Ornamental grasses are related to the turfgrass that forms your lawn, but they undoubtedly include the more diverse and refined members of the grass family. Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus) may ring a familiar bell because of its common name. It is indeed the plant source from which citronella oil is made (marketed as a mosquito repellant). But the plant itself is quite ornamental, with numerous garden benefits, including its delightful citrusy fragrance!
Dancing in the Breeze
Growing up to 6 feet tall, but typically topping out around 4 feet, Citronella Grass forms a clump of graceful, arching leaves that sway when they catch the slightest breeze. The flattened leaves are 1-inch wide, which gives substance and movement to this plant. As Citronella Grass matures, the clump grows larger, but it will not become invasive.
It’ll Tickle Your Senses
Not only will Citronella Grass add height and movement to your yard for visual appeal, but it’ll also send its lemony fragrance wafting through your landscape. Be sure and plant it in a sunny spot where you can enjoy the scent — alongside your patio, near your favorite garden chair or beside your porch. You can also plant Citronella Grass in a large container as a single specimen plant or as a focal point in a mixed-planting pot. At the end of the growing season, trim the leaves, cut them into small sections, let them dry and add them to your favorite potpourri!
Citronella Grass is a perennial only in the warmest regions of USDA plant hardiness ranges 9 to 11, which is why most gardeners grow it as a warm-weather annual. Before frost kills Citronella Grass in zones outside its hardiness range, you can keep it over winter if you follow these three simple steps:
- Before the first frost of autumn, cut the leaves back to 3 inches above ground level.
- Dig the clump and separate it into smaller sections.
- Plant one or more sections in a pot, set the pot in a sunny window (or under a fluorescent light) and keep it watered.
- Then, simply plant Citronella Grass outside the following spring, after all danger of frost has passed!