Citronella geraniums (Pelargonium citrosum), also called mosquito plants, give off a lemony scent when the leaves are crushed. Some think rubbing the leaves on the skin provides some protection from mosquitoes. Although not as effective as commercially prepared repellents, the mosquito plant is a popular choice for backyard gardens. While this is just one aspect of growing these plants, pruning mosquito geraniums is another.
Can You Prune Citronella?
Scented geraniums prefer a sunny, well-drained location with afternoon shade. Siting mosquito plants close to the patio or where people congregate makes handy access to its citronella properties. Hardy in zones 9 to 11, mosquito plant also does well in containers that can be moved inside in cooler zones.
Lavender flowers brighten the plant’s ruffled, green foliage in late summer and early fall. However, the fragrant leaves of scented geraniums are the primary attraction. Keeping the foliage looking healthy and tidy with regular pruning can help with this.
Citronella plants can reach 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1 meter) in height. You can pinch back citronella to form a more compact, bushy plant. The lacey, fragrant leaves also work well in summer floral bouquets so feel free to prune often. The stems also can be cut and dried.
How to Cut Back Citronella Geranium Plants
As mosquito plants grow, they may become leggy or flowering may diminish. Most mosquito plant pruning will involve pinching back the stems to encourage branching and increase blooms.
Here’s how to cut back citronella:
- Remove spent blooms by pinching off just below the flower with thumb and forefinger.
- To increase flowering, prune stems where they connect to the main stem by pinching off the entire stem.
- Any stems that are too thick to pinch can be cut back with pruning shears.
- If plants become woody by summer’s end, propagate a new plant by taking cuttings from non-woody stems and inserting them in a container filled with lightweight potting soil.
Growing your own citronella can be a fun addition to outdoor entertaining.
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After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in English, Susan pursued a career in communications. In addition, she wrote garden articles for magazines and authored a newspaper gardening column for many years. She contributed South-Central regional gardening columns for four years to Lowes.com. While living in Oklahoma, she served as a master gardener for 17 years.
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