Image by Sandy Poore
By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
You’ve probably heard of the citronella plant. In fact, you may even have one sitting out on the patio right now. This well loved plant is essentially prized for its citrusy scent, which is thought to hold mosquito-repelling properties. But does this so-called mosquito repellent plant really work? Keep reading to find out more about this interesting plant, including information on growing and caring for mosquito plants.
Citronella Plant Info
This plant is commonly found under a number of names, such as citronella plant, mosquito plant geranium, citrosa geranium and Pelargonium citrosum. Though many of its names leave the impression that it contains citronella, which is a common ingredient in insect repellent, the plant is actually a variety of scented geranium that simply produces a citronella-like scent when the leaves are crushed. The mosquito plant geranium is a hybridized plant that came about from Chinese citronella grass and African geranium.
So the big question still remains. Do citronella plants really repel mosquitoes? Because the plant releases its smell when touched, it is thought to work best as a repellent when the leaves are crushed and rubbed on the skin as mosquitoes are supposed to be offended by its citronella scent. However, research has shown that this mosquito repellent plant is actually ineffective. As someone growing and caring for mosquito plants myself, I can attest to this as well. While it might be pretty and smells good, the mosquitoes still keep coming. Thank goodness for bug zappers!
A true citronella plant closely resembles lemongrass, while this imposter is larger with foliage that resembles parsley leaves. It also produces lavender blooms in the summer.
How to Care for Citronella
Growing and caring for mosquito plants is easy. And even though it may not be an actual mosquito repellent plant, it makes an ideal plant both indoors and out. Hardy year round in zones 9-11, in other climates, the plant can be grown outdoors during the summer, but should be taken inside before the first frost.
These plants prefer at least six hours of sunlight every day whether it is planted outside or indoors near a window but can also tolerate some partial shade.
They are tolerable of a wide variety of soil as long as it’s well draining.
When growing mosquito plant geranium indoors, keep it watered and fertilize occasionally with an all purpose plant food. Outside the plant is fairly drought tolerant.
Citronella plant typically grows anywhere between two and four feet high and pruning or pinching is recommended to encourage the new foliage to bush out.