Do Mosquito Geraniums Really Stop Mosquitoes?

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The “Mosquito Geranium” (Pelargonium citrosum ‘Van Leenii’), has been marketed as a biological repellent against mosquitoes, with claims of repelling mosquitoes within a 10 ft. area due to a continuous fragrant release of citronella oil.

While it contains some essential oil similarities that also occur in mosquito repellent plants, and the lemony, citronella-like fragrance is released when the leaves are rubbed or crushed, it is not related to true citronella.

Commercially, oil of citronella is extracted from the tropical grass, Cymbopogon nardus, called Citronella grass and has been used as a mosquito repellent since 1882. However pretty the lacey foliage of the “Mosquito Plant” is, and whatever marketing name is on the plant label, citronella oil does not come from this geranium.

The leaf texture is attractive and the plant would serve well in a mixed flower planter, but If you find you are having problems with mosquitoes in your yard, habitat control and repellents are much more reliable solution.

Using an integrated mosquito management approach will make a greater impact in the pest population and your enjoyment of the outdoors if you apply some common sense along with the insect repellent. Products such as DEET, Picaridin, Oil of lemon eucalyptus, and plant oil based IR3535 are EPA registered and provide varying lengths of control. Follow label directions carefully, especially with small children.

The Asian tiger mosquito (ATM), Aedes albopictus is the most common mosquito pest in our area. This species feeds on a blood meal from “dawn to dusk”. Eliminate the breeding grounds for it and you will reduce the populations around your home. then we need to focus on source reduction which simply means “tip and toss”. Standing water, whether it’s in the bird bath, the old tires, tarps or tin cans will be a breeding ground. “Tip and Toss” the water out. If you can’t get the standing water to drain out, then consider use products such as “Mosquito Dunks®” which contain the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis which kill mosquito larvae (but not adult mosquitoes). By the way, because mosquitoes fly, typically 100ft, but can travel further for a blood meal, talk to your neighbors about eliminating the breeding grounds on their property too.

Any mention of brand names does not imply endorsements by North Carolina Cooperative Extension or NC State University, nor does it imply discrimination against similar products or services. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for using these products according to the regulations in their state and to the guidelines on the product label.

To learn more, visit

http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/geranium-culture-for-home-gardeners

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8723261

Minda Daughtry is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.