If you have a citronella plant – also known as a mosquito plant – and it’s starting to change color or turn limp, you might begin to get a little concerned.

Citronellas can start to turn brown for a few different reasons and in this article, we’re going to explore each of them and let you know what to do to fix the issue.

Why Is My Citronella Plant Turning Brown?

Potted Citronella plants

Your citronella plant is turning brown because it is either receiving too much or too little sunlight, it has poor drainage, it is being over-watered, or it has become root-bound.

Too Much Sunlight

Citronella plants contain oil and their leaves can be quite sensitive to heat and sunlight.

If they receive too much full sun they can often dry out and turn brown and crispy.

These plants do best in areas that get at least six hours of sun per day but still provide some afternoon shade.

If you think your citronella is too exposed to the sun during the afternoon, you’ll have to move it to a place where some afternoon shade is provided or some larger plants around it that will provide the shade.

Too Little Sunlight

If your plant isn’t getting enough light, its leaves may turn brown because it won’t be producing sufficient levels of chlorophyll.

The leaves will lose their color, and will usually wilt as well.

Droopy leaves are a sure sign that the plant is getting too little light.

You should first look at your plant’s growth.

If you notice that it is “stretching” toward the nearest light source and growing all its leaves as near to this as possible, it’s not getting enough light.

Citronella plants don’t need excessive sunlight, but they do like a good amount.

You can fix this by moving your plant closer to a windowsill, or by putting in a grow light beside it.

This will give it all the light it needs, and shouldn’t “burn” the leaves as the sun might.

Grow lights are great if your home is too dark for plants to be happy in normal conditions.

Also Read: Hoya Plant Care – How To Properly Look After Your Hoya

Poor Drainage And Overwatering

Citronellas prefer dry, well-drained soil.

They do not like sitting in water, and they will quickly start to show it through leaf discoloration.

Often, in these cases, the leaves will produce brown spots, rather than turning fully brown.

Citronella roots hold plenty of water, so they don’t need huge amounts of water in the soil at any given time, and it’s very easy to over-water them.

The first thing you should do is start checking the soil before you water it.

Insert your finger into the top inch of the soil.

If it’s dry, you should water the plant.

If it’s not, the plant can go longer without a drink. This should help reduce the problems of over-watering.

If you’re worried about under-watering, make sure you’re watering long enough for the water to be absorbed by the soil, so you know that at least some will reach the roots of the plant.

Just misting the soil’s surface will do nothing to get your plant the liquid it needs.

Next, check the pot.

Does it have drainage holes and where does the water go?

There should be a saucer beneath it, and if you find that the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, you will need to either transfer your plant to a new pot or make some holes.

Citronella will not survive in a pot with no holes for water to escape.

Think about the soil, too.

When you press your finger in, is it lose, or very compacted?

Soil that is tightly packed won’t drain as easily, and your citronella will also find it harder to grow in.

Water may sit on top of the soil’s surface and evaporate, rather than soaking in,
if the soil is very hard.

If the soil is too compacted, either loosen it using a small fork or a skewer or re-pot your plant into something more suitable.

Choose mediums that drain well, and then put your citronella back and see if it seems happier.


Occasionally, if your citronella is running out of room in its pot, some of its leaves may turn brown because it will be stressed.

If its roots have nowhere to spread to and they are all tightly coiled around each other, it won’t be taking in nutrients or water effectively.

If you have checked the other problems and found nothing, gently ease your citronella out of its pot and check whether it has run out of space.

A new pot might make it much happier and encourage a flourish of new, green growth.

Final Thoughts

If your citronella leaves are showing patchy brown areas, check your watering routine to make sure you are not giving the plant more than it can drink.

If whole leaves are turning brown and your plant lives in a relatively shady spot, try to relocate it somewhere sunnier, or provide a grow light.

As a last resort, check out its root system.

Hopefully, one or more of these will solve the question and you’ll soon have your citronella back to full health.