Citronella Pelargonium

Pelargonium citronellum

Lemon-Scent Pelargonium, Citrus Pelargonium

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This strongly scented herb releases a lemon scent when touched, and can grow into a 2 m high bush under the right conditions. The lovely pink-purple flowers bloom from spring to summer. This low-maintenance plant must be pruned regularly to maintain its shape and is easily grown from cuttings. The scented leaves can be used as potpourri.
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Flowering time

Spring, Summer

Fruiting time

Summer, Autumn


Leaves can be harvested for potpourri and can be picked as needed. Plants can be cut in late summer and distilled for oil.



Take softwood or herbaceous cuttings and use rooting hormone powder. Place cuttings in river sand and keep damp. Should root in 2-4 weeks. Transplant when a strong root-ball has formed.


Sow seeds shallowly in late summer to early autumn in a light, well-drained potting mix. Water gently but thoroughly with a fine rose spray. Place in light shade. Germination takes 2-3 weeks.

Special features

Repels harmful insects

This plant can be used as a companion plant to repel pests, as the lemon scent has natural insecticidal properties, although it has not been proven whether it is effective or not.

Pot plant

Pelargonium citronellum makes a good pot plant provided it is planted in well-draining soil and receives at least 6 hours of sunlight.

Drought resistant

Attractive flowers

Special features


South Africa, Little Karoo, the northern foothills of the Langeberg near Ladysmith, and Herbertsdale.

Natural climate

Mediterranean to semi-arid



Full Sun, Partial Shade, Partial Sun

Soil moisture


Soil type

Loam, Sand

Soil PH preference

Alkaline, Neutral

Frost hardiness




Leaves can be used as a culinary herb, to flavour pudding, infused to make tea or used fresh in desserts, punch, and vinegar.


Potpourrii and to repel garden pests




Flower colour

Pink, Purple




Pelargonium 'Citronellum' can be attacked by leafhoppers, aphids, spider mites, and whitefly if planted under cover.


profile iconPelargonium citronellum
by Luyanda Mjuleni, Kirstenbosch, National Botanical Garden, March 2007. Acknowledgements: The author thanks Trevor Adams for information on the propagation and cultivation of, Pelargonium citronellum, and Alice Notten for helping with the writing of this article. (Copyright South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa)
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Knowledge and advice

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