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How to Take Care of a Citronella Plant

DIY Guide for How To Care For Citronella Plants (Lemongrass)

Are you wondering How to Take care of a Citronella plant? Maybe you’re thinking about growing a few of these Tropical grass-looking plants and just need to know how to plant Citronella before you begin.

Today’s article is about Citronella Plant Care, or specifically, How to care for Citronella plants.

How to grow them, why you should grow them, and how to care for them after you get them home.  You also may be interested to know whether citronella plants are perennials. 

And the answer is Yes –  in USDA plant zones 9b-11 it should come up every year, and in other colder climate zones, it is either removed, left in the ground to die, or moved indoors to enjoy for the winter season.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any reason to get some of these plants, as they are quite beautiful.  Just be aware that the most common “Citronella” plants sold at the big box stores are actually Citronella “Geraniums,” the plant shown in our lead photo (above) with the “pink flowers”.

What Does A Citronella Plant Look Like?

Citronella Plant - Best Home Gear
Citronella Plant – Besthomegear.com

The “Real Citronella plant,” commonly called the Mosquito plant, is actually a Citronella “Grass” plant. Citronella is also referred to as Lemongrass, due to its fragrance. 

The Grass plant looks like this image to the left:  It’s a beautiful, ornamental grass that is also highly used in Asian Medicinal and Food recipes.

This is a highly fragrant plant and the same Citronella used in candles and Essential oils. So whatever name you refer to, This is the real deal and holds its own in spite of its lack of a pink or lavender bouquet.

What Does the Citronella Plant Need for Survival?

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has taken elementary science classes. This plant needs sunlight, food, and water (huh, come to think of it, plants aren’t all that different from us).

Are birds eating your grass seed? Read how to keep them off your grass here!

But, of course, plants aren’t all created equally. You’ve got to care for each one separately, and very few of them have the exact needs.

Thankfully, these lemony plants aren’t nearly as picky as many other breeds, making them perfect plants for almost any household even if you don’t have anywhere to put them outside.


How To Grow Citronella Plants (FAQ)

Where Do Citronella Plants Grow Best?

The Citronella plant is one of the most versatile plants to grow. These plants can flourish both indoors, as well as outdoors. They are a great year-round plant that survives in a multitude of climates.

However, they should be brought inside before the winter frost begins to hit, That is if you want them to be around still when springtime rolls back around.

How Much Sun Does a Citronella Plant Need?

As we all know, plants need the sun to grow and synthesize. Without sunlight, they wither and die. Like many other plants, care for the Citronella plant requires no less than six hours of sunlight per day.

Even though they require up to six hours a day of sunlight, it doesn’t necessarily require direct sunlight.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Citronella plant is that it can survive in shade, as well as in direct sunlight.

How Do You Prune Citronella?

prune citronella plant - best home gear
How To Prune Citronella Plant – Besthomegear.com

Citronella plants can grow quite large (anywhere between two and four feet in height), and because of this, you are going to have to prune them.

Pruning the plant will allow the beautiful lavender blooms to show themselves, creating the scenic blossom and heavenly fragrance that Citronella plants are so well known for.

You should prune these plants in the late winter and/or early spring to get the perfect shape, along with the beautiful blooming flowers.

You should also pinch off any yellow or dead foliage on the plant. This will stimulate growth.

Pruning these plants is also essential because they are typically placed along entrance walkways and patios. Nobody wants plants spilling over into their line of travel.

What Type of Food Do Citronella Plants Require?

Plants are just like us; they need food just as we do. If you want your new Citronella plant (or plants) to grow to its maximum potential, then you can’t skimp on prices when it comes to the soil that you purchase.

The fastest-growing type of fertilizer for these plants  – and this rings true for pretty much all plants – is 5-10-15 fertilizer.

This means the fertilizer is 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 5 % potassium. You can also use 10-10-10 if you’d like to.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure you water the soil too. But make sure you are watering around the plant (especially as it is in its stages of infancy) to keep the water from damaging the foliage.

Where Should You Plant Citronella?

As we mentioned earlier, one of the best things about the Citronella plant is that it can survive almost anywhere. They can look great near walks, porches, and gardens.

Whether you keep them indoors or out, this plant will thrive wherever you put it.  It can also make for an attractive hedge in your landscape beds.

How Do You Plant Citronella “Indoors”?

When Planting your Citronella plant inside, you will likely use a pot. But, because these plants can grow so large, you will have to get a large pot for your new plant.

It is recommended that you get a container ranging anywhere from 8 inches to 12 inches high.

You will want to fill the container to about halfway through using high-quality potting soil.

The reasoning is that it provides the plant with all the necessary nutrients. The large pot will allow the plant enough room to grow, as well as let the roots spread out and keep the plant healthy.

Make sure you put the pant in the container in a way that keeps the Citronella root around a couple of inches below the top of the container, keeping the root at the same depth it was at when you pulled it out of its original pot.

Next, make sure you water the soil enough to press it together, this eliminates any air pockets and keeps the roots being appropriately fed throughout its life cycle.  This ensures that the roots won’t become saturated when you water the plant.

Lastly, you will need to make sure you put your newly potted plant in an area of the house that gets a good amount of sunlight.

Remember, citronella plants require 4 to 6 hours of sunlight daily, or they will not grow properly.

How Do You Plant Citronella Outdoors?

Planting Outdoors In the Garden is, in my opinion, the best place to plant Citronella. Personally, I don’t particularly appreciate having plants inside the house that thrive incredibly well outside. This is especially true when it comes to plants, like citronella, that can grow up to 4 feet tall.

When you place your citronella plant in your garden outside, you should find a place that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

If possible, try to put it in a place that receives sunlight during the morning hours, this helps keep the plant from being scorched by the afternoon sun.

Dig a hole in your garden at the same depth as the pot the plant came in.

This means that the root ball of the Citronella plant needs to be planted at the same depth in your garden as in the original pot.

Tip: If you are planting multiple Citronella plants, then make sure you keep no less than eight inches apart. Failing to do this will put the plants in direct competition with each other, and once the roots start to take hold, they will either kill one another or not reach their full potential.

Next, you’ll need to put roughly two inches of organic compost around the plant (remember, 5-10-5 slow-release fertilizer is best for these plants). Make sure you follow the packaging instructions while planning.

This ensures you have the correct amount of room for the roots to “breathe,” allowing the plant to grow to its full potential.

Water the soil around the plants. This compacts the soil around the root and keeps air pockets from forming. Of course, you won’t want to allow the soil to dry once you have planted them.

The Citronella Myth (Mosquito Plant?)

We touched on this earlier in the post, but the idea of Citronella plants being a mosquito repellant is large enough that it bears its section in today’s post.

These plants are often touted as the best way to keep mosquitoes away. This myth has been around for so long that people have even begun to call this plant the “mosquito plant”.
The idea behind this is that, while humans love the citrusy scent of the plants, mosquitoes cannot stand the smell of it. It sounds like the perfect solution to the peskiest problem we face in the year’s warm months.

The Citronella Myth Origins

In 1984 a man by the name of Dirk Van Leenen began developing a plant that he said would eradicate mosquitoes from your backyard. In the early ’90s, his “miracle plant” finally caught worldwide attention, and the mosquito plant was born.

Subsequently, that is when people began to put this plant to the test and see if it did what it claimed to do.

Many people claimed that the plant worked; one greenhouse owner purchased roughly 50 plants for his annual Fourth of July party. After the party, he stated, “Historically, people are eaten alive. This year nobody complained at all about the insects.”

This claim sounds legitimate enough. That is, until you realize he merely trying to sell his plants.

Which Plants Do Repel Mosquitos?

If you would like to know which nine plants Are rated the highest for repelling mosquitoes, check out this video:


Citronella Plants are Worth Purchasing

Anyone who has them can attest that Citronella plants have little mosquito-repellent properties. Nearly all of us who have these plants still need to take other measures to keep mosquitoes away.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth the investment. These plants are some of the prettiest out there. They go great in basically any setting, smell incredible, are easy to take care of, and are versatile enough to live nearly anywhere.

Add in some well-timed grooming and proper pruning techniques, and you’ll get a plant with gorgeous lavender blooms that perfectly accent its lemony scent.


Citronella plants are one of the most popular plants out there. And it isn’t because they are highly effective mosquito repellants. Instead, it is because they are easy to care for, can flourish almost anywhere, and, most importantly, look and smell amazing.

Just keep watering the soil, give them six hours of sunlight each day, then add in a little pruning, and you’ll be able to enjoy the scent and scenery they provide in no time.

Got some more great ideas about Citronella Plant Care? Leave us a Comment Below. We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for visiting, and don’t forget to check out more “Gear” for Homes at BestHomeGear.Com

References & Further Reading:

Photo Credits: Forest and Kim Starr, Enrique DansErik F. Brandsborg via Flickr CC, See the CC License.

Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear. In addition to his work in publishing, Kevin enjoys exploring the Outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, Hiking, Cycling, Fishing, Reading, and Completing Projects for Home and Garden.

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