Nature's Gift-Plants

One of the most important side effects of global warming is more erratic rain and greater heat. This simply means more mosquitoes and new types of mosquito related diseases.


You know all the standard ways to repel mosquitoes. Today I am going to suggest some plants that keep mosquitoes away. You can plant them round the house or in pots near the doors and windows. Making window boxes outside each window is something that all builders of flats should do. Use the plants in containers around your verandah or outdoor living space. Some of these plants can be cut and used in flower arrangements in the house. It is the oils extracted from these plants which mosquitoes hate. Crush the leaves to release the fragrance and rub it on parts that usually get bitten

If you are in a municipality you can recommend these plants to be put in colonies, near water bodies or near garbage dumps.


1.The best plant to use is Cymbopogon or Lemongrass. You can even cook with it.

This is a tall perennial grass of about 55 varieties. Common names include lemon grass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass, fever grass, cochin grass. In Malayalam: inchippullu,  Marathi: gavati chah.

Lemongrass is native to India. It has a subtle citrus flavour and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. It grows to about 6.5 feet. You can use the oil as an insect repellent as well in sprays and candles. Brush the planted Lemon Grass to release more of its fragrance.


2. Ageratum conyzoides or A. houstonianum is originally from outside India but has become an invasive and common plant here. It is an annual plant which belongs to the sunflower family. It thrives in any garden and agricultural soils and is very common in disturbed sites and degraded areas. It is found in all habitats, specially near ricefields or where it is damp.

Its common name is Goat weed, Billy goat weed, Tropical whiteweed. In Hindi it is known as jangli pudina, visadodi, semandulu, gha buti, bhakumbar • Manipuri: khongjai napi • Marathi: ghanera osaadi • Kannada: oorala gida, helukasa • Tamil: pumppillu, appakkoti • Malayalam: kattappa, muriyan pacca • Bengali: uchunti • Sanskrit: visamustih.

It is an erect softly hairy annual plant which grows up to a height of 2.5 feet. Its hairy leaves are coarsely egg shaped and have a toothed margin. The small threadlike flowers range from white, purple, pink to blue, and form dense domed clusters. It flowers most of the year. It grows in full sun to partial shade.

You must be very careful about growing this plant and not allow it to spread at random as it takes over areas and does not allow other plants to grow. Ageratum is not just a repellent; it can render most insects sterile if ingested in large enough quantities.


3. To reduce numerous other flying insects, including mosquitoes, plant marigolds in containers or in the ground in full sunlight. Marigolds are known commonly as gainda and have many varieties ranging from light yellow to deep orange. It is used for medicines, garlands, salads, dyes. You can even dry it and burn it to repel insects and flies. If you choose marigolds for your garden they must be scented.


4. Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a herb from the Tulasi family. Hindi : babuyi tulsi, bawari bawai • Malayalam: ramatulasi. It can grow to 2 feet and can be planted in full sun to partial shade. A number of varieties exist today, ranging from a tiny-leafed Greek basil to robust 2-feet-high plants with large succulent leaves. Some varieties have deep purple leaves. While flowers are usually small and whitish, some can be pink to brilliant magenta. Leaves can be dried for later use. Lots of people keep pots of basil on their tables to keep mosquitoes away. You can rub it on your skin as well.


5. Catmint or catnip is a plant of the mint, Nepeta, family found all over the world. Catnip is a gray-green aromatic perennial that grows to 3 feet, with fuzzy leaves, and twin-lipped flowers. The oblong pointed leaves have scalloped edges and gray or whitish hairs on the lower side. Nepeta cataria (Urdu: badranj boya) is a hairy aromatic perennial herb with whorls of small white purple-spotted flowers that grow in spikes. It is s an effective mosquito repellent both by growing the plant and applying its oil. Nepetalactone, the active ingredient in catnip, repels mosquitoes 10 times more effectively than DEET, the active ingredient in most insect repellents.


6. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an evergreen perennial plant that grows upto 1.5 feet. It requires full sun to partial shade. It has silvery green, long, narrow leaves and stems and tall, colourful, violet-purple flowers growing in whorls. The oil glands that appear among the flowers are responsible for the plant's scent. If you are using lavender for its oils, cut it before the flowers open fully and dry them by hanging bundles upside down in a cool, dark location. Plant lavender in garden beds and in pots, to repel mosquitoes naturally. Cluster pots of lavender around seating areas to keep the mosquitoes away. Lavender is skin safe and can be used topically. Disperse lavender essential oil in water and spray it on your skin for a refreshing and mosquito-repelling spray.


7. There are lots of different varieties of geraniums in India and the rose scented one is even exported for its oil. The Lemon scented geranium (Pelargonium crispum) is not common but it is very useful against mosquitoes. It is a perennial which grows in full sun to partial shade. It is a nectar plant for butterflies and can be used for potpourris, and sachets. It is lemon-scented, with pale pink flowers and small wavy crinkled leaves. Originally from Africa, geraniums were believed by many that they helped to keep away evil spirits (which included mosquitoes!)

The chief constituent of the oil are geraniol and citronellol.


Go to a nursery and ask for these plants. All of them are sweet smelling and will help keep away the biggest nuisance of the summer and monsoon. I will give you the second list in another article.

Maneka Gandhi


(Pictures of some plants are attached)

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