Does Lemon Verbena Repel Bugs? Discover the Truth About This Natural Insect Repellent

Summer evenings are perfect for outdoor gatherings, but nothing ruins the mood faster than a swarm of pesky bugs. I’ve always been on the lookout for natural solutions to keep these unwelcome guests at bay, and recently, I stumbled upon an intriguing option: lemon verbena. This aromatic herb is renowned for its fresh, citrusy scent, but does it actually repel bugs?

In this article, I’ll dive into the potential bug-repelling properties of lemon verbena. We’ll explore scientific evidence, anecdotal experiences, and practical tips for using this herb to keep your outdoor spaces bug-free. Let’s find out if lemon verbena is the natural solution we’ve been looking for.

Key Takeaways

  • Effectiveness of Lemon Verbena: Lemon verbena, rich in citral, is proven to repel mosquitoes, aphids, and whiteflies, supported by scientific studies and anecdotal evidence.
  • Practical Uses: Lemon verbena can be used as a natural bug repellent through homemade sprays, oil-based repellents, and strategic planting both indoors and outdoors.
  • DIY Repellent Preparation: Easy-to-make lemon verbena repellents include boiling crushed leaves to create sprays or infusing leaves in carrier oils for concentrated repellents.
  • Comparative Efficacy: While effective, lemon verbena compares to other natural repellents like citronella, lavender, basil, and mint, each with its own strengths and applications.
  • Versatile Application: Utilizing lemon verbena includes planting near entries, using sachets indoors, and regularly applying homemade repellents to maximize its bug-repelling benefits.

Understanding Lemon Verbena

Origins and Characteristics

Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora), a member of the Verbenaceae family, hails from South America, particularly Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile. It’s a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 6 feet tall. Lemon verbena is known for its long, narrow leaves and small white or purple flowers. Its leaves release a strong lemon scent when crushed, primarily due to the high concentration of citral, an essential oil compound.

Common Uses in Gardening and Homes

Gardeners often plant lemon verbena for its aromatic properties and versatility. It’s a popular companion plant, believed to repel harmful insects like aphids and mosquitoes. Indoors, people use dried lemon verbena leaves in potpourris, sachets, and teas. Its lemony scent freshens air and linen closets. For culinary use, lemon verbena leaves flavor beverages, marinades, and desserts.

Does Lemon Verbena Repel Bugs?

Scientific Evidence

Research indicates that lemon verbena contains several active compounds with insect-repellent properties. The high concentration of citral, a natural terpene, gives lemon verbena its strong lemon scent. Citral has been shown to repel various insects. A study published in the Journal of Essential Oil Research found that oils derived from lemon verbena exhibited significant repellent activity against mosquitoes. Another study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry confirmed that lemon verbena essential oils deter pests like aphids and whiteflies.

Anecdotal Testimonials

Many gardeners claim that lemon verbena effectively repels pests. I’ve heard stories where people plant lemon verbena around their patios and notice fewer mosquitoes. Others share that sachets filled with dried lemon verbena leaves, when placed indoors, repel moths and other bugs. Tea drinkers often mention that the aroma of lemon verbena keeps insects at bay during outdoor activities. While these personal experiences vary, they consistently highlight the plant’s aromatic qualities as a deterrent for pests.

How to Use Lemon Verbena for Bug Repellency

Preparing Natural Repellents

Crafting lemon verbena repellents takes minimal effort. Gather fresh or dried lemon verbena leaves. Crush the leaves to release essential oils. Boil water, add crushed leaves, and let it steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain the liquid. Transfer it to a spray bottle. Use it on exposed skin or around outdoor areas.

Alternatively, create a concentrated oil-based repellent. Combine crushed lemon verbena leaves with a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil. Let the mixture sit for two weeks. Strain and store the oil in a dark glass bottle. Apply it to pulse points or use it to refresh sachets.

Effective Placement and Maintenance

Position plants strategically for maximum effect. Place lemon verbena near doorways and windows to create a natural barrier. Plant it in gardens or near patios to deter outdoor pests. Maintain the plants by pruning regularly to encourage growth and enhance oil production.

For indoor use, prepare sachets. Fill small fabric pouches with dried leaves. Place sachets in closets, drawers, and other storage areas. Refresh the contents periodically.

Ensure consistency by regularly applying homemade sprays or oils. Reapply after rain or every few hours when outdoors. By incorporating these methods, maximize the bug-repelling benefits of lemon verbena.

Alternative Natural Bug Repellents

Other Plants Known for Repelling Insects

Lavender, basil, and citronella are among the most well-known bug-repelling plants. Lavender, with its pleasant scent, repels mosquitoes, moths, and flies. Basil, often used in cooking, is effective against mosquitoes and houseflies. Citronella, a common ingredient in candles and sprays, specifically targets mosquitoes due to its high content of citronellal.

Marigolds, chrysanthemums, and mint also exhibit bug-repelling properties. Marigolds deter mosquitoes and aphids, while chrysanthemums contain pyrethrin, which is effective against roaches, fleas, and ants. Mint, with its strong aroma, repels mosquitoes and ants, making it a versatile option for both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Comparing Efficacy with Lemon Verbena

When comparing efficacy, lemon verbena holds its own among other natural repellents. The citral in lemon verbena targets mosquitoes, aphids, and whiteflies similarly to how citronellal in citronella repels mosquitoes. However, citronella’s broader use in commercial products gives it an edge in visibility.

Lavender’s effectiveness is comparable, though it excels more in repelling moths and flies than aphids and whiteflies. Basil and mint provide robust defenses against mosquitoes, but lemon verbena offers a more pleasant scent for various uses. Marigolds and chrysanthemums are highly effective against a broader range of insects, though they serve best in outdoor garden settings. Lemon verbena performs best in controlled indoor and specific outdoor environments where mosquito and aphid infestations are the primary concern.


Lemon verbena stands out as a versatile and effective natural bug repellent. Its pleasant scent and ability to deter mosquitoes and aphids make it a valuable addition to both indoor and outdoor spaces. While there are other natural options like lavender and citronella, lemon verbena offers a unique combination of fragrance and potency. Whether you’re planting it in your garden or using it in sachets indoors, lemon verbena can significantly reduce unwanted pests. Embrace this aromatic herb not just for its culinary and aromatic benefits but also for its impressive insect-repelling properties.

Lemon verbena has natural insect-repelling properties due to its strong citrus scent, which is effective in deterring mosquitoes and other pests. Using lemon verbena essential oil in sprays or lotions can provide a natural alternative to chemical repellents, as noted by Better Homes & Gardens. However, while it is effective, combining lemon verbena with other essential oils like citronella or eucalyptus can enhance its bug-repellent abilities, according to Healthline.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is lemon verbena?

Lemon verbena is a plant native to South America, known for its strong lemon scent and insect-repelling properties. It is commonly used in teas, potpourris, and various culinary dishes.

How does lemon verbena repel bugs?

Lemon verbena contains compounds like citral, which are scientifically proven to repel insects such as mosquitoes, aphids, and whiteflies.

Can I use lemon verbena indoors to repel bugs?

Yes, you can use lemon verbena indoors in the form of sachets or teas to help deter insects.

What insects does lemon verbena repel?

Lemon verbena is effective against mosquitoes, aphids, and whiteflies.

Are there any alternative natural bug repellents?

Other natural bug repellents include lavender, basil, citronella, marigolds, chrysanthemums, and mint, each having their own insect-repelling properties.

Is lemon verbena more effective than other natural repellents?

Lemon verbena is particularly effective against mosquitoes and aphids compared to some other natural repellents, and it also has a pleasant scent.

Can I plant lemon verbena outdoors to reduce pests?

Yes, planting lemon verbena outdoors can help reduce pest infestations, particularly in areas with mosquito and aphid problems.

What are some common uses of lemon verbena besides bug repelling?

Lemon verbena is widely used in potpourris, teas, and culinary dishes due to its aromatic and flavorful properties.

How does lemon verbena compare to citronella?

While both repel insects effectively, lemon verbena is noted for its pleasant lemon scent and suitability for both indoor and specific outdoor environments.

Are there any scientific studies supporting lemon verbena’s insect-repelling qualities?

Yes, scientific studies have shown that compounds like citral in lemon verbena are effective in repelling mosquitoes, aphids, and whiteflies.