Cymbopogon nardus, also known as Citronella Grass, is a plant native to southeast Asia and is found in countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Burma, Indonesia, and Java. It is known for its ornamental foliage, fragrant scent and ethnomedical properties, among many other uses. Growing to a height of 2 to 5 feet, it has an upright, grass-like form, with graceful arching leaves that makes it a great ground cover or low growing shrub. It prefers full sun to semi-shade, and requires regular watering to thrive.
In USDA zones 9-11, Citronella Grass does best when planted in a pot, especially in colder regions, as it is deciduous and will die back in the winter. When grown in a pot, it should be watered regularly, and allowed to dry out a little between waterings to avoid root rot. It also needs to be fertilized every few months in the warmer months to ensure it is getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy.
Citronella Grass is not just used for its aesthetic charm; it is also used for medicinal and commercial purposes. Its essential oils are extracted for use in perfumery and as an insect repellent. Inhaling the essential oils of citronella may increase heart rate in some people, and the rhizomes are used medicinally as a treatment for leukorrhea. Finally, inexpensive soaps sold in Asian markets are scented with citronella oil, and it is even reported that it can be used to repel cats.
No matter the purpose, Citronella Grass is an easy-to-maintain and attractive plant that adds beauty and charm to any garden.