Pretty, pink, and extremely fragrant, citronella geraniums are annual flowers that don’t usually survive winter on their own. Taking some simple cuttings now will ensure that you have a well-established geranium to plant out when spring finally rolls around again.
My very favorite flower of the year was far and away the citronella scented geranium growing out by the back door. It was robust, refreshingly scented and downright amazing, especially because I hadn’t expected it to be! Honestly, I didn’t know anything about it when I bought it — not even that it was a geranium! The tag on the pot simply said “citronella” and it smelled like it said, so I went with it.
All summer long I could smell it as I worked in the flower beds at the back of the house. It didn’t even need to be touched to release it’s scent – the slightest breeze could turn the air fragrant with it’s lemony smell. We spent many twilit evenings just sitting and breathing it in.
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We’re long past those summer days now, and heading into winter. The geraniums are still green, although I know they won’t be for long. Unfortunately scented geraniums are cold sensitive, and hardy only in the warmest climates (zones 10-11). Unless you dig it out of the garden and keep it inside, your citronella geranium will probably die. Luckily for us though, these plants are incredibly easy to propagate by taking cuttings, and now is the time to do it! Read on to find out the best ways to propagate your citronella geraniums.
Citronella Geranium Basics
First, let me tell you a little more about these flowers. The citronella geranium is known by quite a few different names, such as mosquito plant, citrosa geranium and the taxonomic Pelargonium citrosum.
It has small pink blossoms clustered together off a single central branch, and these are edible and slightly sweet-tasting. I’m going to try turning them into jam and infused lemonade next year! The leaves are also edible, as well as big, hairy and deeply lobed. They release the most amazing, refreshing scent of lemony citrus with just the slightest provocation.
Citronella geraniums grow quickly, and will reach two to three feet high and wide within just a couple of months. Potted plants don’t usually get to their mature height, but they will get nice and bushy regardless.
The citronella geranium is just one of a few different scented varieties. There are also rose, apple, cinnamon, apricot and chocolate mint types, to name just a few! I don’t know about you, but I am probably going to try to get them all. I may have a serious scented geranium addiction starting!
How to Start Cuttings of Citronella Geraniums
Most scented geraniums, citronella included, are hybrids, so they won’t grow true from seed. The best, fastest and most reliable method for propagating your flowers is to take cuttings of them.
For either method, you will want to choose a healthy and green softwood branch with two or three nodes (the thick part where the leaves branch off from). Clip it off right under the bottom node. Also, make sure to use clean, sanitized clippers or pruning shears when taking your cuttings. This is so you don’t spread disease to your new baby plant starts!
Dry Cutting Method //
The dry cutting method is the fastest, most reliable way to propagate your citronella geranium.
- Remove all the leaves from the bottom node
- Apply rooting hormone (optional — I didn’t apply any and they grew fine!)
- Plant into a clean pot filled with moist, sterile planting medium and sand
- Keep your cuttings in a bright, warm area near a window but out of direct sunlight
- Make sure to keep the soil damp, but not waterlogged
Your cuttings will be rooted and growing happily in about three weeks! At that point, transplant them into a bigger pot if necessary, and simply keep on watering them and treating them like any houseplant. You can move them outside or plant them out in the spring!
Wet Cutting Method //
The second, or wet method, is simply putting your trimmed softwood branch into a glass of water instead of potting soil.
- Remove all the leaves from the bottom node
- Put into a jar of clean water
- Change the water regularly
- When roots start to develop, plant into a clean pot
The benefit of this is that you can see whether your cutting is developing roots or not. The downside is that it can take longer — a month or more — and there is a higher chance of the stem rotting if you don’t clean the water.
Do They Really Repel Mosquitoes?
When I first got my plant, it was with the hope and intention of keeping mosquitoes away. We live surrounded by sloughs, tidal river flats and forest ponds — mosquitoes are an ever-present thing and my eyes are always peeled for natural repellents.
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Well, I have some bad news for you (and me) — there is no evidence whatsoever that citronella geraniums actually repel mosquitoes. It turns out that’s just a marketing gimmick by the plant industry people. Actual citronella closely resembles lemongrass and has long, thin blades. Not only that, but it’s the oil from the plant that repels the mosquitoes, not the scent alone.
So, no. This plant won’t keep the mosquitoes away. But they will delight you with their fresh and intoxicating smell, their drought tolerance and their quick-growing and bushy habit, so you’d best go ahead and plant some anyway.
Holiday Bonus: Give a Gift of Geraniums
I can not imagine that there is a person on this earth who would not love to get a citronella geranium (or any other type of scented geranium) as a holiday gift.
If you start some cuttings now, they will be rooted and ready to give away just in time for Christmas. Wrap a nice bow around the pot, and you’ve got the perfect gift for the gardener or flower lover in your life!
Do you grow scented or citronella geraniums? What method of propagation works best for you? Drop a link or let me know in the comments below!
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