How to grow citronella plant from cutting

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We are well aware of the mosquito repellent properties of the citronella plant. It is a common home remedy known for ages and most gardeners and households swear by how useful this plant is. In this article, we take you through details about the citronella plant. We will then tap into how to grow citronella plant from cutting.

The citronella plant is native to Africa, Asia, Australia, and other tropical areas around the world. In a broader sense “Citronella plant” is a term used to describe two plant variants. One is Citronella Grass and a scented geranium known as Citrosa or the mosquito plant. Both plants smell alike and have a similar name but other than this there is nothing similar about these plants.

Citronella Grass is an inedible grass this grass is closely related to lemongrass. It is the primary source of citronella oil an essential oil used widely as a nontoxic mosquito replant. It is also used in different cuisines. Citronella geraniums, on the other hand, smells a lot like Citronella Grass but does not contain the oil.

Despite similar looks, both these plants look completely different. Citronella grass is a bushy green grass with a purple-pink stem. It looks similar to lemongrass. Citronella geranium on the other hand had leaves that are broad and fuzzy and deeply serrated.

How to grow citronella plant from cutting?

To put things into perspective this article will deal with the mosquito repellent grass or the Citronella geraniums. These plants have a lemony scent and are bought as saplings. They are available across the US in garden centers as small plants.

Most gardeners get these as a starter and then propagate the plant. They are not the type that is grown from seed. These plants are generally propagated from stem cuttings. Here is a step-to-step guide on how it’s done.

grow citronella plant from cutting
citronella plant in pots

Step-1: procuring cuttings

In order to propagate the, you will require a cutting from the parent plant. To get a cutting you first need to sterilize your scissors or pruners. You also need to make sure that the scissors are sharp. Blunt instruments will damage the parent plant. You are looking to make a cut as clean as possible. 

While looking for a cutting for propagation it is important to get at least two nodes. Nodes are the bumps on the stems and branches where the leaves emerge from. The reason you require two nodes is cos you will need to have one node under the surface of the soil or water while planting it. The other will remain above the ground it is from here that new leaves and shoots will emerge from.

Step-2: Leaves removal

Once you have a good enough cutting you will need to make sure that all the leaves are taken off. Too much greenery on the cutting will drain the moisture which is required for the rooting process. If the cutting dries out before the roots form you will not be able to use the cutting.

You can leave just a leaf or two on the cutting provided they are small. If there are bigger leaves trim them to three fourth the size and leave them be.

Tip: you are looking for leaves of the size of a bottle cap

Step-3: application of rooting agent

When you are dealing with cuttings the use of a good rooting agent becomes imperative. Rooting compounds are not very expensive and you can get a jar and use it as and when required. There are also home-made rooting agents that can be used to promote the rooting process.

Rooting agents or compounds are actually an externally introduced agent that contains naturally occurring hormones that stimulate root growth. If you are not a fan of rooting agents you can always stick the cutting in moist soil and wait a few weeks before it roots.

With the rooting agent, the process will be a little faster. You can use the rooting agent in both soil as well as water. 

Step-4: Sunlight

The citronella plant I fond of the sun. for these plants to grow well you will require at least six hours of full sunlight every day. The best part about these plants is that they can survive outdoors all year through in USDA plant hardiness zones 9b through 11.

In other areas, they need to be bought indoors when the temperature drops you can also leave them outside as annuals. It again depends on what you want for the plant and how you want to care for it. 

Step-5: Water

citronella geranium has the reputation of being a drought-tolerant plant. They do not require much water when they are mature but while growing, they need to be watered regularly. At all times the top inch of the soil needs to be wet for the soil to have enough moisture to grow well. 

Step-6: Pruning

As with most plants pruning is important for the citronella geranium as well. You can keep them short to place indoors or bushier looking while placed outdoors. 

Once you have decided to grow citronella geranium you will need to look for ways to grow them better and ensure that the plant does not die on you. 

Tips on growing citronella geranium from cutting

Here are tips on how to grow citronella plant from cutting 

  • Plant the citronella geranium in spring. You will need to wait for the soil to be warm enough to let the plant grow well.
  • Make a clean cut while procuring the cutting. This is the most important factor when it comes to growing a citronella geranium from cutting. All you need to do is see that the instrument is sharp then make a clean cut. Mashing the stem while cutting it will lead to new growth to be staunched.
  • It is recommended that you use a rooting agent while growing the citronella plant from cuttings. This aids in the rooting process and the plant can support itself faster. 
  • If you plan on planting more than one citronella geranium it is important to leave enough space between them. A distance of 21 to 25 inches is recommended. 
  • Plant the citronella geranium in partial shade it requires a lot of sunlight but the plant cannot stand harsh sunlight. 
  • It is important to use a good quality potting mix. Use compost and other organic matter in the soil so that the plant can grow healthy. 
  • Ensure that the soil is moist while the plant is growing. You will also need to pay attention to the temperature. The recommended temperature these plants grow well in is between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • While harvesting you can harvest to about 10 to 15 centimeters from the ground. You can leave the roots to regrow.
  • Citronella geranium requires loamy soil to grow well you will also require filtered sunlight.

If it gets too cold in your area you can plant them in containers and move them indoors when the temperature falls. 

After looking at details about planting citronella geranium and the tips that can be used to see that they grow well we will need to go into details about where and where these plants need to be planted.

When and where to plant citronella plants when growing them from cutting

In order for the citronella geranium to grow well, they need to be planted in late spring when the soil is warm. You need to plant them a little before summer so that the plant has enough time to grow. As these plants require about 6 weeks to root and grow you will need to plant, them well in advance so that they can take advantage of the summer sun.

If you are looking for reference months to plant the citronella geranium you can start planting from the first to the last week of June. If you are not sure about the weather you can always start the plant in planters indoors and move them outdoors once it gets warmer.

Tip: if you are planning to plant them indoors it is important to condition the plant before moving them outdoors permanently.

After details about how to grow citronella plant from cutting, it is important to understand where to plant them. Understanding where to plant these plants is key to seeing that they grow well. Look for a spot that is sunny, a spot with indirect sunlight is perfect for these plants as they receive enough heat to help them grow well. Plant them away from direct sunlight as they will wither under the scorching heat. 

Tip: Find a partly shady spot and you are good to go. 

These plants thrive in soil that is moist, loamy soil. If you do not want to plant them in the soil directly you can always use a planter and customise the soil according to the needs of the plant. 

For the upkeep of the citronella geranium, it is recommended that the plant is cut back regularly. In the next section we will go into details about how that needs to be done and the precautions one needs to take to do it right. 

Contrary to the fact that it is recommended that this plant is cut back regularly online forums are flooded with questions aiming at the exact same thing.

Tips to grow citronella geranium from cutting
Tips to grow citronella geranium from cutting

Can you prune a citronella plant?

The citronella geranium is known for its insect repellent qualities, these plants are known for their fragrant leave and the oil that you get from them. As these plants grow well in hardy zones 9 to 11, which coincidently is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes as well. 

This makes it important to have a plant that is not only easy to care for but a plant that keeps pests at bay. When you have a plant that goes so well with all your garden requirements it is important to look after it. Cutting back the plant is therefore important to not only help it grow well but also to have a more sculpted look.

The citronella plant can grow to about 2 to 4 feet in height but you can always have a specific height you want to achieve and stick to it. The lacy fragrant leaves of this plant work well in summer floral bouquets you can also cut and dry the stems to be used later.

As this plant grows it can get leggy and look unkempt. To avoid this, it is important to cut back the plant once in a while. Pruning the plant will encourage new leaves and stems it will also increase blooms.

Here is all you need to know about how to cut back or prune a citronella plant.

Remove the blooms by pinching them off with your fingers it Is better to remove the blooms before you start pruning the plant.

If you are looking to increase the number of flowers on the plant all you need to do is prune the stems where they connect with the main stem. You can pinch off the entire stem.

Some stems are too thick to prune, you can use pruning shears to cut them back.

It may so happen that you plant get too woody by the end of summer. If this happens, you can propagate a new plant from the non-woody stems. Insert them in a container filled will a good potting mix and you are good to go. The plant will start to grow back in a few weeks.

Another common question when it comes to the citronella plant is if it is truly effective as a mosquito repellent

Is the citronella plant an effective mosquito repellent?

It is a known fact that citronella oil is a natural mosquito repellent. But the plant or grass, however, is not very effective when it comes to keeping mosquitoes at bay. You will need to crush leaves and use it as a repellent but again a significant amount is required.

Both the variants of the plant add an ornamental value to the garden but only the oil is a natural repellent and hence the mere plant does not good at keeping insects away.

Is citronella oil safe to use on pets?

Citronella oil is great when it comes to repelling mosquitoes, especially when it is a known fact that one infected mosquito is enough to spread the disease to your pets. It can be tempting to use the oil to repel insects but when it comes to pet’s citronella oil is not pet friendly. Cats are extremely sensitive to essential oils and hence you will need to consult your vet before administering it to your pets.

Benefits of citronella plant

As we know it the citronella plant is easy to plant and care for. Both variants of the plant are also lovely to have in gardens. Apart from the fact that citronella oil is known for being an excellent mosquito repellent, there are several other reasons why you need to have this plant as part of your garden.

1# insect repellent

In 2011 there was a study that proved that citronella oil in combination with vanilla extract keeps mosquitoes away for about 3 hours. In the same context, there was a study conducted in 2015 that proved that citronella oil in combination with fennel oil repels mosquitoes for about 6 hours. 

2# Antifungal agent

There have been a number of studies conducted that prove that citronella oil fights against fungus that can prove detrimental for human health. There have been specific studies on the fungus Aspergillus niger a common fungus that causes lung and sinus infections in people. This fungus is known to weaken the immune systems of patients infected by it.

The antifungal properties of citronella oil have proved particularly helpful. There have also been studies in 2016 on Candida albicans a fungus that can cause infections in the mouth and other parts of the body and how citronella oil helps in keeping it at bay.

3# Healing wounds

There have been studies on the effect of citronella oil on wounds and how it aids in speeding up the healing process. There have also been numerous studies conducted if citronella oil can be used by diabetics to treat wounds.

4# Weight loss

Studies have shown that inhalation of the citronella oil decreases feeding, reduces cholesterol, and also slows down weight gain. 

5# Psychological effected

Like other essential oils when inhaled citronella oil had a more complex effect as compared to lavender or rosemary essential oils. It offers an effect between relaxing and stimulating. The effects may differ from person to person. 

These are on the basis of the numerous studies conducted. The effects may differ from one person to the other and one needs to be cautious while administering this oil. 

How to use citronella oil?

There are several ways in which you can use citronella oil. Here are a few suggestions to use citronella oil.

benefits of citronella plant oil
benefits of citronella plant oil

# Spray

Citronella oil as a spray can be good to freshen up a room or to apply over the skin as an insect repellent. 

Step 1: add citronella oil to water in a small spray bottle. You can add about 10 to 15 drops to an ounce of water. 

Step 2: Shake the bottle well – as essential oils do not dissolve in water it is important to shake the bottle well before every use. 

Step 3: spray as desired

# Diffuser 

When it comes to using essential oils most people prefer using them in a diffuser so it dispenses the aroma through the room. Like spray application, this is used to dispel insects. It also adds a pleasant fragrance to a room. 

Diffusers come with a set of instructions and these differ from type to type. You will need to refer to the diffuser you are planning to use to get to know how to get the most out of your essential oil. 

# Massage oils and creams

Citronella oil can easily be added to oils and creams from topical application. Using the oil directly on the skin can be great to fight fungus as well as repel mosquitoes it can also help heal wounds. 

Here is a simple recipe you can use to make a massage oil. 

  • Dilute citronella oil in a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut
  • It is recommended that you use about 15 drops to an ounce of oil. This makes a 2.5 per cent solution. 
  • If you have sensitive skin reduce it to a 1 per cent solution – about 6 drops to an ounce of carrier oil. 

How to make a cream or lotion

  • Dilute citronella oil in an unscented cream or lotion.
  • You can use a 1 to 2.5 per cent dilution if you have normal skin – 6 to 15 drops per ounce. If you have sensitive skin reduce the dilution percentage to 0.5 to 1 per cent – 3 to 6 drops per ounce. 
  • After understanding how to use citronella oil it is also important to look into the safety tips when it comes to the use of this oil.

Safety tips while using citronella oil after growing citronella plant from cutting.

  • Always dilute citronella oil properly before use. Using undiluted oil will cause harm to the skin. 
  • Essential oils are very concentrated and they are toxic when consumed. Keep them out of reach of children and pets. 
  • Don’t take citronella oil internally. 
  • When using the oil for aromatherapy make sure that the room is well-ventilated. Check for allergies and other conditions before use. 
  • Always consult your doctor before using citronella oil especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking prescription medication. 

There are a few side effects to look for here is a list of a few that you can go for. 

  • Skin irritation or allergy – the area can become blotchy, itchy, swollen and red

Tip: patch test before use to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction

There are other signs

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing or wheezing 
  • swollen throat
  • red rash 
  • tightness in the chest 
  • nausea 
  • diarrhoea

Look out for these signs when using the oil. If you notice any abnormality it is important to seek professional help immediately.

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To conclude

The citronella plant is a great addition to gardens and homes around the globe. These plants are not only beautiful but also have a mystic appeal. The fact that it is so easy to propagate and care for them makes them an obvious choice. This article speaks about how to grow citronella plant from cutting, it also goes into detail about how to look after and care for them.

As we see the process is simple and it is not very time-consuming. All you need to go is start at the right time and let the plant grow naturally. Done well the plant will not only look but also yield well and not to mention they are extremely beneficial for humans. Happy gardening!

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