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How to Grow Citronella Plants

Citronella came from the French word “citronelle”, which means “lemon balm.” It got its name for its citrusy, floral-like aroma. This plant can be grown as a perennial grass in 10 to 12 USDA hardiness zones year round.

Citronella Plant

Image Source: Pixabay

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Although citronella is best known as an insect repellent, it has other diverse uses. It is an effective antifungal oil, which can keep Aspergillus niger at bay. It can also heal Candida-infected wounds because of its anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties.

Inhaling citronella is good for weight loss. Like the rosemary and lavender essential oils, the plant also exhibits stimulating and relaxing effects when inhaled.  
Sadly, it’s not easy to find a full-grown citronella plant. In most cases, you can purchase its derived products. This is why it’s easier and more beneficial if you have a steady supply of this plant in your backyard.
Now, if you want to grow your own citronella, you have come to the right place. This post will teach you the different methods of growing this plant. Additionally, you will be getting information about proper citronella plant care. If you’re ready to jumpstart your Citronella planting journey, dive in. 
If you’re keen on growing citronella plants, you can also reach out to the experts. We at Neverland can help you out. We sell all types of seeds and provide tips on growing them. Check out our website for more information on growing other types of plants

The Citronella Plant 

The term “Citronella grass” is often interchanged when referring to the plant’s species. The citronella oil, its most common derived product, is often used in natural sprays, candles, diffusers, and a wide array of aromatic products. Its close relatives include the lemongrass group of C. pendulus, C. citratus, and C. flexuosus. While the latter also produces citronellal and citronellol, they’re limited to lesser quantities. 
It’s also pretty common to see the label “citronella plant” on other plants that are not of the grass variety. This happens because the moniker also refers to lemon-scented geraniums called “citrosa geranium” or “citronella geranium.”
Apart from these names and references, the citronella plant is also called “citronella mosquito plant” or “mosquito plant.” This taxonomy is quite fuzzy, with a few more added labeling as P. graveolens, P. x asperum, and Pelargonium x citrosum. These geraniums may smell like the citronella grass, but they differ in the quantity of citronellal and citronellol they produce. They also have more botanical compounds called ‘geraniol’ than the true citronella grass. 
Citronella grass
Image Source: Pixabay 

The Difference Between Citronella Grass and Citronella Geranium

Despite being often interchanged, citronella grass is different from citronella geranium. The former is an inedible grass closely related to the infamous lemongrass. On the other hand, the latter is a member of the germanium family and has fuzzy, broad, and deeply serrated leaves. 
These two plants originate from different species. Citronella geranium’s botanical name is Pelargonium “Citronella.” Citronella grass’s botanical name is Cymbopogon winterianus or Cymbopogon nardus. Despite their difference, garden centers and nurseries sell these plants under citronella for their similar scent that’s true to all citronella varieties. 
Apart from their botanical names and family, both plants differ in two essential aspects — appearance and mosquito-repelling properties. 


Citronella grass thrives in clumps. They can also grow in large sizes, often as high as six feet. When mature, they can also spread up to four feet. They also have narrow, tall lance-shaped, blade-looking foliage.
On the other hand, citronella geranium has lace-like, ruffly, feathery foliage made of leaves spreading out with a serrated, crinkled texture. Unlike the citronella grass, citronella geraniums grow flowers that could be white, purple, or pink. You can also tell both plants apart because the Cymbopogon lemongrass variety has green foliage, while the other has a red pseudostem tint.  

Mosquito-Repelling Properties

Citronella grass is a houseplant best known as an insect repellent. However, plant-derived oil is the one responsible for keeping mosquitoes away. Simply growing citronella grass in your garden won’t repel these insects.
Though the public often thinks this way, there are contradicting studies on whether the citronella scent actually has repellent properties. Because of this, other countries refuse to acknowledge these supposed mosquito repellent plants and their derivatives as insecticides. 
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Neither will repel mosquitoes! (Citronella grass oil may, but not the plant)
Unlike citronella grass’s conflicting studies about its efficiency as an insect repellent, research clearly shows that citronella geranium is ineffective as a repellent
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How to Grow Citronella Plant

There are many ways to grow citronella, and these include the following: 

Growing Them From Seeds

Citronella seeds germinate quickly, so sprinkle them on loose soil when you want to grow them. You don’t have to dig and bury them in the ground. Once you successfully spread them, water them sparingly. Since they’re drought-tolerant, they will grow even if you neglect to water them. 
However, to successfully grow citronella grass from seed, you need to follow these steps:
Step 1: Lightly lay the citronella seeds on the soil.
While doing this, you need to gently press the citronella seeds into the soil to ensure good contact. Citronella will grow better if you leave them uncovered with soil. This can help the seeds get better sun exposure – something they need to sprout properly. 
Step 2: Allow your seeds to germinate.
Get a heat mat and place your pot above it. The heat from the mat will help the seeds germinate better. You can expect the plant to form seedlings one to two weeks after sowing.
Being a tropical plant species, citronella thrives if you expose them to sunlight for a minimum of six hours per day. They will also grow best if you place them in an environment above 60 degrees temperature. 
Step 3: Bring your plant inside when the outdoor temperature drops.
Your citronella plant will thrive better if you put its container pot in your garden's moist yet well-drained area. They will also be happy inside a pot placed on your patio or windowsill.
However, bring your plant inside as soon as you notice the outdoor temperature drop. This is an essential plant care tip that you should never forget. 
Step 4: Ensure that you have enough room for strappy grass.
The mature citronella plant can grow tall, so you should have enough space for strappy, unwieldy grass at home. Otherwise, you can make room by saving a smaller chunk.
Simply take out a small living section of the plant with a shoot and roots. Take this part from the plant’s crown. After which, put this tiny plantlet in a pot where you allow it to grow indoors during winter. 
Step 5: Transplant your citronella.
Once you see the citronella seedling having at least three sets of leaves, you can transplant them into four-inch pots. Transplanting offers many benefits, like giving your plant more room to grow and thrive, thus preventing diseases and providing them with more nutrients. 

Growing Citronella in Containers

Apart from growing citronella from its seeds, you can also try growing them in pots or containers. The good thing about using pots is you can move your plant around. You can let it sit next to your window or use it to add to your outdoor scenery. You can bring them outside when it’s sunny and humid. 
When the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, you can simply bring them inside. As long as you do this, you won’t have to worry whether they’ll survive the shifts in weather. 
If you wish to try this citronella plant growing method, follow these steps: 
Step 1: Choose a suitable container.
The right container should be at least 12 inches wide and deep. It should also be at least twice as wide and deep as your plant's roots. You also need to ensure that the pot has good drainage to avoid keeping the extra moisture inside the pot. You can add holes to your pot if you like. 
Step 2: Add nutrient-enriched soil.
After choosing a suitable container to grow your plant, the next thing you need to do is put your plant into the soil. There should be enough soil to cover the roots. Make sure to use potting soil that doesn’t hold much water. Although citronella plants need water to grow, they can weaken visibly when overwatered. Too much moisture or water in the pot can also cause the roots to rot. Let top two to three inches of soil dry between watering.
Step 3: Water your citronella plant well.
They might hate excess water, but citronella still needs water to survive. So water them well and position them in a sunny spot outside for maximum growth. You must expose them to sunlight for at least six hours a day
Step 4: Prune your plant.
Keep your plant full-looking by diligently pinching off its ends once a week. You can keep them from becoming leggy when you prune them. This will also push them to bush out. 

Growing This Plant in the Garden

If you’re not comfortable growing your citronella in pots indoors, you can simply allow them to thrive in your garden, where they can get full or partial shade. This is one of the natural ways of growing the plant because it allows them to easily access sunlight, water, and other things essential for growth.

Below are the steps to follow for doing this the right way:
Step 1: Choose the right spot in your garden to plant the citronella.
The best garden spot to grow a citronella plant is a space where it can get at least six hours of daylight. 
Step 2: Fertilize the plant.
The next essential step is to get a shovel and dig a couple of inches on the ground, where you should apply organic compost and 5-10-5 slow-release fertilizer. Be mindful of the fertilizer package instructions. The amount of fertilizer you should add to the soil depends on the space’s square footage.
Step 3: Dig a hole for your plant.
You need to dig a plant hole, and this should have the same depth as the root but twice as wide. Once done, you can put the new plant inside.
Remember to keep the topmost part of the root ball on ground level. You need to secure the plant in a safe place, so you need to fill the area around its root ball with soil. You also need to ensure that the plant is not crowded by placing them eight inches away from each other. 
Step 4: Water the soil.
This is the final step, and you need to do this to make the area around the plant’s root ball compact. This will also help in removing air pockets. 

How to Propagate Citronella Plant

Step 1: Cut a tip from a citronella plant.
Cut at least three to four inches from your plant with a pair of garden scissors. These cuttings should be taken only from healthy plant branches and stems. 
Step 2: Remove foliage.
Check the plant to remove any foliage apart from the plant’s topmost leaves. Dip this cutting in the rooting hormone to encourage root production. While this isn’t necessary, you can still give it a try to improve plant growth. Use a nutrient-rich potting mix. 
Step 3: Keep the cuttings away from direct sunlight.
You must keep the cuttings warm, but don’t expose them to direct sunlight. Too much sun exposure can cause sunburn in your plant. You also need to keep the soil moist to allow the roots to form within weeks. This tip is essential when you place your plant in your garden center.
Step 4: Check if roots have already formed.
See if the roots have already formed by gently pulling them out from the plant. If you feel it resisting a bit, that means roots are already there. If the plant's stems have taken root, all you need to do is take proper care of it. 
When you propagate your own citronella plant, knowing the natural ways of growing them is not enough. It is also best to be mindful of its growing zones and plant care tips. Through these, your plant will not only grow but also thrive. 
Plant care dirt and shovel
Image Source: Unsplash
Below is a handful of factors you should consider when taking care of your citronella:

☀️ Light

This plant grows best in sunny areas exposed to direct sunlight or full sun in the afternoon. However, it would help if you kept them from getting too much direct sunlight since it will burn the plant’s foliage. The exposure should be limited to a maximum of six hours per day. 

🌱 Soil

Citronella needs well-draining soil to keep it healthy. Although it requires a lot of water, you need to plant them in soil that doesn’t retain too much moisture to keep the roots from rotting.
If you have no idea what soil to use, go for those that are loamy and moist. Generally, though, the plant can adapt to all other soil types and thrive under different conditions. 

💧 Water

Citronella comes from high-humidity areas with a lot of rainfall, so it has significant watering requirements. You might have to water them daily, depending on the climate. If you’re keeping them in an indoor pot, then you’re exposing them to lower humidity.

As pots have a smaller soil amount, it may not be enough to draw in the moisture they need. If this is the case, you’ll have to water them daily. If your plants are outdoors, the environment will likely be humid, so you don’t have to water them as much. 
While your plant needs water, you should be careful not to overwater them, especially if you grow them in pots. This is because some may not have enough holes for water to flow out. When you overwater, the moisture will just settle in the roots, leaving them to rot. Excess water can also encourage different kinds of fungal growth.  
When your plants’ leaves turn brown, you can be sure that you overwatered them. Most overwatered plants have yellowing or wilting leaves. Water your plant sparingly after changing the soil and pot to remedy this problem. 

🌡️ Temperature and Humidity

You can grow citronella as a perennial grass in 10 to 12 USDA hardiness zones. In other zones, you can treat it as an annual. Remember that the grass can’t handle cold temperatures for a long time. They can’t flourish in temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. 
If you want to keep them alive in cold, long winters, you need to keep them in a pot and bring them indoors before the first frost. You also need to cut the plant by about three inches above the ground line. After which, you need to place it under grow lights or on your windowsill.
They can overwinter inside your home where it’s warm. By spring, this drought-tolerant plant will grow big. Citronella loves moisture, and they grow best in humid climates.

🌻 Fertilizer

You’ll need a nitrogen-enriched fertilizer for your citronella grass. You only need to fertilize them at least once a year, and the best time to do that is in spring. This will encourage healthy growth and better results. 
Be mindful of these factors since they will determine whether or not your plant will grow healthily. Citronella plants are naturally forgiving and neglect-resistant, so you won’t have a hard time growing them. If you give them the essentials, they can survive. 

For the Perfect Plant for Your Backyard, Visit Neverland

If you wish to relax, you can get your diffuser and smell the aroma of the citronella essential oil. All these benefits can justify your decision to grow them in your own backyard. On top of that, they’re reasonably easy to grow, propagate, and maintain. They’re also quite adaptable, so they will still thrive even if they don’t live under the best conditions. 
To know more about citronella and other house plant types you can grow in your own backyard, visit Neverland now. We have virtually every plant you need. Whether you’re shopping for easy-care, windowsill-friendly, rare, or air-purifying plants for your garden center, we got you. We also provide guides to help you with plant care.  
We here at Neverland are like your friendly neighbor encouraging you to discover your green thumb. We will help you find the right seeds for your garden, show you how to grow these plants, and also offer tips for the plants to thrive. 
We started the Neverland site out of our need to stay attuned with nature. We believe that the world is already too chaotic, so we all need a place where we can peacefully recharge and regain our balance. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro or novice at plant growing; we at Neverland will help you discover and navigate your green side.  
Reach out by emailing us at [email protected] We’re more than happy to answer your every question. You can also get in touch with us today if you are looking for a specific seed. We may have it already or we’ll find it for you. 

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Growing a citronella plant can provide tons of health benefits, including weight loss and relaxation. Want to have citronella in your garden or home, get it straight from Neverland. Visit us now!

FAQs on Citronella Plant

Are citronella plants poisonous to dogs?
Yes, citronella plants are toxic to pets like dogs. This is why you need to exercise caution when using them.
When is the best time to plant citronella indoors? 
You can plant the citronella grass indoors anytime. Your plant will grow as long as you use a well-draining potting pox and plant it in a pot with enough holes to avoid water stagnation. Being a perennial plant that’s not frost-hardy, growing and keeping them indoors when the outdoor temperature drops below 32-degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Just remember to expose them to sunlight for at least six hours a day, and they’ll be fine indoors. 
Why is the citronella plant leggy? 
It’s perfectly normal for the citronella plant to be leggy as it matures. You can fix the problem by pruning the plant. With a clean pair of scissors, cut back the stems to improve blooming and encourage branching. 
🔥 Join 52,560+ other plant parents.FREE Citronella Care Cheat Sheet!
Access this guide anywhere, anytime. Just pop in your email below, and we'll send you a FREE, printable Citronella Cheat Sheet!
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