flowers under $50: mosquito-free garden party

by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Summer is here, and in Texas, the heat and bugs are on the rise. But instead of hiding indoors, counting down the days until the mercury drops, you can entertain in a lovely way outdoors on the cheap while keeping the mosquito bites at bay — no harsh chemicals necessary!

Today, we’re really getting our hands dirty and making lovely kokedama arrangements of rosemary, copper canyon daisy and lavender that you can hang over any outdoor dinner party and keep on the porch to stave off those skeeters! — Mary Kathryn Paynter

All photos by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Images by Mary Kathryn Paynter

There are many plants said to repel mosquitoes, the most famous being citronella and catnip. However, both have strong odors that, while repellent to mosquitoes, can also be extremely disruptive for entertaining, especially while eating or if you have pets. Instead, I suggest using rosemary and lavender, both of which have mosquito-repelling properties and are also beautiful together and wonderful to have around for pets, too. Look into which native plants in your area are mosquito repelling. In Texas, we have the gorgeous copper canyon daisy, whose elegant foliage is nice and sculptural when used in kokedama.

Kokedama is a style of gardening that originates from Japanese bonsai and involves blanketing the roots of a plant in moss, tying it with string and creating a hanging garden with the plants. It’s a lovely way to bring plants into an area with few surfaces and great for outdoor entertaining, as the plants can be hung with lights for dramatic effect.

To make our mosquito-repelling kokedama garden, you’ll need peat moss, bonsai soil, sphagnum moss, sheet moss, cotton thread and some kind of twine, string or cord to hang it with.

Image by Mary Kathryn Paynter

First, carefully brush soil away from the roots of the plants and gently tease out any roots that have grown into a ball. Dip both the roots and the sphagnum moss in water.

Image by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Squeeze out the excess water from the sphagnum moss and wrap it around the roots.

Image by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Mix the peat moss with the bonsai soil, using a little more than twice as much peat moss as bonsai soil. Add water until it has a consistency like clay and can be easily shaped in your hands. Shape it into a ball. The plant’s roots should be completely covered by the peat moss/soil mixture. Tie with cotton thread (it’s important that the thread you use for this step is biodegradable).

Image by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Add more of the peat moss/soil mixture and cover this ball with sheet moss. Wrap the twine, string or cord around it (we used suede cord for the color and texture) to bind everything until it feels bound and secure.

Image by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Hang your plants from a tree or porch, interspersing them with lanterns or twinkling lights to add a glow. Enjoy your yard again!

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  • I love this idea! Like Texas, we here in South Florida are driven indoors this time of year because of mosquitos. I use a similar method for affixing orchids to trees here and I cannot wait to try this, not only for the purpose of an insect repellent, but just because they’re so naturally beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Wonderful idea. I live on the water and the insects are horrible at night. Plus I have a little one running around so no chemicals are a great alternative! Thanks for sharing. Have a *fancy* day!

  • I never guessed some plants would naturally deter mosquitos. Makes total sense now. I’m going to look into this project, and hope some of these repelling plants do well in indirect sun. Our balcony faces north and gets absolutely no direct exposure, which makes it a little more challenging to keep plants happy.

  • Lovely. How do you water these? The water would drip won’t it? Or do you just spray it with water?

  • I tried this with some orchids, and it worked great for a while….. until the twine I used began to rot, at which point the balls fell apart. I thought next time I would try it using fishing line.

  • Beautiful! Happy to see more kokedama here. I made indoor plants after seeing your post about them, some time ago.

    Carmen, mine contain plenty of earth, are growing well and look as though they’ll last indefinitely, at least as long as any houseplant.

    For those wanting to try kokedama, there are three things I have learned:

    One, and to answer Anu, spritzing is unlikely to water them enough. I really did try (spritzed until soaking, twice daily… just try to get friends to plant sit!) but since I’ve bought cheap glass watering bulbs to poke to the core, the plants have done better.

    Two, dry-climate but soak-friendly plants have done best, such as succulents and trailing tuberous plants. I bet herbs would be great. This post is very inspiring!

    Three, and sympathising with Megan, it’s crucial to use non-degradable materials. Synthetic sewing thread I used to bind them has held up fine, but cotton twine used to hang them will need replacing soon. I would use synthetic baling twine next time. As well, my kokedama are suspended by single lines running through from top to bottom. Over time, the big knots tied underneath began to break through the plant ball, so that I’ve had to add sections of matchsticks to brace them.

    Generally, kokedama are the most delightful plants I have ever kept, and indoors, there is the added benefit that they are off useful surface area, but easy to admire.

    Here are some photographs of my own kokedamas’ progress over time:

  • I live in Sydney, Australia and have tried using “rose geranium” plants -sold in the plant nursery as a “mozzie”repellent. Not terribly successful unfortunately, though when you water the leaves, or brush by the plant, they give off quite a strong aroma of roses. I suppose you could rub it on your skin, tho’ not sure how successful that would be. They are a vigorous plant, as are most geraniums and you can take heaps of cuttings. I didn’t find it terribly effective. We have a “mozzie zapper”, which when turned on (electric) will zap the mozzies within a certain distance (also flies etc.) You can buy ion Sydney zappers that work over varying distances. Leave it on all the time (power use is minimal), or just turn on say the day before you have a function outside. I’m sure in the USA you would have a similar product, thus saving toxic and smelly sprays. gabrielle.

  • @Mo Evans

    Great photos of your kokedamas! I really appreciated the link to the article about using certain types of cat litter as bonsai soil too! Very useful tip!