I think my family and I have tried growing just about everything available locally that’s said to ward off mosquitoes.
At one time, Pelargonium graveolens was all the rage, and we jumped onto the bandwagon and bought a couple. My youngest sis was a baby then and we placed the two plants beside her cot. We were perplexed as she still got bitten. We were told that we had to rub or brush against the leaves to release the scent. I can’t imagine doing that all the time and I’m sure the plant wouldn’t appreciate that either. Dad, a sceptic, insisted that we had been conned.
Next up was the citronella or cymbopogon nardus. We grow this in a pot to contain it as it grows as easily the lemongrass, cymbopogon citrates. It even looks like the lemongrass – except that it looks like an emaciated version without the typically swollen base of its cousin.
Once in a while, I would pick a citronella leaf and rub it to release its aromatic fragrance. This isn’t so much to repel mosquitoes as to get a whiff of its fragrance. I can’t understand why mosquitoes, or anything for that matter, would hate the lovely scent. There are still mosquitoes in the garden, of course. I guess the other option would be to replace the lawn with the citronella. Perhaps then the mozzies may be deterred.
Then we read about vitex trifolia in the papers. A village in Indonesia made news when its dengue cases fell by 80%. The village had a program which promoted the planting of vitex trifolia. It repelled mosquitoes and the people made incense from the plant. http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=…1&sec=focus
I planted a few cuttings and these grew easily. I was told that the leaves can be used either as a relaxing and soothing spa bath, or as a warm compress for joint pains. It was a 3-in-1! Not bad, I thought.
This time a friend sent me some eucalyptus citrodora seeds from abroad. I was prepared for a low germination rate but contrary to my beliefs, the seeds sprouted easily. I contain the plants as I have no intention of letting them grow into the giants they are in the wild.
My nieces (and I) love to stroke the leaves – ahhh, the lemony scent is just amazing! They don’t call it lemon eucalyptus for nothing.
And then, the ‘ultimate’ mozzie repelling plant came in the size of a tiny seedling. This is the zodia – Evodia suaveolens. A friend told me that the scent was so strong that a leaf in his pocket made him feel giddy. “It outshines vitex trifolia and the rest as you can smell it without having to touch or disturb the plant.” That’s like waving a red flag at a bull. I had to get my hands on one.
I looked for the zodia everywhere but it remained elusive. If I saw anything similar I would take a whiff to see ( ‘smell’ is probably a better word) if it was THE plant. Then, thanks to Richard, I finally got my 1-inch baby which came with instructions for its care. I’ll do my darnedest to make sure it survives and thrives. Every now and then I’d check on it, lift the zodia up to my nose and inhale …..
Care and propagation
Pelargonium graveolens: semi-shade, water moderately, well-drained soil; propagation through stem cuttings or seeds is not easy
Cymbopogon nardus: full sun, water moderately, not fussy about soil; propagates through division of clumps
Vitex trifolia: full sun, water generously, not fussy about soil; propagates easily through cuttings
Eucalyptus citrodora: morning sun, water moderately, well drained soil; propagate through seeds
Evodia suaveolens: well drained soil, water moderately, well-drained soil; propagation through seeds and semi-hardwood cuttings