Does lemongrass repel mosquitoes and other related insects like flies?
According to several pieces of research, it does! Lemongrass solution is found to be superior to some commercial mosquito repellants in that, it sustains higher repellency for a longer duration.
Want to find out more?
Lemongrass, also known as citronella grass or scientifically referred to as Cymbopogon citratus, is not only an effective mosquito repellent but useful in other ways too.
Besides, citronella grass is often confused with citronella scented geranium.
For this reason, most garden centers or plant nurseries sell citronella scented geranium as a mosquito repelling plant but it is not as effective as citronella grass (Lemongrass).
To get the difference between the two plants, check their leaves. The Scented geranium is a tender perennial with deeply cut, serrated, and crinkled soft green leaves. The leaves exude a strong citrus scent when bruised.
Lemongrass on the other side is a perennial plant with thin, long leaves that are indigenous to many Asian countries and also exude a beautiful lemony scent when bruised.
Before we get to the science of how lemongrass repels mosquitoes, let’s look at the facts sheet.
What is Lemongrass? The Fact Sheet
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), is an herbaceous, ornamental grass that originated in India and adapts to US zones 10 through 11 quite well.
Foliage emerges from a clump typical of the grasses. Leaves remain green most of the year turning dark red to scarlet in fall and winter. Unlike many of the grasses, the flower display is insignificant.
This and many other kinds of grass look nice grouped in a mass planting. Space them several feet apart to form a solid mass within one year after planting.
The grass can spread fairly rapidly and can become somewhat invasive in subtropical climates.
Plants are often located in a scented garden or perennial border. The nice texture and scented leaves make it a good plant for courtyards, patios, and other places where people can enjoy it.
Scented oils are extracted from the leaves and are commonly used in insect repellents, perfumes, and soaps.
Lemongrass Effectiveness in Repelling Mosquitoes [According to Research]
In one of the many research studies titled - Formulation of an effective mosquito-repellent topical product from Lemongrass oil and published in a Phytomedicine journal (Vol 9, Issue 3):
Ointment and cream formulations of lemongrass oil in different classes of base and the oil in liquid paraffin solution were evaluated for mosquito repellency in a topical application.
Mosquito repellency was tested by determining the bite-deterrence of product samples applied on an experimental bird's skin (no bird harmed during the experiment) against a 2-day starved culture of Aedes aegypti L. mosquitoes.
The 1%v/v solution and 15%v/w cream and ointment preparations of the oil exhibited ≥50% repellency lasting 2–3 h, which may be attributed to citral, a major lemongrass oil constituent.
This activity was comparable to that of a commercial mosquito repellent. Base properties of the lemongrass oil formulations influenced their effectiveness.
The oil demonstrated efficacy from the different bases in the order of hydrophilic base, emulsion base, and oleaginous base.
In the same study, 15% lemongrass oil solution was superior to Wipe (a commercial pest repellant) in that it sustained higher repellency for a longer duration.
It was concluded that the mosquito bite-deterrent effect of 15%v/w hydrophilic ointment formulation of the lemongrass oil is very promising for topical use, and the preparation can be reapplied should a longer effect be required.
This study proves that lemongrass is effective when it comes to repelling mosquitoes.
Caution: If you want to apply lemongrass oil to your skin, start with a smaller area to determine whether you might be allergic to citral.
Lemongrass Basic Growing and Care Tips
Climate - Lemongrass is a tropical plant and will grow best in warm, sunny, and humid conditions (Zones 10-11).
Temperature – Grow the plants at temperatures ranging from 10 to 33°C (50-91.4°F) but will grow optimally at temperatures between 25 and 30°C (77–86°F).
Soils – Lemongrass grows in a wide range of soils but thrives best in well-draining, fertile loam with a pH between 5.0 and 8.4. You can also grow the grass successfully in containers.
Sunlight – This plant prefers full sun to partial shade.
Propagation - As a clumping grass, you can easily propagate lemongrass by dividing stalks from the rhizome of a well-established plant.
Planting – If you want to grow lemongrass commercially, plant at a higher density than in the home garden with a row spacing of 20 cm (8 in) and 40 cm (16 in). In the home garden, plant with a spacing between 90 and 150 cm (36-60 in) apart.
Water requirement – Lemongrass requires regular rainfall and if there’s a shortage, you need to water the plants and mist them regularly.
Fertilizer application – These plants have a heavy requirement for nitrogen during the growing season and you should fertilize them with a balanced soluble fertilizer once a month. For container-grown plants, feed them more frequently.
Common pests and diseases – Apart from Rust (Puccinia nakanishikii), no other major disease problems. If you notice brown elongated streaks on the leaves, it’s a symptom of rust. To control the problem, promote vigorous growth of plants by using mulches and fertilizer to stimulate growth; prune out diseased parts of plants to allow healthy regrowth; avoid overhead irrigation where possible.
Harvesting – Now, you’ve done the hard part the grass is mature. Harvest at any time once the stalks have reached 1.3 cm (0.5 in) in diameter. Harvest stalks by cutting them at ground level with a sharp knife, or by bending the stalk and twisting.
Pro Tip: Make sure to disinfect all the tools with one-part bleach and one-part water before using them during harvesting.
So, does lemongrass repel mosquitoes among other insects?
Is it as effective as most people believe?
As it turns out, yes. However, there is a but…for the mosquito-repelling oils to be useful, they need to be extracted by simply crushing the leaves. You can then apply the oil where you want the mosquitoes to be deterred.
Suffice to say, the lemongrass plant does not release the oils when growing in a spot. But the strong citrus scent does scare most insects such as whiteflies and other bugs away.
To learn more, here's a list of 45 proven insect repelling plants.
There you have it:
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Phytomedicine Journal. Research Gate. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mosudi_Sosan/publication/11326291_Formulation_of_an_effective_mosquito-repellent_topical_product_from_Lemongrass_oil/links/5cd9978e458515712ea78487/Formulation-of-an-effective-mosquito-repellent-topical-product-from-Lemongrass-oil.pdf. Paid License Required to ELSEVIER LICENSE.
Cymbopogon citratus. University of Florida IFAS Extension. Available at: http://hort.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/shrub_fact_sheets/cymcita.pdf.
Lemon Grass. Pennsylvania State University - Plant Village. Available at:https://plantvillage.psu.edu/topics/lemon-grass/infos