into an even bigger problem where dengue is concerned.

While the number of cases has decreased from the record spate of cases last year (there were 10,000 reported in the first six months of 2020 alone!), the NEA advises that we continue to be vigilant and mosquito-proof our homes - especially during the warmer months from June to October when the development of the Aedes mosquito (which transmits the disease) is accelerated.

But don't start toxifying your house with clouds of bug spray just yet. Instead, check out these underrated plants and herbs that will help you keep mosquitoes at bay.

1. Citronella

Citronella is an oil obtained from the leaves and stems of a different species of lemongrass, both of which are types of clumping grasses (this is why lemongrass is also considered an effective insect repellent).

Citronella emits a strong scent that repels mosquitoes and citronella oil is one of the most widely used natural insect repellent.

The oil can sometimes also be used directly on the skin to treat mosquito and other insect bites, but this is not advisable for sensitive skin.

2. Pelargonium

Also called the "mosquito plant", this lush green plant is a perfect cross between the Chinese citronella and the African geranium.

Its fern-like leaves contain citronella oil, which helps to repel the mosquitoes. In fact, some studies have shown that these plants have 30-40 per cent of the repelling power of the harsh chemical DEET.

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3. Lavender

Better known for its soothing and calming scent, this beautiful purple flowering plant is also a natural mosquito repellent as it contains pinene and linalool, which are the main compounds that mosquitoes find unpleasant.

You can even rub the plants directly onto your skin to ward off insects for a quick fix.

4. Peppermint

Most bugs don't like the smell and taste of peppermint as the plant contains menthol, so there's good reason to plant it around the house.

Plus, if you do happen to get bitten, rubbing crushed peppermint leaves directly on the skin provides much relief.

5. Lemon Balm

Did you know that lemon balm is also part of the mint family?

Like peppermint, it repels bugs, is lovely when used as seasoning or in herbal tea, and crushed lemon balm leaves make a good mosquito repellent when rubbed directly on to the skin.

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6. Rosemary

Yes, rosemary is great for flavouring lamb dishes, but when rosemary is burned, the same aroma that we like is somehow unpleasant enough to keep mosquitoes away.

Make a simple DIY repellent spray by boiling a generous handful of rosemary sprigs in one litre of water for 20 minutes.

Strain the cooled liquid into a squirt bottle and dilute to half strength.

Spray directly onto skin or outdoor areas as required. Store the unused liquid in the fridge, and discard when the liquid no longer smells strongly of rosemary.

7. Marigold

Organic gardeners have been using marigolds for years to help ward off bugs from neighbouring plants. They are particularly effective when planted next to tomatoes and potatoes.

And surprisingly, the market for natural marigold insecticide is poised to quickly replace non-environmentally friendly synthetic ones.

What's the reason? Marigolds contain tagetone, which repels insects, and pyrethrum, which are toxic to insects. 

This article was first published in Wonderwall.