This recipe for Citronella Plant Simple Syrup uses leaves from the Citronella Geranium (or Mosquito Plant), and infuses them into a sweet, fragrant syrup that’s perfect for sweetening herbal tea, lemonade, and cocktails!
I found out something exciting– something “plantastic.”
Earlier this year, a friend showed up at my front door with a green, aromatic beauty of a plant– a Citronella Geranium— and I’ve been smiling happily at it ever since. And then, I found out it was edible!
After a little plant research, I gathered up a couple leaves, and I knew just what to do!
One of my favorite things to do with deliciously scented edible plants is to infuse them into a simple syrup. I love mint simple syrup, honeysuckle simple syrup, and of course, this citronella simple syrup.
What Type of Citronella Plant Should I Use?
This recipe uses Citronella Geranium, also known as a Citronella Flower, Mosquito Plant, or Pelargonium citrosum.
Citronella geranium is a type of cultivated geranium, the type of plant you’ll find in your garden and (probably) not in the wild.
That should make identifying the plant fairly easy, because you probably purchased it yourself at a garden store. However, if you need help, check out this guide for identifying Citronella geraniums.
Is Citronella Edible?
Citronella geraniums are edible, yes!
This plant is part of the (edible) geranium family. Both the flowers and leaves are scented, and both are edible.
For this citronella syrup, we’re using the leaves (not the flowers).
Inedible Look-Alike (Smell-Alike) Plants
The other type of citronella you might find is citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus or Cymbopogon winterianus).
Citronella grass looks nothing like citronella geranium, however it does have a similar citronella scent (and a similar name).
Citronella grass has long, thin blades, and the oil from this plant is used for citronella bug repellent.
Do not use citronella grass for this recipe.
Citronella grass isn’t known to be poisonous, but it’s more likely to produce an allergic reaction. See a photo of citronella grass here.
How to Safely Eat Garden Flowers
If you’re an avid food gardener, you probably eat from your garden all the time! However, if you’re planning on eating from your flower bed, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Pollutants: Avoid flowers near the roadway, or other sources of pollutants. If you have flowers planted near an old fence or house, check to make sure there isn’t lead-based paint contaminating the soil.
Insecticides: Avoid flowers that have been treated with insecticides. Be especially careful with systemic insecticides, which introduce a poison throughout the plant (and then also to you when you eat it).
Stinging Insects: When flowering plants are in bloom, they’ll attract bees. Bees are good– they pollinate the plants– but watch where you place your hands when you’re harvesting.
Correctly Identify the Plant: And finally, but maybe most importantly, make sure that you’re 100% sure that you know what you’re harvesting.
How to Use Citronella Plant Simple Syrup
Use it to sweeten herbal tea or lemonade, swap it for the plain simple syrup in a Mint Julep, or use it to sweeten a gin and tonic.
It’s also a delicious way to sweeten herbal teas, such as this homemade mint tea or catnip tea.
Citronella Plant Simple Syrup
- 2 citronella geranium (mosquito plant) leaves (Do not use citronella grass in this recipe)
- 4 mint leaves (optional)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- Rinse the leaves by dipping them in a bowl of cool water.
- Add the leaves, sugar, and water to a small pot. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to medium. Simmer 5 minutes.
- Strain leaves out of the syrup. Store syrup in a glass jar or other container. Store in the fridge for up to a month.
Ok.True story. I didn’t even realize citronella was a real thing. I know of those candles that deter flies and stuff, but didn’t realize it was a real plant. And you made simple syrup out of it? How cool is that?!
This is amazing! I didn’t know I could make this, going to pick my plant and make some!
Yay!! Enjoy and let me know when you try it! 😀
Woah! I love when a post truly surprises me. I had no idea that citronella was edible. So cool!
Oh wow I had no idea citronella was edible either! I have been using mine to make a homemade bug spray, but now I am so excited to try out this simple syrup, I just love herb based syrups – so good!
My very first job was in a greenhouse, and we sold A LOT of citronella – but I had no idea you could use it to make anything edible! You learn something new every day. Does it have a lemony flavour? I’ve always loved the smell, so I’m definitely intrigued by the character this could lend to drinks. Great tips about working with gardened/foraged plants too – it’s always refreshing to see people pay attention to those important safety aspects.
It’s a little bit lemony, yes! Definitely an herbal flavor, not just citrus though. And thanks!
This was so good! I love my citronella plant and didn’t realize it was edible! I made a yummy homemade lemonade sweetened with this recipe. It’s so easy, fast, and makes a unique beverage!
Yay!! I’m so happy that you loved it! Thanks for letting me know!
Lori J Sharpe
How long does it last and should it be refrigerated?
Can it be frozen?
Yes it should be refrigerated, and it should last one month in the fridge. I don’t recommend freezing the syrup, because I think it will lose most of the flavor. BUT if you want, you could freeze the leaves and then make the syrup later 🙂
I now citronela grass as lemon grass, do you think there is a difference between those two? Because I make tea out of my citronela grass (lemon grass) and it tasty delicious.
I’m making it right now lol
Hi Fabiano! From what I understand, citronella grass is sometimes CALLED lemongrass, but is actually a different plant. For this you want citronella geranium though 🙂 Enjoy!
My grandmother used to grow citronella and add it to black tea infusion for a wonderfully aromatic tea. I never learned the name of the plant, but I distinctively remember its smell and look (also feel, as grandma used to ask me to cut a couple of leaves for her). 20+ years later and 1000+ miles away, I saw it as I was picking up herbs for my garden. I bought it on a hunch that it is the same plant (never learned its name). 🙂 Now I know that even if it wasn’t the right plant, at least I won’t die trying it hehe
Awww that’s such a wonderful memory! And wow I should try adding it to black tea- I bet that would be amazing! Thanks for sharing and I hope it is the same plant! 😀
heading out to my garden to pick citronella geranium leaves to try this syrup…thanks for the info.
Yay! Enjoy 😀
this is sooo delicious. I’m making another quart tonight! Love this in my tea and also added to a gin and tonic! ❤️
That’s wonderful, Victoria! Thanks for letting us know, glad you’re enjoying it 😊
-Alisha at Champagne Tastes
My mom would uses it when she is canning fruit and always told me it’s also a great preservative. Not sure but sure adds good flavor. And it is so easy to grow.
That’s a great idea!!! I’ll have to try it!
I grew up drinking this plant as an addition to mate (Argentinian tea. Highly recommend) and thought it was just a tea plant. For the longest time I didn’t know the name, only knew the look and scent of it so I never made the connection to it being a mosquito repellent either. It also never occurred to me to try making a syrup out of it! I’ll have to give it try. Thanks for the recipe!
I’m glad I could help!! And YUM, I’ll have to try it with some mate!! Thanks for the idea!
Could you use dried?
I’ve never tried that! I’m sure you could.. Maybe use a little less citronella if it’s dried. (Did you dry your own? I don’t think they sell it dried!)
Was looking for other uses for all our citronella plants. Just boiled this down with some chocolate mint leaves. Plan to add to my evening tea.
Yay! And adding chocolate mint is an awesome idea!
Where can we buy it? Do you have a link?
They’re probably easiest to find at plant nurseries in the spring!
-Alisha at Champagne Tastes
Hi Jennifer, we’d encourage you to research what plants you can safely have with pets around if you’re concerned about something specific. That’s outside of our expertise!
-Alisha at Champagne Tastes