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How to Care for a Citronella Plant

Citronella is a perennial grass that can grow 5 to 6 feet tall. It is hardy in gardening zones 10 through 12 and can be grown as an annual in cooler areas or grown in containers and moved indoors for the winter. The botanical names of the plant are Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winerianus, which is important to know when going to purchase one if you want true citronella. There are other plants, called mosquito plants, that are genetically engineered hybrids of citronella grass and African geraniums. Citronella grass is a tropical ornamental grass that has a lemon scent and is wonderful for planting along walkways or near patios.

Choose a location that has full sun exposure. Keep in mind that at maturity the plant will be quite tall, so you don't want it to shade smaller plants that need the sun. Citronella grass is suitable for walkways, borders around porches and patios or in the back of a flower garden.

Dig a hole twice as wide and 2 inches deeper than the root ball. Amend the dug out soil with a handful of compost and a handful of peat moss. This will create a richer and well-draining soil.

Remove the plant from the container you purchased it in and knock off the soil around the roots. Add 2 inches of amended soil to the hole and then gently spread the roots of the plant and set it on top of the amended soil.

Cover half of the root ball with amended soil and water to settle the soil in around the roots. Then continue to fill the hole and press the soil down firmly around the plant. Make sure the plant is at the same level in the ground that it was in the container.

Water the plant generously after planting to help establish the roots. Then water when the top of the soil feels dry. Citronella grass likes water but should not sit in soggy soil. It will need more water when the days are hot and dry.

Fertilize with a fertilizer high in nitrogen in the spring and again in the fall. Follow the manufacturer's directions as to amount of fertilizer to use.

Divide clumps in the winter if you wish to plant a citronella grass plant somewhere else in your landscape. Plant and care for the division in the same manner.

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