It is "Mozzie" Time - Making a Citronella Candle and a Simple Syrup.
Mosquitoes are annoying pests that can spread serious diseases. Instead of reaching for chemical sprays, some gardeners grow citronella plants to repel mosquitoes naturally.
There are 2 different plants sold under the Citronella name. The botanical name of citronella geranium is Pelargonium citrosum while the scientific name for citronella grass is Cymbopogon nardus or Cymbopogon winterianus, so these are 2 totally different species.
Citronella Grass is a perennial that grows in warm climates although it can also grow as an annual in cooler climates.
Citronella grass is sometimes referred to as lemon grass,( it looks really similar) but although it is from the same family of Cymbopogon, citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus or Cymbopogon winterianum) is very different from lemongrass, which has the botanical name Cymbopogon citratus. Citronella grass does have mild mosquito repelling properties. It’s the oil from the leaves that has this effect.
Let us focus on the Geranium Citronella. An evergreen bushy shrub that has a strong lemon fragrance. This grows well in full sun or part shade and prefers well drained soil. Geraniums do not like too much water and do not want wet feet. The roots will rot if they are too wet.
Although Citronella Geranium does contain some citronellal, there isn’t enough of the chemical present in the plant alone to have a very effective repellent effect on mosquitoes. For this reason, consider planting lavender, basil, marigolds, catnip, lemongrass, or lemon balm, all of which are proven to be more effective at deterring pests.
You can however, add Citronella Geranium into this mix for effective mosquito deterring. These plants repel mosquitos rather than killing them.
The oil can be effective when it's extracted and concentrated in various products like candles. It protects you for a little while and should be applied regularly. Best added to a lotion or cream once you know it is safe for use on your skin. Or crush the plant leaves and rub the citrus-smelling oil onto their skin, which will act as a mild repellent.
Note: Citronella oil may be irritating to some people and can cause allergic reactions but it is mostly safe. Always good to just patch test to make sure.
Citronella Geranium is a pretty plant to add to your herb garden and grows easily, so well worthwhile having this available.
How to Grow Citronella Geranium.
Commonly called mosquito plant, citronella geranium, is a part of the geranium family. A cross between a rose-scented geranium and Citronella grass.
Citronella’s are great for hanging baskets, containers, and window boxes or beside decks, patios, porches, and doors, where you can touch them as you go by and enjoy their pleasant fragrance.
Citronella's adapt to a variety of well-drained soils but thrive in soil enriched with organic matter. For potted citronella's, use an all-purpose container mix.
Mosquito plants can tolerate some drought, but don't let them dry out completely
Prune citronella's at any time. Deadhead and pinch off small stems to encourage more blooms.
Save the branches for vases or use the leaves like edible geranium leaves. Be sure you can correctly identify the plant you're using, and never use one treated with pesticides or insecticides.
Citronella are easy to propagate. Save pruned, non-woody stems or make 10 cm cuttings of non-woody stems. Remove all but the top two or three leaves and stick the stems or cuttings in fresh potting soil. After roots form, in three or four weeks, they'll be ready to transplant.
You can also bend a stem that's still attached to a plant and put it on top of the soil in a nearby pot. Bury the stem on its side, covering at least one leaf node (the spot where the leaf grows from the stem.) Hold the covered stem in place with a rock.
After a few weeks, the stem will root. Cut it off the original plant and transplant it.
Citronella's aren't usually bothered by pests or diseases. Brown leaves and stems can be caused by too much or too little sun or too much water. Make sure plants have good drainage and give root-bound plants bigger pots.
Uses for Citronella Geranium
- Use it dried in Potpourri
- Lovely to use in finger bowls
- Anti fungal agent
- Use to treat parasitic infections.
- Helps with healing wounds.
- A mood enhancer.
- Helps fighting fatigue.
- Use in perfumes
- Use to flavour food.
- An excellent companion plant – repels pests.
Make a Simple Syrup:
Citronella Geranium is edible. Both the flowers and leaves can be eaten. Add the flowers to a salad these look beautiful. Top a cream scone with a sprig of geranium, a small leaf or a flower.
A simple syrup is ideal to use for herbal teas, dried or fresh, lemonade and for sweetening cocktails.
You will Need:
- A small bunch of geranium leaves (not the flowers)
- 4 mint leaves
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of water.
To Make :
- Place the water into a pot. Add the Sugar and stir. Dissolve the sugar. Then add the leaves and simmer for 5/10 minutes.
- It will thicken and infuse the lemon and mint flavors.
- Use in your homemade lemonade as a sweetener or add to a cocktail .
Making a Citronella Candle
1 Candle in a tin or a container of your choice.
You will need:
- 250 ml beeswax (local beeswax is perfect but it will give your candle a vanilla colour. You can use white beeswax discs if you want to keep your candle white.
- 250 ml paraffin wax.
- ½ cup coconut oil (125 gms)
- 1 tsp citronella essential oil
- 1 tsp eucalyptus essential oil (Can be Lemon eucalyptus)
- 3 medium wicks with metal tabs (sustainers) attached.
- 2/3 glass jars or 2 small recycled tins.
To Make :
- Attach each wick with the metal tab into the contains of your choice.
- Use a medium Eco wick (12/14) to make sure that you get an even burn. The beeswax slows down the burn.
- In a double boiler (large pot with boiling water simmering and a smaller bowl or pot resting inside the large pot). Gently melt the wax and coconut oil over low heat.
- Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the citronella and eucalyptus.
- Secure the top of the wick across the container to make sure it remains centered.
- Pour the scented wax into the container before it hardens. Do not over fill the container. Pour to the ¾ level.
- Allow the candles to harden for 24 hours. Trim down the wick to about 1 cm above the wax top.
- Use your candle at your next outdoor dinner party or when going camping.
- The fresh lemony aroma will smell good and help to keep the area bug free.