Citronella plant vs lemongrass is a popular topic of discussion among gardeners as both plants look quite similar and may be hard to identify for a beginner. However, with a bit of knowledge and some expert tips and tricks, you’ll be able to differentiate between the two in no time.

Citronella Plant vs Lemongrass Comparison

We are here to help you understand the similarities and differences of both so that you can identify them and grow them accordingly.

Comparison Table

Here is a quick comparison table of the difference between citronella and lemon grass.

Citronella Plant Lemongrass Plant
Origin A fragrant grass from South Asia known for its oil called citronella oil. A lemon-scented edible grass famous in Asian cooking. It has immense health benefits and is used in medicines, perfumery too.
Features It has a magenta or red base. It has a green base.
Size It can reach up to six feet high and four feet wide. It can grow as big as two feet tall and spreads four feet wide.
Uses Used in making oil and as insect repellent. It is mainly used for cooking, growing in a garden, and is said to have insect repellent qualities too.

Difference Between Lemon Grass and Citronella

The main difference between the citronella and lemon grass plants is in their use in cuisine, flavor and scent; citronella plants have a red or magenta base, while lemongrass plants have green stem bases. While both are scented, lemongrass has a prominent lemon scent.

– Citronella Grass vs. Lemongrass: Appearance

Citronella plants and lemongrass look very similar, especially for the ones who do not know the difference. However, if you look closely, there are visible differences between the two. The citronella plant has blade-shaped leaves that are wider than the lemongrass leaves.

Citronella Plant Close Shot

These leaves are also tinged with red or magenta color close to the base of the plant. Lemongrass, on the other hand, has a green base and leaves. It is easier to distinguish between mature plants of these species than younger ones.

Lemongrass grows as big as two feet tall and spreads four feet wide, while citronella plants can reach up to six feet height and spread four feet wide.

– Mosquito Repellents

When it comes to the ability to fight mosquitoes, Lemongrass takes the lead. That explains why all the products that you see that are labeled as natural mosquito repellents are made from lemongrass essential oils.

On the other hand, citronella is also used as a mosquito repellent. The plant is grown in gardens and sold massively during summers in nurseries and plant shops. Citronella plants look good on patios as potted plants and become a good addition to landscapes.

Both plants are used for making the essential oil that repels mosquitoes. Lemongrass oil requires repeated applications to be most effective. It must not be applied directly to the skin, which is why the oil is added to lotions and creams and applied every hour.

– Propagation

There is a difference between lemongrass and citronella propagation. Lemongrass is grown easily in pots from the stalks brought from the market. These fresh stalks are soaked in water until they begin to root after two to four weeks. They are then transplanted into the garden.

Existing plants are multiplied by separating the baby plants from the base of the mature plant. Lemongrass likes to grow in full to partial shade and in loamy, rich soil. It is hardy in zones 10 to 11 but can be easily grown as a houseplant in other regions with proper care.

Citronella grass grows by division method too. It can be propagated through a mature plant that is two to three years old. Choose a healthy plant for division in the fall season.


What Is Citronella Plant Best For?

The citronella plant is best used for its scent that is popular in aromatherapy. The essential oil made from it is used in soaps and candles, while it is applied as a mosquito repellent too. It can be mixed with water and sprayed or used as a diffuser. The citronella oil is also used in skincare products such as creams and ointments.

Geraniol and citronellol is a chemical found in citronella plants, and these are antiseptics. This makes the citronella oil antiseptic too and perfect for use as disinfectants. It is also antifungal and used for the treatment of parasitic infections. The essential oil accelerates the healing process of a wound and brings comfort in fatigue.

Although it looks very similar to lemongrass, it is popular for its essential oil and for being an insect repellent.

– Where Is the Citronella Plant From?

The citronella plant or the Cymbopogon nardus plant is a perennial grass from tropical Asian countries. Burma, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia host this as their native plant. The grass grows up to 2 meters high in its natural habitat and can be grown in pots.

– Is Citronella Plant Toxic?

Yes, citronella plants are toxic and may lead to indigestion. Inhaling too much of the scent of the citronella plant can also harm the lungs and cause irritation and coughs. The essential oil should not be applied directly to the skin, and citronella plants must be kept away from children and pets.

What Is Lemongrass Best For?

Lemongrass is best for its culinary use as a herb in Asian cuisine as the grass has a lemony flavor and scent, which blends perfectly well with southeast Asian cuisine specifically.

Lemongrass Characteristics

It is an essential ingredient in Thai food and is widely grown too. The stalks and leaves are highly nutritious and have immense health benefits.

Besides its use in food, the essential oil made from the lemongrass plant is used in aromatherapy, skincare products, deodorants, soaps and candles. It is also used as an insect repellent. You can identify lemongrass by its green base, height and smell.

– Where Is Lemongrass From?

Lemongrass is a perennial plant from the subtropics of Asia, Africa and Australia. India cultivates lemongrass in the largest quality and supplies lemongrass stalks globally. There are about 45 species native to these regions, and the scientific name of lemongrass is Cymbopogon citratus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to your questions about the lemongrass and citronella plants.

– Can I Make Tea From a Citronella Plant Similar to Lemongrass Tea?

No, the citronella plant is not safe for human consumption, and it is not used for making tea or added to any kind of food. In contrast, the lemongrass tree is full of antioxidants and is used for many health benefits.

Ingesting citronella is highly dangerous for children, and reports of poisoning and even death are reported after consumption of citronella oil.

– Is It Safe to Apply Citronella Oil on the Skin?

No, direct application of citronella oil on the skin may be harmful and irritating. That is why it is mixed with creams and lotions when used as a skincare product or as a mosquito repellent. The same goes for lemongrass oil, which is used for similar purposes.

– What Should I Do if I Inhale Citronella Scent?

Inhaling too much of the citronella scent can affect a person’s lungs, so seek immediate medical help if unusual symptoms are experienced. At a mild level, it causes coughing and irritation in the throat.

– Does the Citronella Plant Smell Like Lemon?

Yes, the citronella plant smells like lemon just like lemongrass. This scent makes it a popular ingredient for mosquito repellents and beauty products. The scent is effective as an essential oil for aromatherapy too.

– Can I Make Lemongrass Tea?

Yes, it is possible to make lemongrass tea by taking a few leaves or a piece of stalk from a plant or using store-bought dried lemongrass. For making lemongrass tea you need to boil lemongrass in water at low flame.

Alternatively, you can pour boiling water on top of the lemongrass, and once the color changes you can add honey to it before consuming it.

– Is There a Difference Between Citronella Geranium and Citronella Grass?

Yes, both Citronella geranium and citronella grass are different species. Citronella geranium is Pelargonium citronella and the citronella grass is known as Cymbopogon nardus or Cymbopogon winterianus in botanical terms. Citronella grass is usually mistaken for lemongrass.

– Which Is a Better Insect Repellent, Citronella or Lemongrass?

Lemongrass is better than citronella as a mosquito repellent. It is also edible, unlike citronella. While both oils can be harmful if applied directly to the skin, lemongrass oil is more popular and highly recommended by experts.

As a garden plant, lemongrass stays two feet tall while citronella plants grow much bigger than that, which could be a problem for urban gardeners.

– Which Is Easier To Propagate, Citronella or Lemongrass?

Lemongrass is easier to propagate because it can be regrown from store-bought fresh stems by water propagation.

Which Is Easier To Propagate

Citronella plants can be propagated from a mature plant by the division method.


Citronella plant vs lemongrass review provides a detailed insight into the similarities and differences between these two plants. Citronella is best for its use as a plant in the garden that repels insects.

Its essential oil is aromatic and used in aromatherapy. Lemongrass is a popular ingredient of Asian cuisine and is also known for being a mosquito repellent.

When it comes to being the best mosquito repellent, lemongrass wins. It is also highly safe to grow and eat, unlike citronella plants that are potentially deadly if consumed.

While both look good in a garden and as a potted plant, growing lemongrass is more beneficial because of its uses and qualities as being a natural insect repellent.

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