Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Showing posts with label insect-repelling plants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label insect-repelling plants. Show all posts

Friday, July 9, 2010

Scented Pelargoniums and Insect-repelling Plants

So, if it hasn’t rained in so long, why are the mosquitoes and gnats so troublesome this summer? In addition to noisy bug zappers, fans, clothes softener dryer sheets, citronella candles and smoke curls, highly fragrant plants or plant oils will help repel these pesky insects naturally. Pests zero in on the carbon dioxide and water vapor we exhale and the scented plants do the trick by masking these aromas.

Natural insect repellents include plants and plant oils from strongly fragrant plants such as lemongrass, lemon balm, cedar, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, lemon, eucalyptus, thyme, basil, fennel, lavender, pine, peppermint, pennyroyal, and of course insecticidal (but organic) Neem and Pyrethrum. Scented geraniums contribute geraniol.

I am annoyed when plants are sold by wildly incorrect names. “Mosquito Plants” or “Citronella Geraniums” that I see on sale are often the lovely scented geraniums (more correctly Pelargonium) of the varieties Lemon-Rose or Skeleton Rose that have a strong lemony-sweet smell. Sometimes the diminutive parsley-like Lemon Crispum is also offered. While the true citronella plant, Cymbopogon nardus, is closely related to lemongrass, the scented pelargoniums are a delight in gardens and containers close to the picnic table where guests can stroke them to release the fragrance.

Any one of the three copies I own (!) of the 1967 classic The Fragrant Year by Helen Van Pelt Wilson and LĂ©onie Bell will provide a host of facts; the authors have a lot to say about these appealing plants with aromas of strawberry, nutmeg, apricot, ginger, apple, peppermint, pine, eucalyptus or rose, along with lemon and lemon rose. And I have found these Pelargoniums are exceptionally useful in attracting new gardeners to the fold.

Photo credit U of Minnesota Extension.