Bothered by pesky mosquitoes in your home or garden? You might want to consider scented geraniums as a natural repellent to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Indeed, some scented geranium varieties are said to repel mosquitos and other pests that might carry diseases or simply be a nuisance in your garden.
Which types of scented geraniums are best at repelling mosquitoes? And are they effective?
In this article, I’ll uncover the benefits of the citronella geranium along with some of the other plants with mosquito repelling properties.
With spring upon us, the mosquito season is starting as well, so it’s only right to take advantage of garden plants that can put up a fight against mosquitoes as naturally as possible.
The Pelargonium citrosum, also known as the mosquito geranium, is the citronella plant that’s believed to have a repellent effect on mosquitoes.
The citrus fragrance emitted by the plant’s leaves is very similar to that of citronella grass, hence the name given to the citronella geranium.
If you’re thinking about adding this scented geranium variety to your geranium collection, here are some of the care requirements of this plant:
- Can be grown both indoors or in the garden. In USDA zones 9-11 it’s cold hardy and grows outdoors all year long, while in other areas it needs to be taken indoors for the winter or it needs to be overwintered in a cool but frost-free storage area.
- It features lacy leaves that are deeply lobed and puts out pink or magenta flowers.
- Ideally, it should receive direct sun exposure for around 6 hours per day, but it will also grow in partial shade.
- It’s relatively drought tolerant and it does not tolerate being overwatered, so water only when the potting medium starts to dry out
- Should be fertilized sparingly as it isn’t a hungry plant
- Requires well draining soil to prevent rotting of the roots
- It reaches a height of 2-4 feet. Prune and pinch it to keep it growing bushier.
Therefore, citronella geraniums have the same keeping requirements as other scented geraniums and thrive in the same conditions.
If winters are chilly in your area, make sure to move the plant indoors or place it in a cold storage for the winter.
How Effective Are Geraniums Against Mosquitoes?
Scented geraniums have a limited efficiency against mosquitoes, especially compared to other mosquito repelling plants like lemongrass or compared to commercially available mosquito repellents.
That’s because the plant does not drive away mosquitoes through its simple existence. Its leaves are the ones responsible for the plant’s citrusy fragrance but the leaves by themselves won’t do anything against the blood-sucking insects you’re trying to keep at bay.
To benefit from the mosquito repelling properties of the citronella geranium, you need to crush the leaves of the plant and rub it onto your hands.
However, the scent is not long-lasting, so you’ll need repeat applications of it. It’s also unclear how concentrated or strong the oils responsible for the citronella fragrance have to be in order to repel mosquitoes.
Therefore, if your sole purpose in growing this plant in your garden is to repel mosquitoes, you may need to consider other alternatives too.
The plant itself, without being crushed or its oils otherwise extracted will have no effect on mosquitoes.
Other Plants that Repel Mosquitoes
If you want a more robust mosquito repellent effect, there are quite a few other plants that can help you put up a natural defense against the pesky insect. You can even combine these for a stronger and more long-lasting effect.
Here are my top recommendations for naturally keeping mosquitoes at bay:
- Citronella grass: Citronella geranium may have been named after the citronella grass or lemongrass plant, but citronella grass still remains a better option for repelling mosquitoes. It’s not accidental then that most natural mosquito repellent sprays contain citronella grass.
- Lavender: Another great plant to have in your garden, regardless of its mosquito fighting properties, is lavender. The oils in the lavender plant have many benefits for skin, anxiety, depression, etc. and as an added bonus it keeps several types of bugs away. Not to mention that it’s an excellent plant for pollinators.
- Basil: If your herb garden contains basil, you’re one step closer to chasing away mosquitoes from your property. That’s because of the strong smell of the plant that will keep away other insects too.
- Rosemary: Another useful herb to have in your garden that will repel cabbage moths, carrot flies and mosquitoes with its strong, woody scent.
- Marigolds: Because of their strong scent, marigolds will also keep mosquitoes at bay.
What Other Bugs do Geraniums Repel?
While the citronella geranium isn’t the most potent of all the mosquito repelling plants, the rose scented geranium is a potent tick repellent.
Other than ticks, scented geranium will also have a repelling effect on cockroaches, ants, flies and fleas and other biting insects.
Remember that you can harness the most benefits by using crushed scented geranium leaves or scented geranium essential oils, although some insects can be repelled even by the fragrance of intact leaves.
Be careful if you have pets in the garden. Scented geraniums are toxic to cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and other herbivores.
Keep these plants away from curious pets as it can cause toxicity that can range from mild to severe. Same goes for essential oils derived from scented geraniums.
Scented geraniums are not toxic to humans, in fact, many varieties have applications in gastronomy and the cosmetics industry.
While the mosquito geranium has some effect in keeping mosquitoes from biting you, its effects are only marginal and they can be achieved by rubbing your hands or other exposed areas with crushed leaves.
However, combined with the mosquito-repellent properties of other plants, you can create a pretty strong natural defense against mosquitoes in your garden.
If you’re using any crushed scented geranium leaves or essential oils, even if blended with other plants, make sure your pets don’t ingest them.