Citronella Plant Care – 5 Tips To Keep Your Citronella Geranium Alive

Citronella is a misunderstood plant, but still a great plant to grow! They have beautiful pink-purple flowers as well. With that in mind, it’s great to know how to keep these plants alive, so here’s 5 tips for citronella plant care.

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Citronella plants are a beautifully scented plant that may or may not repel mosquitoes. But it’s got that distinct citronella smell, and is perfect for any patio garden!

What is Citronella?

There’s a big misunderstanding about the citronella plant. What’s called citronella are actually scented geraniums or called mosquito plant geraniums. So it’s actually a geranium that gives off the scent of citronella (or a light citrus scent).

But it’s not actually related to the plant that the citronella oil comes from that is used to deter mosquitoes. That plant is part of the lemongrass family, and is ! The citronella geranium is not effective against keeping mosquitoes at bay, but it will add a nice scent to your garden and the beauty that comes with geraniums!

The scent from the citronella geranium comes from the leaves, so it’s important to keep your plant healthy to ensure you have that beautiful scent for as long of the season as possible!

You might also be interested in: do deer eat geraniums?

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Still reading? Here are 5 easy tips for citronella plant care!

1. Don’t forget to water

watering can next to plant

Geraniums really like water, so the most important aspect to citronella plant care is to keep it watered. This doesn’t mean keep the plant soaking wet all year long, but to keep them from drying up too much. Thoroughly water the soil when it is dry, but try to avoid letting the plant wilt from not getting enough water.

If you’re terrible about remembering to water, see how long it takes for a week before you need to water, and then set a reminder to water it! Remember the amount of water your citronella needs will depend on the season and how warm it is outside, so this is just a suggested time to water.

Make sure the water can drain through the soil, and it’s not sitting in it, so make sure if you’re keeping your citronella in a container that it has drainage holes as well!

Winter Watering

In the winter you’ll need to do a lot less watering, since the plant is in a mostly dormant state. Only water once every few weeks, if even that.

As the plant isn’t growing it doesn’t need the same amount of water as it would when it’s trying to grow new limbs and flowers.

2. Don’t Let Your Citronella Freeze

Citronella, and geraniums in general, are fairly hardy plants. But they cannot withstand freezing temperatures. Bring your plant inside if it’s expected to freeze overnight or if you live in a colder climate, try to plan on bringing it in for winter.

This is definitely easier if your geranium is in a potted planter instead of grown in the soil to move around as seasons change.

If there’s only a light frost expected, your citronella will likely be okay, but if it’s a cold winter all year long, plan on bringing it inside for the winter.

3. Give It The Right Sunlight

As a general rule, geraniums really like sunlight, thriving with over 6 hours of direct sun a day. This is a common problem for if your citronella isn’t blooming, it could be because it’s not getting enough sunlight.

Giving it more sunlight is fine as well, it just might wilt some if the day is too hot outside.

4. Deadhead the Flowers

A way to keep your citronella geranium blooming and healthy is to deadhead the flowers. Remove the flowers when they are dying out to allow it to bloom more in the season!

Another reason to remove the flowers is that some of the nutrients will continue going to those dying parts of the plant, rather than going to the parts that are still healthy and alive.

To remove the flowers, pinch them off at the base of the stalk where it meets the leaves.

5. Pruning

Separate from deadheading, your geranium can be pruned in the autumn to give it a successful regrowth season the following year. This allows the citronella geranium to stop growing outward as well. It can go into an almost dormant state for winter, and then grow healthy the following year!

Pruning isn’t necessary for your citronella, but will help it from growing spindly legs as well as storing nutrients to get ready for the next year. While it’s dormant and cut back, this is also a good time to replant or give it some new soil if necessary.

Citronella can take a lot of pruning, so it can be cut back down to about 1/3 of the plant remaining, or down to a few inches above the ground remaining.

This may seem like a lot, but is actually good for the geranium.

Growing Inside

The great thing about citronella is that it can easily be grown indoors as well as outdoors. Follow these same citronella plant care tips for growing it inside and you may be able to have it flowering all year long instead of just in the summer and spring!

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Looking for information specific to Colorado? Check out Naturalist Perspective!

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