- Author: David Bellamy
Summer is here and your flowers, vegetables, and weeds are really taking off. It is also the hottest time of year and you may wish to work outside after the sunsets. Now you've got to contend with blood-thirsty summer mosquitos. You may wish you had planted citronella around your garden to help, but does it?
Citronella Grass (Photo: WellspringGardens, Etsy.com)
There are two plants called Citronella. They are Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus or C. winterianus) and Citronella Geranium (Pelargonium 'Citronella'). Citronella Grass, sometimes called Mosquito Grass, is a clump-forming perennial grass, grown as an annual in some colder zones. The oil of these plants can be used as a mosquito or insect repellent and is also used in some soaps and candles. It also has herbal uses and is touted to help with treating lice, intestinal worms, as well as for treating fever or migraines. Think twice about planting this if you have limited garden space since it gets 5-6 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. Also, just growing it may not repel one “Skeetter”, since the oil in the plant has the repellent properties, and it must be extracted to use. It sometimes called Lemon Grass, and although the two kinds of grass are closely related and look similar, they are two different plants, and only Cymbopogon nardus has the citronella oil.
Although the oil from Citronella grass has been shown to be effective as an ingredient in insect repellent, there are also studies that show no significant improvement. The European Union (EU) has banned Citronella as an insecticide.
Citronella is a natural and organic product and is generally considered safe when used in small amounts on your skin. However, some people have allergic reactions to it. Check with your medical professional before experimenting with it, especially if considering ingesting it or breathing in vapors using the oil. Also, try searching Internet for “is Citronella safe for human use?”
Blooming Citronella Geranium, (Photo: www. Gardenmyths.com/…)
So, you think you'll grow the geranium variety? The citronella geranium has lacy green leaves and purple, pink or white colored blooms. If you just barely brush is as you walk by and you will get a blast of citrus/ floral fragrance. But while they are pretty and pleasantly scented, studies have shown them ineffective in repelling mosquitos. However, having them in your garden may help to cover up the smell of your spray-on insect repellent, so they may still help indirectly to battle the bugs.
Lastly, do Citronella Candles keep mosquitoes away? This is a myth. The amount of oil in candles is extremely small and citronella candles don't work any better than regular candles – neither works well.