Care of Citronella Plant for a Beginner
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Carolyn Bolen
Posted on: May 14, 2004

My friend gave me a citronella plant and it looks good and is growing really nicely, but I don’t have a clue about how to take care of it. She said it likes lots of water and sun. I keep it in a pot and when you shake it, it really throws off the smell which is good. I live in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, USA and need help in transplanting and up keep of this wonderful plant.

I am not sure if you have a plant of citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus) or a citronella scented geranium (called Citrosa scented geranium, botanically a Pelargonium)?

If the plant has wide grass-like leaves it probably is citronella grass and should be watered until water comes out of the bottom of the pot, whenever the top layer of soil is dry. If it has fuzzy leaves, reminding you of maple leaves with their shape, it should be watered as above as soon as the top centimeter (half inch) of soil is dry.

Both like full sun, but must be accustomed to it slowly -- or they will burn. Start out in the shade if they are to go outside and take two weeks to gradually move them into almost full sun if the location is exposed and windy and into full sun if it is more sheltered.

Transplanting is done when the roots start to come out of the bottom hole of the pot. If you transplant into another pot, choose a pot about two finger widths wider than the present pot, tap off a bit of the old soil and repot with fresh fertile soil in the new pot, being certain to have the plant crown at the same level in the soil as it was in the old pot.

In the fall, the plant has to be moved indoors before any frosts. Accustom the plant to the lower indoor light levels by moving it gradually into deep shade before placing it in your sunniest window. Indoors the air will be (usually!) much drier than that of the out of doors and therefore your plant will need more frequent watering.

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