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How to Use Citronella in Gardening

By Melissa Lewis ; Updated September 21, 2017

Many people garden with plants to attract insects and birds, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. At the same time, gardeners plant plants for their repellent nature, such as to deter deer, rodents and rabbits. Despite the lack of scientific evidence to back it up, many gardeners also plant plants with a citronella fragrance to help deter mosquitoes. Both citronella geraniums and citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus) have a citronella fragrance, but it is the citronella grass in which the oils are extracted for mosquito repellent.

Choose between citronella grass or citronella geraniums. They both let off a citronella fragrance which is thought to repel mosquitoes. Citronella grass grows year-round in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 to 11, but as an annual in cooler zones. Citronella geraniums can grow year-round in zones 9 to 11 and as annuals in cooler zones.

Select a location in a sunny area that receives at least six to eight hours of sunlight. Both plants need a site that also has soil that drains water well.

Plant citronella grass or geraniums along borders or as accents in the lawn. Grow them in an area where you can enjoy their fragrance, such as near a patio or an open window. You can also plant them in containers to bring inside during cold weather. Since they don’t actually provide mosquito protection, there is no need to plant them strategically for this purpose.


Things You Will Need

  • Citronella grass or citronella geraniums
  • Trowel or shovel
  • Container


  • Use another form of mosquito repellent, such as bug spray with DEET on your clothes and skin, or burning a citronella candle, in addition to growing citronella plants. Do not rely on the plants to provide you with mosquito protection.

About the Author


Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.