Is citronella a geranium?

When it comes to perfumes and fragrances, natural ingredients are highly sought after for their unique scents and potential therapeutic properties. Citronella and Scented Geranium are two popular botanical ingredients often associated with fragrance. However, there is a common misconception that citronella is a scented geranium. In this article, we will explore the differences between citronella and scented geranium and shed light on their different properties.

Citronella: An aromatic grass with a distinctive scent

Citronella is a fragrant grass native to tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia. It belongs to the genus Cymbopogon, which includes several species known for their aromatic properties. The most commonly used species for commercial purposes is Cymbopogon nardus, also known as Cymbopogon winterianus. The essential oil derived from citronella grass is widely known for its strong, lemon-like scent, which is often described as fresh, citrusy, and uplifting.
Citronella essential oil is widely used in perfumery, as well as in the manufacture of candles, soaps, and insect repellents. Its vibrant scent makes it a popular choice for creating fragrances that evoke a sense of freshness and vitality. It is important to note, however, that citronella is not a scented geranium, despite the similar-sounding name.

Scented Geranium: Aromatic plants with multiple scents

Scented geraniums, scientifically known as Pelargonium species, are a group of flowering plants native to South Africa. They are grown for their aromatic leaves, which release a variety of fragrances when gently crushed or rubbed. Scented geraniums are highly valued in the fragrance industry for their diverse scent profiles, which can range from floral and fruity to spicy and herbal.

Unlike citronella, scented geraniums include a variety of species and cultivars, each with its own unique scent. Some popular scented geranium varieties include rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), lemon geranium (Pelargonium crispum), and apple geranium (Pelargonium odoratissimum). The essential oils derived from scented geraniums are used in perfumes, cosmetics, and aromatherapy products to add complexity and depth to fragrances.

Differences in flavor and chemical composition

While both citronella and geranium have aromatic properties, their scents and chemical compositions are different. Citronella oil is composed primarily of citronellal, citronellol and geraniol, which contribute to its characteristic lemony scent. Scented geraniums, on the other hand, contain a variety of aromatic compounds, including citronellol, geraniol, linalool, and menthone, depending on the variety.

The variations in chemical composition result in the unique scent profiles of citronella and geranium. Citronella’s aroma is predominantly citrus and lemon-like, with a hint of grassy. Scented geraniums, on the other hand, offer a wide range of scents, from floral and fruity to herbal and spicy, depending on the type of geranium.

Uses in perfumery and fragrance blending

Both Citronella and Scented Geranium play an important role in the world of perfumery and fragrance blending. Citronella oil is often used as a top note in perfumes, providing a refreshing and uplifting citrus aroma. It can add brightness and a zesty quality to fragrance compositions, making it a popular choice for summer or citrus-themed fragrances. In addition, citronella’s insect repellent properties make it a useful ingredient in outdoor and camping fragrances.

Scented geraniums, on the other hand, offer a wider range of fragrance possibilities. Their different aromatic profiles make them versatile ingredients for creating fragrances with different olfactory characteristics. For example, rose geranium is prized for its rosy and floral scent, while lemon geranium imparts a fresh and citrusy aroma. Perfumers often use Geranium essential oils as middle or base notes to add complexity and depth to fragrances.


While citronella and scented geranium are both valued for their aromatic properties, it is important to recognize that they are different botanical entities. Citronella is a fragrant grass belonging to the genus Cymbopogon, known for its lemony scent. Scented geraniums, on the other hand, include a variety of Pelargonium species that offer different scents ranging from floral to herbal. Understanding the differences between these two ingredients is crucial for perfume enthusiasts and professionals alike, as it allows for informed decision-making when selecting and blending fragrances. Whether you’re looking for a vibrant citrus scent or a delicate floral, both citronella and geranium can contribute to the rich tapestry of perfumery, each in their own unique way.


Is citronella a scented geranium?

No, citronella is not a scented geranium. Citronella is a type of grass, specifically Cymbopogon nardus or Cymbopogon winterianus, known for its strong lemon-like scent. Scented geraniums, on the other hand, belong to the Pelargonium genus and have a wide variety of fragrances, including rose, lemon, and mint.

What is the scent of citronella?

The scent of citronella is often described as a strong, fresh, and lemon-like aroma. It is commonly used in candles, oils, and insect repellents due to its ability to mask human odors that attract mosquitoes and other insects.

Can you grow citronella as a houseplant?

Yes, it is possible to grow citronella as a houseplant. However, it requires specific conditions to thrive. Citronella grass prefers full sun, well-draining soil, and warm temperatures. It can be grown in containers indoors or outdoors, as long as it receives adequate sunlight and regular watering.

Is citronella effective as an insect repellent?

Citronella is commonly used as a natural insect repellent. The oil derived from citronella grass contains compounds that have been shown to have mosquito-repellent properties. However, its effectiveness can vary depending on factors such as concentration, application method, and individual susceptibility to insect bites.

Are there any precautions or potential side effects when using citronella?

While citronella is generally considered safe when used as directed, some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions. It is recommended to perform a patch test before applying citronella-based products directly to the skin. Additionally, it’s important to follow the instructions on the product label and avoid ingesting or applying citronella near the eyes or mucous membranes.