Q:

How do you take care of a citronella plant?

A:

Citronella geranium, also called mosquito plant, can tolerate relatively dry soil and needs about 6 hours of sunlight every day. While it can withstand partial shade, the plant stretches and falls over if it doesn't get enough sun. Citronella can live in many well-drained soils, but grows best in moderately rich, moderately moist soil. To encourage new growth, prune citronella by pinching it back.

Citronella is hardy in temperate zones 9-11, even outside in the summer. Stems can also get woody during summer, but layering by bending a stem and sticking it into the soil of a new pot can grow a new plant. Bring plants inside before the first frost of the year, as citronella is sensitive to cold. In warmer areas, established, pruned plants can overwinter outside. Citronella grows well indoors as long as it gets enough sun and water. Indoor plants need only occasional feeding with an all-purpose plant food.

Expect lavender blooms and a light fragrance that complements the scents of other flowers during the summer. Although its common name is mosquito plant, there is some debate about the ability of citronella to repel mosquitoes. There is some evidence, however, that rubbing crushed leaves on the skin may keep mosquitoes away.

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