Mosquito Plant Turning Brown
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Sherry Lee
Posted on: June 29, 2007

I purchased a mosquito plant and am now having problems with the leaves turning brown. They have bloomed but I’m afraid they are going to die. Some articles I have read say to let them dry out, some say to keep them well watered. Can you please help me?

The term ‘Mosquito Plant’ most often refers to the Citrosa scented geranium, although the name could equally apply to other mosquito-repelling herbs. I am going to assume that you have a Citrosa geranium.

Citrosa geranium, like most other geraniums, does not like ‘wet feet’ and will quickly perish if you overwater it or if the drainage is poor. Scented geraniums are native of southern Africa where the plants have had to adapt to dry conditions. The roots actually hold a lot of moisture so the plants can survive drought.

The first thing to establish is whether water can freely exit the bottom of the container that it is in. When you water does the water quickly disappear into the soil and if you water a little longer does water come out the bottom of the pot? If the answer is no to one or both of these questions then you have a drainage problem. You should make sure that there are sufficient holes in the pot to allow water to drain. (Many commercial planters do not even have holes for the water to drain out!) You should also make sure that the potting soil is well-draining as some soil mixes pack too hard and water cannot penetrate easily.

If drainage is not the issue, then are you watering too much and too often? You should only water when the soil feels dry to the touch. I don’t mean bone-dry, just dry. Dig a little into the surface of the soil and feel the soil. If it feels even a little moist then don’t water. When you do water water throughly enough so that water comes out of the bottom of the pot. This is very important. Many people love their plants to death by sprinkling a little water on the soil surface which is not enough to penetrate down to the root zone.

Aside from drainage and watering issues, the plant may be root-bound. If you remove the plant from the pot and the roots have formed a dense net of roots all around the root ball, you could have a root-bound plant. If so transplant to a larger pot, one that is 1-2 inches bigger.

A lack of light can also cause the leaves to turn brown: if the lower leaves are dying off while new growth at the branch tips appears to be reaching for the window or light source then you have insufficient light and you need to move the plant to a brighter window or supply supplementary light from a grow light.

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