Do Citronella Plants Repel Mosquitoes? The Truth About Using Citronella

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Citronella and mosquitoes are often mentioned together in the same sentence. That’s because citronella oil is one of the most popular repellents that have ever existed. But does it really work? And how about live plants, do citronella plants repel mosquitoes? Does planting it solve all your worries on invading mosquitoes? Let’s find out.

What’s citronella?

Do Citronella Plants Repel Mosquitoes? The Truth About Using Citronella

The Pelargonium ‘citrosum’ (left) doesn’t repel mosquitoes. Lemongrass (right), on the other hand, tells a completely different story.

Citronella is a name that’s always being tossed around by homeowners and pest control sites. But there seems to be a mixup when it comes to what the actual plant looks like.

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The Pelargonium ‘citrosum’  is a common yard plant that’s marketed to “repel mosquitoes”. Many people think it works because it has leaves that smell like citronella. However, it’s important to note that this plant doesn’t actually drive mosquitoes away. According to a study from the Department of Environmental Biology of the University of Guelph, it’s ineffective against Yellow Fever mosquitoes. Additionally, Garden Myths points out that it regularly provides the insects with comfy landing and resting spots via its many leaves.

Citronella is another name for the oil that comes from the Cymbopogon plants. They’re are a collection of lemongrass species that are found in Asia and many other places around the world. Their signature characteristic is their aromatic lemony scent. This makes them a common ingredient in perfumes and cooking.

Unlike the Pelargonium “citrosum’, lemongrass does have repelling properties that can affect mosquitoes. In fact, the “citronella” that’s posted in many commercial repellents come from different species of lemongrass.

It’s the oil that does most of the work

Finding out how Cymbopogon plants can repel mosquitoes means we have to first understand how they work. And wouldn’t you know it? It turns out that these greens don’t function like how everyone thinks they do.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the living plants, themselves, that do all the repelling. It’s the oil found inside these plants that does most of the work. Citronella oil has citronellal, citronellol, geraniol, α pinene, limonene and citral. These are naturally occurring chemicals that can confuse mosquitoes. They cause the insect’s senses to malfunction, keeping you from being bitten.

But how about raising Cymbopogon plants? Do they keep the bugs away?

Unfortunately, the reality is that while the plants do release some of the repelling chemicals, they can only give off a tiny amount of them. So you’d have to be near at least one of the plants to see its effect on mosquitoes. This is also why Cymbopogons work best if they’ve been processed with the oil has been extracted out of them. They’re most effective when all those important chemicals are filtered out and put into one place.

But does citronella really work?


According to the Mosi-Guard Natural, citronella only has the “capacity” to repel mosquitoes. So even though it’s immensely popular, citronella doesn’t have enough on its plate to tell us how effective it is. A study from BioMed Central Ltd. has even labeled it as a repellent that has widely spread not because of how effective it is, but because of how famous it has become.

Additionally, there aren’t enough studies that support citronella oil’s famous mosquito-repelling abilities. And among the few researches that were published, most of them don’t even seem to have a unanimous view on the oil. For example, a study from Naresuan University in Thailand explains that citronella products are less effective than DEET. Meanwhile, some US studies contradict this, validating its effectiveness in deterring mosquitoes.

There are even studies that argue about citronella’s weak repelling power. They point out that it dries up quickly, working for only about 1 to 2 hours after being applied on the skin. Drying up faster means more repeated application and more time being vulnerable.

So there’s no guarantee that citronella might work for you. The candles laced with this might or might not deter mosquitoes. It all depends on several factors that could make the treatment successful or not.

But for now, if you have questions like “ Do citronella plants repel mosquitoes? ”  only our experiences with citronella sprays and lotions will able to tell us if this product is truly worth our time and money.

Does citronella plants really repel mosquitoes?

Yes and no. It is not the actual plant itself that repels the mosquitoes but rather the oil inside it. The oil has certain properties that repel mosquitoes.

Do plants actually repel mosquitoes?

No, planting plants in your backyard won’t repel mosquitoes. You have to extract the oil in the leaves and rub it on your skin to benefit from it’s repelling properties.

Does citronella come back every year?

It depends on what part of the U.S. it is grown. In some parts it is perennial and in other parts annual.

What smell do mosquitoes hate the most?

Mosquitoes hate a lot of smells ranging from lemon eucalyptus to citrus fruits. Peppermint, lavender and citronella works too.

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