How to Grow Citronella (and Does It Really Repel Mosquitoes?)

Garden Betty

Pelargonium ‘Citrosum’ is one of those plants that’s simply divine to grow in your house because of its bold lemony scent.

So, I’m sure you’ve heard of citronella plants repelling mosquitoes. This Pelargonium’s common name is “mosquito plant” for a reason, right?

In fact, that’s what it was marketed for right from its first introduction to the houseplant world. There’s a lot more to it, though! Strap in for a weird and wonderful ride, we’re diving down the rabbit hole.

In the 1980s, a Dutch plant breeder called Dirk van Leenen introduced his new citronella plant with much ado, particularly in Florida, knowing that mosquitoes are the bane of every Floridian’s existence.

Van Leenen stated that his plant was a manmade hybrid created through tinkering with DNA by means of tissue culture, supposedly combining the African Pelargonium genus with lemongrass.

While that’s quite clearly nonsense (we’re talking about something that supposedly happened in 1975, when this technology wasn’t really available), I still can’t find much about the actual “ingredients” that went into this plant.

Now for the unfortunate truth. Yes, the citrosa plant smells divinely citrusy. However… It barely contains compounds that repel mosquitoes, like true citronella oil.

In fact, studies have shown time and time again that mosquitoes don’t really give a hoot about the presence of these plants. They’ll land on you all the same. In fact, they’ll even land on the Pelargonium itself!

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Garden Betty