How to Take Care of a Citronella Plant

how to take care of a citronella plant

Citronella can be grown outdoors or inside as a great houseplant. The plant is pretty low maintenance and is easy to grow. Whether you are interested in a citronella plant for its mosquito-repelling oils or just because it makes a pretty potted plant, keep reading for the best tips to care for this plant!


Other Names

  • Mosquito plant
  • Pelargonium citrosum
  • Citrosa geranium


Most Known For as a Mosquito Plant

Citronella can act as a mosquito repellent, which most people think of when they hear that word. When crushed, the leaves release a citrus-scented oil that deters bugs like mosquitos. Citronella oil is in natural insect repellents, insect repellent candles, essential oils, and more. That is why a mosquito plant is a common name for this plant.


What Types of Citronella are There?

what types of citronella are there

There are two types of citronella that look pretty different from each other.


First, there is a tropical citronella grass called Cymbopogon nardus or “true citronella.” Most citronella essential oils come from this plant. It is similar to lemongrass, but the plant does not have a strong smell unless the leaves are crushed to release the oils.


There is also a type of citronella, which has big lacy leaves. This plant, part of the geranium family, is considered a scented geranium because it smells like citronella but does not contain the essential oils. So, if the lemony scent is what you are looking for, a citronella geranium plant is the plant for you.


What Soil Works Best for Citronella?

Citronella plants do best with moist soil. When growing in a pot, use a nutrient-rich, well-draining potting soil mix. It is crucial to pot citronella plants with well-draining potting soil and suitable drainage holes. Don’t allow the plant to sit in water since that can create root rot.


Citronella can handle a range of soil pH levels. However, it does best with slightly acidic soil with a pH of around 5.8–6.3. If you are looking to add more acidity to the soil, you can use coffee grounds. However, you should use a soil testing kit to get the levels right.


How Much Sunlight Does a Citronella Plant Need?

A citronella plant enjoys plenty of sunlight. They want around six hours of sunlight per day and a little bit of afternoon shade.


Place your citronella plant in a sunny window or on a sunny patio that gets several hours of full sun or partial shade every day. A bright balcony, a sunny south-facing, or a west-facing window tends to be best because they can provide a good amount of full sun.


If your plant does not get enough light, the leaves will begin to turn brown, and the plant may die. The plant may also become leggy as the new growth stems reach for more sunlight. If your plant seems to be going for the window or the leaves are turning brown and falling off, try to move your citronella plant to an area that gets more direct sunlight.


The leaves can also turn brown, dry up, and die off if the plant is getting too much sun, but it is harder for citronella plants to get too much light than too little.


What Temperature Works Best for a Citronella Plant?

what temperature works best for a citronella plant

Citronella plants do best at temperatures between 60 and 70degrees Fahrenheit. They do not do well with cold.


Citronella plants can be placed outdoors in the spring and summer months when mosquitos are at their height, but they should be brought back indoors before the first frost. They can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA plant hardiness zones 9–11. These plants are even deer-resistant, which makes them suitable to grow outdoors.


Do Citronella Plants Enjoy Humidity?

Citronella plants can live in a wide range of humidity levels, but they do best with humid environments. Consider placing the plant in a bathroom that has a shower. You can also mist your plant in between waterings or use a humidity tray under the pot. Finally, you can put some pebbles in the soil since that creates additional moisture when the water evaporates.


How Often Should You Water a Citronella Plant?

Citronella plants like a deep watering every week or two. If the plant is in direct sunlight, you will need to water it more often. Don’t let the soil completely dry out and keep the top inch of soil moist but never wet.


If you do miss a few waterings, the good news is that citronella plants are pretty drought-tolerant. They will not get too stressed out if they don’t receive water consistently. They will bounce right back once you resume a regular watering schedule.


You may wish to add all-purpose plant fertilizer every several weeks when you water your citronella plant to keep it healthy, growing, and thriving.


What Size Do Citronella Plants Grow to Typically?

Citronella plants can grow 2 to 4 feet tall. However, it is not always desirable or practical to have such a tall potted plant in your home. Luckily, it is OK to cut back or “pinch” your citronella plant. Cutting it back will encourage it to grow more compact, dense, and bushy instead of tall and leggy.


Prune your citronella plant regularly by using sharp garden shears to trim off long stems. Trim them at the bottom of the stem or just below the flower if your plant is flowering. You can discard the stem cuttings or use them to bring a lovely scent and greenery to flower bouquets or vases.


Most Common Bugs

While the citronella plant has insect repellent traits, it can still have issues with pests such as whiteflies, mites, mealybugs, and caterpillars. Check under the leaves and around your plant regularly to detect any pest problems. Look for while residue, thin webs, and other signs of insect infestation.


If a pest problem does develop, you can wash the leaves with a neem oil solution or other insecticide wash.


Most Common Diseases

Overwatering is a common problem that can lead to root rot. If your plant begins to develop any dark spots on the leaves, that could signify that you are giving the plant too much water.


Citronella plants can also suffer from leaf blight, a disease caused by a fungus called Helminthosporium turcicum. Leaf blight infections can also be caused by overwatering or overly moist environments.


How Often Should You Repot Citronella Plants?

Citronella plants can overgrow in sunny, humid environments, especially when grown outdoors. They may outgrow their pots quickly and need repotting. Consider repotting your citronella plant each year. Check out how to repot plants correctly to learn more about this practice!


Conclusion — How to Take Care of a Citronella Plant

Citronella plants can make great indoor/outdoor potted plants. They are hardy plants that are easy to care for if you follow the steps above. Their lush green leaves and pleasant citrus scent can brighten any home.


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