Citrosa Mosquito Fighter (TM)
Botanical name: Pelargonium x citrosum Van Leeni
Family: Geraniaceae (Geranium)
Origin: South Africa
Display period: Summertime
Height: 2 to 5 feet
Environment: Full sun
It was at the Mid-Atlantic Nurserymen's Trade Show in Baltimore a few weeks ago that I saw Citrosa Mosquito Fighter, a new breed of scented geranium that gives off the odor of citronella. Slated for introduction this spring, the plant was shown by Hillcrest Nursery of Millers, Md. Hillcrest is the exclusive wholesale distributor of the plant in Maryland and Virginia.
Citrosa was developed for use in Third World countries to combat the spread of malaria, according to Gordon Horwitz. He is the director of Austerica, a Toronto company specializing in "environmentally friendly" products. He joined with Griffith Greenhouses in Plymouth, Fla., to obtain the patent on Citrosa and the rights to produce it. Propagation is done by tissue culture.
Citrosa is a cross between Pelargonium graveolens, a rose-scented geranium, and Cymbopogon nardus, a grass that's the source of the oil of citronella. The plant combines the foliage of a scented geranium with the odor of citronella. Its originator and the man from whom it derives its varietal name, is Dr. Dirk Van Leeni, a Dutch scientist.
You can chase mosquitoes from your patio, says Hillcrest owner Steve Hershfeld, if you set seedlings at 10-foot intervals around the edge. At a mature height of 5 feet, one plant can provide control for a 100-square foot area. The scent is the strongest when the air is still and the humidity high.
Citrosa thrives on neglect, says Stephen Griffith, president of Griffith. In the wintertime, grow it indoors. Pot it in well-drained soil. Don't overwater it lest you cause the roots to rot. If you need further advice in caring for your citrosa, Mr. Griffith says to call his firm toll-free at (800) 888-6149.