Citronella Plants: Care, Mosquito Repellent, & Propagation guide

Are they tired of pesky mosquitoes disrupting your outdoor fun? Many gardeners opt for a natural solution by cultivating citronella plants, harnessing their citrusy aroma to ward off these bothersome bugs. Instead of using chemical sprays, they crush the leaves, releasing the refreshing scent, or strategically plant them around their outdoor spaces, creating a natural barrier against mosquitoes. It’s not about exterminating these insects but deterring them from making your outdoor oasis their home.

We are presenting the Citronella Plant (Pelargonium citrus ‘van Leenii’)—a charming addition to any space with its vibrant green foliage and delicate pink blossoms. Belonging to the geranium family, this plant thrives in pots and the ground, growing into lush bushes that can reach up to 2 feet in height and width.

Initially marketed in the 1990s as a mosquito-repellent powerhouse, the citronella plant’s reputation has faced scrutiny. While its leaves emit a lemony fragrance reminiscent of citronella, scientific research debunked its efficacy in repelling mosquitoes. The essential oil in lemongrass, often mistaken for the citronella plant, is the mosquito deterrent. However, despite this revelation, cultivating citronella plants remains popular for gardeners due to their aesthetic appeal and ease of care.

Also Read: 10 Plants That Repel Unwanted Insects, But not Bees

Citronella Care Tips:

Citronella Care

1. Planting:

Give your citronella a comfy home in a pot at least 12 inches deep and twice as wide as its roots. Use nutrient-rich soil that drains well – a mix of potting soil, sphagnum moss, and sand works great. In warmer zones, plant citronella outdoors when nights stay above 50°F, spacing them 18 to 24 inches apart in well-draining soil amended with compost. Sow seeds outdoors after the final frost, or start indoors 6 to 8 weeks earlier. Keep seedlings 18 inches apart outside or one per pot inside.

2. Light and Soil:

Citronella plants thrive in full sunlight but appreciate some shade, particularly in warmer climates. They adapt well to various soil types, preferring slightly acidic, well-draining soil with a pH of 5.8 to 6.3.

3. Watering and Fertilizing:

Keep the soil moist for potted plants, while garden-grown ones require regular watering until established. Feed young or potted plants with a diluted liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks during the growing season.

4. Pruning and Propagation:

Pruning and Propagation

Encourage bushy growth by periodically pinching off the growing tips. Propagating citronella plants from cuttings is straightforward—select healthy stems, remove lower leaves, and place them in a well-draining potting mix until roots develop.

Also Read: 8 Plants That Attract No-See-Ums To Your Garden

5. Bloom Encouragement:

Although not renowned for their flowers, citronella plants may produce small lavender-pink blooms year-round in suitable climates. Regular deadheading and pinching back promote fuller growth and occasional blooming.

6. Common Issues and Solutions:

Combat common pests like whiteflies or aphids with natural remedies like a strong water spray or insecticidal soap. Ensure adequate sunlight and watering to prevent leggy growth and leaf browning.

Ways to Plant this Mosquito Repellent 

Mosquito Repellent 

Starting From Seed

Starting citronella from seed can be challenging, but it’s like nurturing a tiny miracle. Many plant enthusiasts suggest opting for a young plant in spring or trying to propagate a cutting from an existing one. Seeds can be finicky, needing just the right conditions and a lot of patience – about 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost.

It’s like embarking on a delicate mission if you’re set on sowing seeds. Use a super-fine seed starting mix and barely cover the seeds with a sprinkle of soil. They love a bit of warmth from below and plenty of light, but be careful not to drown them with too much water.

Choosing Mature or Starter Plants

Picking out a mature plant is like choosing a new friend. Look for vibrant green leaves and sturdy stems, steering clear of signs of distress like discoloration or limpness. And if the roots are peeking out from the pot, it’s a sign they feel a bit cramped – better to give them some space.

First Time Transplanting

Once you’ve found the perfect match, it’s time to settle them into their new home. Whether it’s a cozy pot or a spot in your garden, ensure the soil drains well and they get plenty of sunshine – they’re sun-worshippers, after all. Keep them spaced out nicely, around a foot apart, and consider placing them where they can spread out comfortably.

citronella plants

Just remember, citronella might not be the best companion for your edible plants, but it’ll still be a lovely addition to your garden, keeping it smelling fresh and pesky bugs at bay.

So, the next time you’re enjoying a balmy evening on your porch or hosting a garden gathering, take comfort in knowing that your citronella plants add charm to your space and serve as guardians against those buzzing nuisances. With their vibrant foliage and delicate blooms, they stand as a testament to the beauty and resilience of nature.

Also Read: 10 Plants That Attract Japanese Beetles (To Your Garden)

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: Are citronella plants truly effective in repelling mosquitoes?

A: While citronella plants emit a lemony fragrance reminiscent of citronella, scientific research has debunked their efficacy in repelling mosquitoes. It’s the essential oil in lemongrass that acts as the mosquito deterrent. However, many gardeners still cultivate citronella plants for their aesthetic appeal and ease of care.

Q: How should I plant my citronella for optimal growth?

A: For potted citronella, choose a container at least 12 inches deep and twice as wide as the root system. Use nutrient-rich soil that drains well, and in warmer zones, plant outdoors when nighttime temperatures remain above 50°F. Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in well-draining soil amended with compost. Alternatively, sow seeds outdoors after the final frost or start indoors 6 to 8 weeks earlier.

Q: What are the best practices for citronella care?

A: Citronella plants thrive in full sunlight but appreciate some shade, especially in warmer climates. They adapt well to various soil types but prefer slightly acidic, well-draining soil with a pH of 5.8 to 6.3. Keep potted plants moist and water garden-grown ones regularly until established. Feed young or potted plants with a diluted liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks during the growing season.

Q: What are the best practices for citronella care?

A: Citronella plants thrive in full sunlight but appreciate some shade, especially in warmer climates. They adapt well to various soil types but prefer slightly acidic, well-draining soil with a pH of 5.8 to 6.3. Keep potted plants moist and water garden-grown ones regularly until established. Feed young or potted plants with a diluted liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks during the growing season.

Q: How can I encourage bushy growth and occasional blooming in my citronella plant?

A: Encourage bushy growth by periodically pinching off the growing tips. Propagating citronella plants from cuttings is straightforward – select healthy stems, remove lower leaves, and place them in a well-draining potting mix until roots develop. Although not renowned for their flowers, citronella plants may produce small lavender-pink blooms year-round in suitable climates. Regular deadheading and pinching back promote fuller growth and occasional blooming.

Q: What are some common issues with citronella plants, and how can I address them?

A: Combat common pests like whiteflies or aphids with natural remedies such as a strong water spray or insecticidal soap. Ensure adequate sunlight and watering to prevent leggy growth and leaf browning.

Q: What’s the best way to start growing citronella – from seed or as a mature plant?

A: Starting citronella from seed can be challenging, requiring specific conditions and patience. Many gardeners opt for purchasing a young plant in spring or propagating a cutting from an existing one for simplicity and reliability. Choose a mature plant with vibrant green leaves and sturdy stems, ensuring it’s free from signs of distress.

Q: Can I plant citronella alongside edible plants?

A: While citronella adds charm to any garden, it’s not recommended to plant it directly alongside edible plants as it is not edible itself. However, it still serves as a lovely addition to your outdoor space, keeping it smelling fresh and deterring pesky bugs.

Also Read: 10 Plants That Repel Biting Insects (with Pictures)

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