Your Easy Guide to Growing Citronella in Pots

Citronella plants, with their lush green leaves and refreshing citrusy scent, are more than just pretty additions to your patio. They’re renowned for their mosquito-repelling properties, making them natural guardians against those pesky summer buzzers. But how do you cultivate this fragrant fortress without needing a sprawling garden? Look no further! This guide will unveil the effortless secrets to growing vibrant citronella plants right in the comfort of your pots.

Choosing Your Citronella Champion

Seeds or Starts?

Citronella can be grown from seeds or by acquiring established starter plants. Seeds are budget-friendly, but the germination process takes longer. Starter plants offer instant gratification and allow you to enjoy the mosquito-repelling benefits sooner. Consider your timeline and preference when making this choice.

Selecting the Perfect Pot

Just like Goldilocks searching for the perfect bed, your citronella needs a pot that’s “just right.” Here’s what to consider:

  • Size: Citronella can grow up to 3-4 feet tall. Choose a pot at least 12 inches deep and wide to accommodate its future growth.
  • Drainage: Excellent drainage is crucial to prevent root rot. Opt for a pot with drainage holes at the bottom. Consider adding a layer of pebbles or broken terracotta shards to the bottom of the pot to further improve drainage.
  • Material: Plastic or ceramic pots both work well. Plastic pots are lighter and more affordable, while ceramic pots offer better weight and stability, especially for taller plants.

Preparing the Perfect Potting Mix

Citronella thrives in well-draining, fertile soil. Here’s how to create the ideal potting mix:

  • Base: Start with a high-quality, commercial potting mix as your base.
  • Drainage Boosters: To enhance drainage, consider adding perlite or coarse sand to the potting mix. A ratio of 2 parts potting mix to 1 part perlite is a good starting point.
  • Organic Goodness: For an extra nutritional punch, you can add a handful of compost or aged manure to the mix.

Planting Your Citronella Champion

Now that you have your pot and potting mix ready, it’s time to welcome your citronella champion:

  1. Filling the Pot: Fill your chosen pot with the prepared potting mix, leaving about an inch of space from the rim.
  2. Positioning the Plant: If using a starter plant, gently remove it from its original container. Loosen any tightly bound roots and place the plant in the center of the new pot.
  3. Filling and Watering: Fill the remaining space around the plant with the potting mix, ensuring the base of the stem sits at the same level as it did in the original pot. Water the plant thoroughly until water runs out of the drainage holes.

Finding the Sunny Spot

Citronella is a sun-worshipper. Choose a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. A south-facing balcony or patio is ideal.

Keeping Your Citronella Thriving

Watering Wisely

Citronella prefers moist, but not soggy, soil. The key is to water deeply when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot.

Feeding Frenzy (Not Really)

Citronella isn’t a heavy feeder. During the growing season (spring and summer), you can give it a monthly dose of a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted according to the package instructions.

Pruning for Perfection

Regular pruning encourages bushier growth and promotes the production of fragrant citronella leaves. Pinch off spent flower heads and trim leggy stems throughout the growing season.

Winter Woes?

Citronella is not frost-tolerant. If you live in colder climates, you can bring your citronella plant indoors before the first frost. Place it in a sunny location inside your home and water it sparingly. Alternatively, you can treat it as an annual and start fresh with new plants next spring.

Enjoying the Rewards of Your Fragrant Fortress

With proper care, your citronella plants will reward you with lush foliage and a refreshing citrusy scent that naturally deters mosquitoes. Here are some ways to maximize the mosquito-repelling benefits:

  • Brush Up on the Fragrance: Citronella oil is concentrated in the leaves. To release the fragrant oils, simply brush against the leaves or crush them gently between your fingers.
  • Strategic Placement: Place your citronella pots near doorways, patios, or seating areas where you spend time outdoors. Grouping multiple citronella plants together can create a more concentrated zone of mosquito repellency.
  • Citronella on the Go: Harvest some citronella leaves and place them in small fabric pouches or decorative bowls. Strategically position these pouches around your patio furniture or outdoor entertaining areas.

Beyond Mosquitoes: The Versatility of Citronella

Citronella’s uses extend beyond keeping those pesky mosquitoes at bay. Here are some additional ways to enjoy your fragrant fortress:

  • Aromatic Accents: Citronella leaves can be used to create potpourris or sachets for a natural mosquito repellent indoors.
  • Culinary Delights: Believe it or not, citronella leaves are edible and can be used in some Southeast Asian cuisines. Research recipes and experiment with adding a subtle citrusy note to your dishes. (Important Note: Ensure you are using citronella specifically grown for culinary purposes. Do not consume citronella grown for ornamental purposes as it may contain pesticides.)
  • Citronella Candles and Essential Oils: While DIY options are great, you can also find commercially available citronella candles and essential oils to further enhance your mosquito-repelling strategy.

Troubleshooting Citronella Woes

Yellowing Leaves: Yellowing leaves can be caused by underwatering, overwatering, or lack of nutrients. Adjust your watering schedule and consider fertilizing if necessary.

Leggy Growth: This is often a sign of insufficient sunlight. Move your citronella plant to a sunnier location.

Pests and Diseases: Citronella is relatively pest and disease-resistant. However, keep an eye out for common garden pests like aphids or mealybugs. Treat them with insecticidal soap or neem oil spray.


With a little care and attention, your citronella plants can become vibrant additions to your outdoor space, offering a fragrant defense against mosquitoes and a touch of natural beauty. So, grab your pots, potting mix, and citronella plant, and get ready to create your very own fragrant fortress! Remember, a healthy and thriving citronella plant is the key to maximizing its mosquito-repelling potential.

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