How to Grow Citronella Geraniums


Citronella geraniums, Pelargoniums crispum, are annual flowers that bloom in subdued colors of pink and lavender. They are renowned for the sharp citronella scent of their leaves when rubbed or crushed, and often are promoted as a natural mosquito repellent, although research has not verified this claim. Citronella geraniums prefer well-drained, slightly acidic garden soil and can be planted outside after danger of frost has passed. They need six to eight hours of sunshine daily for optimal growth. Space citronella geraniums 12 to 15 inches apart as they can spread to 15 inches wide and grow to 24 inches tall. Citronella geraniums also thrive when planted in containers.

Moderately Easy


Things You’ll Need
  • Garden spade
  • Compost
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Rake
  • Liquid fertilizer
    1. Loosen the garden soil in early spring to help the soil warm sooner. Work the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches with a garden spade.
    2. Amend the soil with a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost, to help promote good drainage. Work it in well with your spade.
    3. Spread a slow-release granular fertilizer with high nitrogen content onto the amended soil. Rake it into the soil evenly.
    4. Dig a hole for each citronella geranium plant that is the same depth as its nursery pot.
    5. Remove the citronella geranium from the nursery pot. Break up the exterior of the root ball gently with your hands if the plant appears root-bound. Set the geranium carefully into the planting hole.
    6. Backfill the hole with amended garden soil until it is level with the landscape. Tamp the soil lightly with your hand to eliminate air pockets.
    7. Water the citronella geraniums directly after planting. Then water them adequately once per week, preferably in the morning, to prevent wilting.

Tips & Warnings

  • Before purchasing your geraniums, inspect the plants first for insects or diseases.Potted geraniums require more frequent watering.

  • Citronella geraniums need adequate nitrogen to flourish.

  • Fertilize citronella geraniums monthly during the growing season with a water-soluble fertilizer, following package directions.

  • Deadhead spent blossoms regularly to promote sustained blooming.

  • Citronella oil in commercial products comes from citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus).

  • Monitor citronella geraniums regularly for mites, aphids and caterpillars and treat if needed.

  • Avoid getting water on the plant leaves. If possible, water the plants with soaker hoses rather than overhead sprinklers.

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