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Information on how to start a citronella plant

Updated March 23, 2017

Citronella oil is used to help repel mosquitoes. The name alone will call to mind the popular candles used to repel mosquitoes. Many people think that planting citronella will help control the pests, but that's not all there is to it. But starting a citronella plant is a relatively simple process.

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Choosing a Plant

Choose a citronella plant carefully. Citronella is really a perennial ornamental grass. Do not buy a citronella-smelling plant, which is really a geranium. Check the tag to make sure the plant is Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus. Propagate the plant by separating clumps of the grass and replanting them. The best time to do this is before winter. Keep a few small clumps inside so they are ready to plant when it gets warmer.


Pick an appropriate site for your citronella plant. Citronella needs full sun to thrive, although plants can tolerate some shade. The plant doesn't grow well when the soil is too wet. Citronella has trouble with cool, damp winters and requires a long, warm growing season. Often Citronella can be moved inside and be replanted in the spring.


Get the outdoor site ready by tilling the soil. Make sure the soil drains well. If necessary, add in peat moss, sand or topsoil to improve drainage. If the citronella plant will be growing in a pot, add in all-purpose potting soil. Place the plant in an area that gets plenty of sun and is not too wet. This grass can grow up to 5 or 6 feet tall.


Be aware that Citronella grass does not keep mosquitoes away by simply planting it in your yard or in a pot. Instead, oil from the plant is mixed with other oils and works as a repellent when applied on the skin. Pure citronella oil should not be placed on skin; even mixed, the oil can cause rashes.

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About the Author

Larry Amon has been working in the computer field for more than 10 years and has experience writing scripts, instructional articles and political commentary. He has been published online, as well as in "NRB Magazine" and "Delmarva Youth & Family." He started a nonprofit media organization in 2000.

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