Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)

Natural Insect Repellent

Say goodbye to pesky mosquitoes and harmful synthetic chemicals with citronella! This natural insect repellent can effectively keep mosquitoes at bay for up to two hours. Not only that, it can also help rid your furry friends of fleas.

To experience the repelling effects of citronella, simply crush the leaves and rub the essential oil on your skin. This will leave you smelling fresh and lemony while keeping those pesky insects away.

Citronella plants are also a beautiful addition to any yard, patio, or garden. They are often harvested for their aromatic oil, which can be used in homemade scented lotions or candles.

Speaking of candles, citronella oil is commonly used as a basic ingredient in scented candles to create a pleasant and invigorating atmosphere. And if you’re into Asian cuisine, you might be interested to know that citronella is related to lemon grass, which is often used as an ingredient in dishes.

With its multiple uses and benefits, citronella is a must-have plant for anyone who wants to enjoy their outdoor space without the nuisance of mosquitoes and synthetic chemicals.

Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)

Planting & Care

Seasonal Advice for Growing Citronella Grass:

Growing Citronella Grass can be a rewarding experience for those living in USDA Zones 9-11 where it can thrive as a perennial. However, for those residing in cooler regions, it is best to grow the plant in pots or containers. This grass demands a long, warm growing season, regular watering, and well-drained soil to flourish. It is intolerant of cold, damp winters, so in areas prone to these conditions, it is advisable to divide the grass into smaller clumps and bring them indoors for the winter. When temperatures dip below 32OF, potted plants should also be moved indoors to protect them from the cold.

Location Considerations:

Citronella requires full sun exposure but may suffer from scorch and withering if the soil dries out. Plant it in an area that receives partial shade to avoid this issue. Six to eight hours of sunlight per day is ideal. For plants grown in pots, move them to partially shaded areas if they show signs of stress. Citronella is not invasive but is an aggressive bunch grass that can grow tall, so avoid planting it in areas where it may overshadow other garden plants. It’s best to grow Citronella in a container, planter, or enclosed area with a heavy mulch barrier around it to contain its growth. It’s also important to avoid areas exposed to strong winds or rain.

Soil Requirements:

Citronella Grass can tolerate various soil textures such as sand, silt, clay, and loam in any combination as long as it is well-drained, holds moisture and nutrients, and is fertile. A fertile “loam” soil is ideal, with a pH level ranging from 6.1 to 7.8. The grass cannot tolerate soggy soil, so well-draining soil is essential.

Planting:

When planting in pots or containers, use a large container and fill it about one-third full of potting soil. Spread the root ball and arrange the plant in the pot at the same depth as it was growing before. Fill the remaining space with soil, ensuring that the roots make good contact with the soil and to minimize air pockets. Water the plant immediately and thoroughly, making sure to add water until it runs out of the drainage holes. During early establishment, allow the soil to dry out between waterings, but not to the extent of causing wilting. Fertilize lightly with a complete and balanced fertilizer such as 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 and follow the instructions on the label. Monthly light fertilization is also recommended to ensure the plant’s growth and health.

Planting in the garden can be done using two methods. The first method is suitable for planting in small groups or as individuals in a designated area. Dig a hole twice as wide and 2 inches deeper than the root ball’s depth. To create a richer soil that doesn’t affect drainage, mix a handful of compost and peat or coir with the soil in the hole. Gently remove the plant from its container and knock the soil off around the roots. Add 2 inches of the amended soil to the hole, spread the roots, and set the plant in the new soil. Cover half of the root ball with the soil mix and water to settle the soil around the roots. Fill the hole with amended soil, gently pressing it around the roots. Ensure the plant is at the same level as it was in the pot before planting.

The second method is appropriate for planting in a prepared bed, particularly in a group or as an area planting. Space the Citronella plants 12-24 inches apart, and till the soil to a depth of 8 inches. If necessary, amend the soil with compost and peat or coir as mentioned above. Spread the roots to encourage new growth, firm the soil around the roots, and water thoroughly. After the initial watering, let the soil dry out slightly but not enough to become droughty. Observe the plants for wilting or scorching and water them as needed. Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 5-5-5 once a month after light initial fertilization. Pinch back the plants by removing the branch tips above the leaf node to encourage bushiness.

Once established, water the Citronella when the top of the soil feels dry, but avoid soggy soil. Remember to water more frequently during hot and dry conditions. Use fertilizer with more nitrogen, such as 10-5-5 or 20-10-10, during spring and fall for plants managed as perennials. Follow the manufacturer’s label directions.

To propagate or divide Citronella Grass, divide the clumps before winter and keep smaller clumps indoors to ensure live plants in the spring or plant them elsewhere in your garden. Care for divided clumps the same way as described above. Clumps in perennial plantings grow larger with age and can be transplanted in the fall or early winter to gain as much growth as possible.

Other than regular watering, Citronella Grass requires very little maintenance.