Lemon grass plants, Citronella Grass, fever grass or Cymbopogon citratus grows largely in clumps. But, what is lemon grass? Is lemongrass a perennial? Yes, it is a perennial-type grass. What does lemongrass look like? The grass has long, thin, flat greenish-grey tinged reeds, occasionally throwing off curious, butterfly-like flowers.
In this article, we will share details on how to grow and care for lemon grass plants.
With an exquisite fresh, lemony fragrance that intensifies when you crush or stroke the leaves. For optimum enjoyment try planting the grass strategically in the garden, along walkways, patios, and porches.
It also makes an excellent companion to other plants as its vertical form and graceful leaves provide a pleasant contrast to rounded flowers and shrubs.
Lemon Grass Quick Care Tips
- Botanical Name: Cymbopogon citratus
- Common Name(s): Lemon Grass, Barbed Wire Grass, Silky Head Grass, Cochin Grass, Malabar Grass
- Synonyms: Andropogon citratus, Andropogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon flexuosus
- Family & Origin: Poaceae family, native to Southeast Asia
- Growability: Easy to grow
- Grow Zone: USDA zones 10-12
- Size: Grows up to 3-6′ feet tall and 2-4′ feet wide
- Flowering: Produces small, white or pinkish flowers in clusters
- Light: Full sun to partial shade
- Humidity: Tolerates low humidity
- Temperature: Thrives in warm temperatures between 70-85°F
- Soil: Well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0-7.5
- Water: Water regularly, keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged
- Fertilizer: Fertilize every 2-3 months with a balanced fertilizer
- Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites, mealybugs, and fungal diseases
- Propagation: Propagate through division or stem cuttings
- Plant Uses: Used in cooking, tea, and aromatherapy. Also used as a natural insect repellent and in traditional medicine.
Lemon Grass Uses
The citronella grass has some very useful applications, especially when extracted into an essential oil. The manufactured oil finds its way into many different purposes, from perfume to essential oils used in aromatherapy.
The most popular lemongrass plant uses come from its use in soaps, sprays, lemon balm, dog collars, candles and everything in between as an effective insect repellent against annoying pests like mosquitoes.
The important chemical agents within the citronella, namely Citronellol and Geraniol, are used in products as excellent antiseptics.
- Besides cleaning and keeping away pests, the lemongrass adds flavoring for culinary purposes or as a lemony tea.
- In fact, you’ll find the grass used in many common foods and beverages!
- In its natural, growing form, gardeners plant the grass to discourage garden pests such as whitefly.
- Studies show the oil as a control against stable flies, head lice, and body lice.
- Garden enthusiasts integrate the lemony grass plants alongside their vegetables to enjoy a reduced pest population.
- Set up a physical barrier (planting in pots) to keep the fast-growing grass from overgrowing other plants.
Planting Lemongrass As A Mosquito Repellant Plant
Citronella spoils the hiding places of mosquitoes in your garden.
Appropriately nicknamed “Mosquito Plant”, citronella produces little to no effect on mosquito control by themselves, but hiding within their essence lies the key to ridding your home of these pesky flying insects.
This plant remains as an ornamental grass until you extract the leaves for the oil.
The Cymbopogon nardus do not naturally release the oil essence into the air; they need a human touch for this to happen.
Research shows the oil extracted from this plant as very, very effective in warding off most mosquito types, including the deadly Aedes aegypti, carrier of the dreaded dengue fever.
Crushing the leaves in your hand will produce the oil from the Citronella.
This oil can be readily applied to you or your children’s skin when needed to keep off insects as they play outside.
Should you want to put the citronella oil on your clothes or in living spaces later, combine the Citronella essential oil and an alcohol base.
However, the most effective application method is fresh ground up leaves.
In case of suspected allergies, it is recommended you try out a small amount on your inner forearm for a few days. If there’s no redness or itching, it’s probably safe for regular use.
Interested growers should look for the true varieties of lemongrass. Cymbopogon winterianus, Cymbopogon Flexuosus and Cymbopogon nardus should be the ones on your list.
Other varieties may be labeled as “Citronella Scented”, but they lack the repelling qualities of the true Citronella plant.
How To Care For and Grow Lemongrass Plants
The recommended area for Cymbopogon nardus is hardiness zones 10 – 12 (USDA Zone). Plant your lemon grass in any “no-frost” climate. Like most grass species, it thrives on good watering and partial to full sunlight.
If you’re living in a colder region, grow lemon grass in pots, and bring them inside during the winter season.
Lemon Grass Plant Soil Requirements
As for the soil requirements, choose a well-drained soil (most any bagged soil mix) that will stay moist.
A loamy soil ensures your citronella grass of getting what it needs. Soil that dry’s out will not work for growing a healthy Citronella plant!
Lighting – Best In Full Sun
Citronella does well with a full day of sun, but a sunny spot with partial shade also does wonders for them.
Give them 6-8 hours of sun for optimal exposure. Place them beside a patio or under the protection of a tall tree.
If the lemon grass plant starts looking dry and withered, move them to a more shaded location, to give them the appropriate sunlight hours during the day.
Watering & Fertilizing Of Lemon Grass
Do not allow citronella grass to dry out. Watering requirements depend on where the plant’s location – full sunlight and no shade means the grass will dry out quickly.
Fertilize lemongrass every couple weeks during the growing season every couple of weeks with a liquid 20-20-20 plant fertilizer or liquid fish fertilizer for plants.
Lemon Grass Propagation
Propagate citronella by planting seed or by division. Apart from seeds, you can propagate many types of lemongrass plants using the stalks.
- You just need to cut the foliage only leaving one inch above the stem.
- Place it in a jar of water and let them stay there in a few weeks.
- Regularly change the water and see the roots grow.
- Once they reached a sizable length, transfer them to the soil.
Most grasses spread by runners, not the case with Citronella. The clump size grows as they mature, but it’s hardly considered invasive.
Start propagation in early spring by splitting large clumps into smaller clusters and replant them in other spots or containers.
How Fast Does Lemongrass grow?
Allow plants to become established before wintertime to ensure survival and a healthy growth in the next spring season.
Keep in mind, as a grass, it can quickly crowd out other adjacent plants especially if planted at a landscape level. It’s best to plant Citronella lemon grass in an enclosed area or planter.
Citronella is a great grass for use in the garden. Learning how to grow and care for lemon grass plants brings a fresh lemony fragrance to the garden.