Citronella - More than just mosquito repellent

Everything you need to know about Citronella

Whether your a do-it-yourselfer and want to repel mosquito around your house without buying candles or oils from stores, or you just like the unique smell, either of the plants with the name Citronella can make a great addition to any garden.


First things first. There are 2 different plants with the common name “Citronella” and I will cover both of them here.

Citronella grass is the kind commonly used for repelling mosquitoes, the Citronella flowering Geranium however smells almost identical but in testing has shown to have virtually no effect on mosquitoes.

The Citronella Grass:


This non-flowering grass is the Citronella people likely refer to when they say citronella candles, citronella oil, ect.

Citronella is a Tropical perennial grass native to Asia.

Unfortunately the Citronella plant itself seems to have little to no effect on insects, but if the oil from the plant is either burned in a candle or applied to the skin, it does seem to have a repelling effect on mosquitoes. So sorry, you can’t just have this in a pot on your patio and expect to have any real results when it comes to repelling mosquitoes.

Despite the fact that just having the plant around doesn’t have much of an effect on mosquitoes, this plant still may be useful for people that want to create their own mosquito repelling candles from the oil or the many other uses the oil has. Since extracting the oil from the plant is quite a process, you can alternatively just buy the essential oil from nearly any health food store.

It can also be crushed and the oil applied directly to the clothes or skin (if you don’t have any allergic reaction to it) for some repelling effect. Our best guess as to how this works is the strong scent seems to cause a sensory overload for the mosquitoes, making it hard for them to locate a meal.

I personally just like the smell it gives off.

The Oil from the Citronella plant claims a massive list of potential uses, here’s a list of the ones I’ve found. Note that I have not personally tested many of these, it’s just a list of potential uses I have gathered.


Citronella is a tropical grass that is low maintenance and relatively hardy. Its only real weakness is cold.

  • Perennial.
  • It prefers Full Sun.
  • Moderate water consumption.
  • May not survive cold winters but will grow year round in locations where there its not cold enough to frost.
  • Outdoor or on the patio in a pot.
  • Height: up to 6 feet.
  • Soil: Well draining.
  • Spacing: not much of an issue.

Potential uses:

Burning it or evaporating it:

  • Repel bugs with candles from Citronella Oil
  • Aromatherapy – Calming effect that’s thought to be useful for curing Migraine Headaches. Also thought to have Antidepressant effects.

Applying it directly to skin or hair:

  • Antibacterial/Antiseptic – Can be used as a home remedy to prevent infection. Maybe if your every lost in the woods with a gash in your leg and happen to find a Citronella plant this could come in handy
  • Muscle relaxant/Antispasmodic – Applied directly to the sore muscle the Oil has a warming effect, natures Icy-Hot patch minus the Icy. Also can be used to prevent muscle spasms
  • Astringent (Shrinkage of Tissue) – It is thought that applying Citronella Oil to the body can keep skin looking younger. I would test on something other than your face for an allergic reaction before trying this
  • Getting rid of body louse, head lice – Apparently it works on insects other than mosquitoes. Apply the oil directly to the infested area
  • Anti-Inflammatory – Another home remedy use, can be used to reduce swelling from an injury
  • Anti-fungal and Anti-Microbial Properties – There’s probably a long list of things you could cure with this, but I can’t think of any to use as an example

Ingesting Citronella Oil:

  • Fever Reducer.
  • Getting rid of Internal Parasites from the intestines – I’ve seen people say it works for this, I’ll leave it up to you to research this more if you need to evict some worms or something.
  • Increase Appetite.
  • Increase urine production – Either used as a Diuretic or to cleanse the body.

Other potential uses:

  • Detering pets from chewing furniture – Oil mixed with water and sprayed directly on the site you don’t want chewed.
  • Deodorant – Not just the kind you put under your armpit. Mix with water and use as a home-made odor eliminator.

Toxicity to humans or pets:

Not likely to be toxic unless used in very large quantities. Slightly Toxic to fish. You can eat the oil. In fact it’s used as a flavor in a variety of foods so chances are you’ve already eaten it.

Some people may have an allergic reaction to the blades of grass contact their skin.


Once a plant gets large enough, you can dig it up and split the root-ball up into multiple plants. It is recommended to do this in early spring.

The Citronella Flower:

This flowering plant with nearly the same smell as Citronella Grass is marketed under the same name, but has no noticeable mosquito repelling effect and is in the Geranium family.

An interesting note: Unlike other plants where only the flowers have a scent, the Citronella Geranium emanates scent from the leaves of this plant whether it has flowers or not.

Other than being edible and smelling good I couldn’t track down any other potential uses for this plant.

It’s ideal to plant it somewhere near pathways because the smell is released the most when the plant has something rub up against it.



  • Perennial if not frozen to death  in the winter.
  • Sun: Partial Shade to full sun.
  • Soil: Well draining.
  • Height: 2-4 feet.
  • Hardiness: Cold tolerant to around 25º F.
  • Indoors or out.
  • Moderate water usage.
  • This plant responds well to pruning.
  • Very few pests.

Potential uses:

  • Repel Mosquitoes and other blood suckers – Some people claim the smell deters mosquitoes, whether or not this is really the case is a matter of debate.
  • Edible – The leaves and flowers of the plant are safe for human consumption and can be used to add the citronella smell to foods.
  • Potpourri  – By drying the leaves you can make homemade potpourri.

Toxicity to pets or humans:

Leaves may be slightly toxic to pets if eaten. Not deadly in most cases but can cause loss of appetite and diarrhea.

Safe for humans unless you have an allergic reaction.


Plant can be grown from cuttings or from seeds. Allow the seedpods to dry on the plant and remove them.