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Will a Citronella Plant Ward Off Mosquitoes?

By Barbara Fahs
The citronella geranium is similar to other geraniums and is said to repel mosquitoes.

Two different kinds of plants are called citronella. Citronella grass is the “official” one, but the scented geranium known as citronella is marketed in numerous products as a mosquito repellent. Neither plant has proven to be effective.

Citronella on Your Patio

Some people grow a citronella geranium on a deck or patio in the hope that it will deter mosquitoes and other bothersome insects. However, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website reports that neither citronella geraniums nor citronella grass will provide protection.

Citronella Oil Products

Manufacturers make products from citronella plants and market them to consumers, making claims that their candles, lotions, coils and other products will deter mosquitoes. The United States Department of Agriculture examined a number of these products in 2004 and found that a few of them effectively deterred insects for several hours. However, the EPA found that allergic reactions and skin irritation occurred in some test subjects.

Citronella Oil Safety

Although the actual plants called citronella do not show effectiveness in repelling mosquitoes, products containing the essential oil can. The EPA has classified products that contain citronella oil as “minimum risk pesticides” and has made such products exempt from their registration requirements.


About the Author


Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.