How to grow Geranium of Scent (citronella) and its care

Introduction: Scented geraniums, particularly the citronella variety, are prized for their pleasant fragrance and potential insect-repelling properties. Known for their robust scent similar to citrus, these plants are not only a delight for the senses but also a charming addition to any garden. Below, we provide a detailed guide on how to cultivate and maintain citronella scented geraniums.

Choosing the Right Plant:

  • Species: While commonly referred to as citronella, true citronella plants are actually a type of grass. The scented geranium known for a similar aroma is Pelargonium ‘Citrosum’. It’s important to select the correct variety to meet your expectations regarding scent and insect repellent capabilities.
  • Nursery Plants: Purchasing young plants from nurseries is often easier than starting from seeds. Look for healthy, bushy plants with vibrant foliage.

Planting Your Scented Geraniums:

  • Timing: Plant scented geraniums in spring after the risk of frost has passed. They thrive in temperatures between 55 to 70°F (13 to 21°C).
  • Soil Requirements: These plants prefer well-draining soil. Amend garden soil with compost or use a potting mix designed for container planting.
  • Sunlight: Scented geraniums require at least six hours of sunlight daily. They can tolerate partial shade but bloom best in full sun.
  • Spacing: If planting outdoors, space plants about 12 to 24 inches apart to allow for air circulation and growth.

Watering and Nutrition:

  • Watering: Water scented geraniums deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot.
  • Feeding: Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Reduce feeding in the winter if you’re growing geraniums indoors.

Pruning and Maintenance:

  • Pruning: Regular pruning helps maintain a bushy, compact shape and encourages more vigorous growth. Pinch back the growing tips to promote branching.
  • Deadheading: Remove spent blooms to encourage new flowers and prevent the plant from becoming leggy.

Pest and Disease Management:

  • Common Pests: Watch for aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. These can be managed with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Disease Prevention: Ensure good air circulation around the plants and avoid overhead watering to prevent fungal diseases like botrytis or rust.

Winter Care:

  • Cold Climates: In zones where frost is a problem, scented geraniums should be brought indoors before the first frost. They can overwinter indoors in a sunny window.
  • Indoor Care: Reduce watering in the winter months and prune lightly to prevent the plants from becoming too leggy under indoor light conditions.

Uses and Benefits:

  • Aromatic Leaves: The leaves of citronella scented geraniums can be used in potpourris, herbal pillows, and even as a gentle insect repellent.
  • Decorative: With their attractive foliage and flowers, scented geraniums make excellent additions to floral borders, herb gardens, or as standalone features in pots on patios and balconies.

Conclusion: Growing scented geraniums, especially the citronella variety, is a rewarding endeavor for gardeners of all levels. With their delightful fragrance and potential as natural pest repellents, these plants offer both aesthetic and practical benefits. By following the guidelines above, you can enjoy the lush, aromatic presence of scented geraniums in your garden or home.

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