Citronella Plant

What’s the Difference: Citronella Plant vs. Lemongrass


The citronella plant is a very well loved plant, especially in the summer when its mosquito-repelling properties come in handy! Citronella is a common ingredient in insect repellant sprays and candles. It is also included in lotions and oils and used as a form of aromatherapy. You might have even come across a few antiseptic oils or creams that contain citronella oil. This wonder plant even seems to be useful in treating fungal infections, warding pests away from crops, and can even be used as a preservative. Is there nothing this plant can do?


It’s no lie that citronella has many impressive properties which is why many people choose to grow their own citronella at home. If you are considering this plant for yourself then you might be a bit surprised with what you find at your local garden nursery. There are three main types that you might find yourself having to choose from—but which one is right for you? Let’s take a look at a few of the different types of citronella plant.


Citronella Plant


Many garden nurseries sell a variety of plant with the implication that it is true citronella when in fact it is merely a citronella-scented plant. This plant can be seen under a number of names, such as “citronella plant,” “mosquito plant,” and “pelargonium citrosum.” A citronella plant is easy to distinguish against a true citronella variety because it has a very rough texture that looks similar to parsley leaves, only much larger. This type of plant is actually a variety of geranium that produces a citronella-like scent when the leaves are crushed. Although it is often sold as a mosquito repellant, studies have shown that this particular plant isn’t effective at repelling all types of mosquito.


The pelargonium citrosum typically grows between two and four feet high and, in addition to having large green textured leaves it also produces lavender blooms in the summer. This plant requires a warm climate so in order for it to flourish in the United States, it must reside in USDA zones nine through eleven if left outdoors all year long. If you live in USDA regions seven or eight then you might be able to successfully grow this plant in a pot where it can get plenty of outdoor sunlight during the summer and then be brought indoors in the cooler portions of the year. This citronella-like geranium must have at least six hours of sunlight every day whether it is planted outside or indoors near a window. One of the good things about this plant variety is that it is quite resistant to drought and hot temperatures, so you wouldn’t have to worry about maintaining a watering schedule with this plant.




Lemongrass is a true citronella plant. It is a thick bladed grass that typically reaches a height of five to six feet. This tall and tightly-bunched grass has a very elegant yet exotic appearance that can lend a unique touch to an existing garden without taking away from feature plants or flowers. Lemongrass is native to India and portions of Asia and therefore it has to be grown in a warm climate. In order to grow lemongrass outside in the United States you would have to live in USDA regions nine to eleven. As with the pelargonium citrosum, lemongrass can be maintained as a potted plant so that it can be moved indoors once the outdoor temperature starts to cool. Lemongrass should be planted (or its pot should be placed) in a location that receives around six to eight hours of sunlight per day. It does require frequent watering and should be planted in well-drained soil to prevent rotting.


Lemongrass has a strong, fantastic lemony-citrus scent that can definitely spruce up an outdoor garden. It is not uncommon for this grass to be planted simply for its pleasing scent. The oil derived from lemongrass is often used in pesticides and the plant itself is commonly boiled into a tea or used as a cooking aid to flavor dishes.


Citronella Grass


Citronella grass is another true citronella plant and is the source of citronella oil. As far as appearance goes, citronella grass looks very much like lemongrass but it can grow taller than lemongrass with a maximum height over six feet. The bottom of the citronella grass stalks have a red tint, which is another way of telling citronella grass apart from lemongrass. Citronella oil is well known for its disinfectant properties, which is why it can often be found in household cleaning products like sprays and soap. Like lemongrass, citronella can be used to create a flavorful citrus tea or add a bit of zing to cooked dishes. Citronella has such a strong scent that it is added to candles designed to eradicate pet and smoke odors as well as repel insects.


Citronella should be planted in a place where it can receive six to eight hours of sunlight and should be watered regularly. The soil should never be allowed to completely dry out. This plant would do well in soil that has been fortified with a bit of compost or nitrogen.