Everything about Citronella

Citronella is a popular plant, which is known for its mosquito-repellent properties. Moreover, the plant is well-loved for its citrusy scent too. It is an excellent ornamental plant to add to your patio or garden to add beauty as well as a refreshing scent.

This plant is native to Asia, South and Central America, and Australian regions. It has deep roots in the history of Asia, where people have been using it for over 2,000 years. It is used as a perfume for religious ceremonies.

Commonly, it is known by many names. Some of them include Silky Heads, Citronella grass, Barbed wire grass, Citrosa geranium, and mosquito plant geranium.  Out of all of these, mosquito one is the most popular. But are its mosquito repellent properties hoax? Or are they really as effective as claimed? Let’s find out this and some other interesting information about it.

Background of Citronella

The name citronella was first used in 1858 for a fragrant grass. This word is a derivative of the French term “citronella,” which means lemon liquor. It was so-called for its lemony fragrance.

Scientifically known as CymbopogonNardus, this plant is a prominent member of the Poaceae Grass Family from the plant kingdom. It is commonly found growing in the tropical regions of Asia.

These plants grow in clumps that can reach anywhere in height between five and six feet. At a glance, the stem may appear similar to the cane, but upon inspection, you will realize that the leaves have a greyish tint of green and are quite coarse to touch. This grass does not spread via runners. Instead, it starts augmenting in size as it grows older.

Types of Citronella

The general term,citronella, might confuse people, but it is used for two types of plants. The first is the citronella grass, and the other one is citronella geranium. When talking about one, every listener will think of the type he has encountered. If you are also confused, let us clear this confusion.

1. Citronella Grass

This plant species originated in Sri Lanka and was called Ceylon. Now it is scientifically named CymbopogonNardus and belongs to the Cymbopogon family. It is essentially a close relative of the lemongrass. However, unlike lemongrass, which is used as an herbal tea, citronella grass is inedible. It is a bushy looking green grass that grows on purple-stems.

This plant is a good source of citronella oil, which is an effective mosquito repellent. That’s why it is called the true citronella plant. It is a lovely looking plant that adds looks and fragrance anywhere it grows.

2. Citronella Geranium

Citronella geranium is also called Citrosa or mosquito plants, and scientifically, it is named Pelargonium Citrosum. The name represents the plant’s strong citronella-like scent. It is actually a cross of Chinese citronella grass and African geranium.

Its deeply serrated, broad, and fuzzy leaves are its distinctive feature. They are not available as seeds, so if you want to grow one of these, you will need a cutting to grow from.

Top Uses of Citronella Oil

Citronella oil is a natural insect repellent. It is derived via the steam distillation of citronella grass leaves. It is yellowish-brown in color and emits a strong fragrance.

This essential oil of citronella grass is used for a variety of purposes. Although it is quite popular due to its insect repellent properties, it is also employed for a number of other uses. Some of them are discussed below.

  • Insect Repellent

According to research, citronella essential oil is a great insect repellent, especially for mosquitoes. You can apply it straight to your skin, and the tangy smell will mask all the other fragrances which are attractive for mosquitoes or any other insects. You can also use it on pets in diluted form. It keeps fleas and ticks away.

  • Scented Candles

For its fresh citrusy smell, citronella oil is a great fragrance to use in scented candles. In fact, the fragrance is so powerful that only a few drops are fragrant enough to scent a big batch of candle wax. You can also try making a scented candle with citronella oil at home.

  • Wound Healing

This oil is rich in methyl isoeugenol, which is a powerful compound that boasts antibacterial and antiseptic properties. When diluted sufficiently, it cannot only disinfect but also speed up healing.

  • Relief from Internal Infections

Food grade citronella oil, when taken orally, can rid your body of a number of internal infections, including kidneys, urinary tract, bladder, colon, and GIT.

It also helps expel different parasites and worms from the intestine with its high geraniol content. This particular compound is highly effective in eliminating parasites without causing any harm to the host.

  • Relieves Anxiety

The citronella scent is fresh and naturally calming. With its uplifting and relaxing properties, citronella fragrance has a direct impact on our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

Use it during mediation, and you will notice an instant relief and de-stressing effect. People also use it in diluted form to reduce separation anxiety in their pets.

  • Anti-inflammatory Effect

Inflammation is a sign of recovery and healing. But if you experience a constant low level of inflammation, it cannot only lead towards more complications but also worsen the existing ones.

Citronellal, a chief chemical compound in citronella oil, has a great anti-inflammatory effect. The oil is also rich in potent antioxidant compounds that assist in eliminating free radicals, which are largely responsible for persistent inflammation.

  • Fights Skin Problems

This oil is especially great for skin in a number of ways. According to a study, iy reduces dermatitis and eczema while effectively treating different fungal infections like athlete’s foot.

What’s more, it can also slow down skin aging. Using it as a part of a skincare routine has revealed amazing results, especially for skin that is prone to pimples and acne.

  • Nourishes Dry Scalp

When used on the scalp, citronella oil effectively regulates and reduces the production of sebum oil. With its limonene and methyl isoeugenol composition, it prevents the scalp from producing excess sebum, preventing your hair from becoming greasy.

Other benefits include soothing an itchy scalp, prevent dandruff, and prevent head lice with its repellent properties.

For more information on this, check out our article on 15 Medical Benefits of Lemongrass for Beauty and Health.

Common Uses of Citronella Grass

While obtaining its derivative citronella oil is the most common use of citronella grass, it also serves for a number of other uses. We have listed some common uses of citronella grass below.

  • Citronella Ornament

Citronella grass is a beautiful and fragrant plant. It has gained the status of an exotic grass. It may look very much like a cane with its vertical form and elegantly arching leaves, but is slenderer and red. It also produces an extraordinary flower.

It is a great ornament to plant along the length of a walkway or around the porch. In addition to that, it also won’t look out of place when planted by a rounded shrub. In short, you can put this anywhere, and it’ll definitely stand out.

  • Fragrant Ingredient

Citronella grass is one of the most aromatic plants. It is widely used as a fragrant ingredient in a number of industries.

Manufacturers of perfumes, deodorants, lotions, soaps, candles, and other skin products regularly use it for scenting their products with its clean, fresh, and soothing aroma.

  • Cleaning Remedies

For its invigorating smell and disinfectant properties, citronella is an excellent addition to any natural house cleaning remedies. It is great for disinfecting kitchen surfaces, appliances, bathrooms, and floors, amongst other things.

If you are tired of the reeking chemical aroma of traditional cleaning products, try cleaning with citronella grass. You will surely fall in love with its fresh and natural fragrance. Also, it will double as an air freshener.

Why is Citronella Famous?

It is known for its fresh lemony smell and insect repellent properties. For over 2,000 years, it has been traditionally used in Asia for its healing, disinfecting, and scenting capabilities. Everywhere in the world, citronella is celebrated for all its amazing benefits.

Although it is a common belief that having a citronella plant inside your home will rod it from mosquitoes, we assure you that it is not true. While the leaves of citronella grass may contain the insect repellent oil in them, you need to crush them to get it.

Similarly, Citronella geranium, also known as the mosquito plant, may smell similar, but in truth, it does not have any traces of citronella oil in it. So, there is no truth to the claim.

Only citronella oil is truly the best mosquito repellent that you need to get rid of insects. Simply planting any of the citronella plants in your house will surely scent it with an amazing smell, but it won’t ward off mosquitoes or any other insects for that matter.


Citronella, more commonly known as mosquito plant, has two types, germanium, and grass. Both of them have wonderful properties and are equally famous for their roles. While citronella oil is an excellent mosquito repellent, the germanium is amazingly fragrant.

Although this plant needs extra effort to grow, it still stands out from the rest. If you haven’t used citronella before, try it now. Surely, you will fall in love with it just like everyone else.