Geranium 'Moskito Shocker'

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Flowers of Geranium ‘Moskito Shocker’

Within our Geranium collection lives a cultivar that is different from the others, a scented variety called ‘Moskito Shocker’. Its primary appeal is its citronella scent, but this plant also brings very lacy foliage and small lavender flowers to the summer decor scene.

Citronella Geraniums comprise a popular niche market for those who want a gentle, kid-and-pet friendly way of warding off unwanted insects. We chose this variety because it has about three times the oil that is usually found in other citronella Geraniums. Also, we wanted a cultivar that could branch out beyond the specialty herb bench, one that looks nice enough to fold into professional projects like displays, containers, and landscapes. ‘Moskito Shocker’ rises to the task, while still performing the duties of the job title in its name.

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A flower cluster is just opening up above the crinkly leaf


Bear in mind that when simply sitting in the garden, ‘Moskito Shocker’ won’t repel insects. None of the garden-grown solutions will do that—the leaves need to be rubbed or crushed on the skin to release the oils inside them. Those oils use the heat of the skin to vaporize, releasing a citronella scent around the immediate area. In our case, we pick leaves and rub them on any exposed arm, leg, and back-of-the-neck areas to fend off the bugs as we work in our gardens.

While crushing leaves is not considered as effective as bottled repellants—even the natural products have higher concentrations of essential oils—you can’t beat the convenience of a garden-based dispenser when the swarms aren’t heavy. It’s very easy to reach over, grab a leaf, and refresh the scent applied earlier when you hear a distant buzz. One important precaution to remember: those with sensitive skin should do a test patch to see if any redness appears the following day.

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‘Moskito Shocker’ in bloom as a specimen plant


If you look beyond its name you will find ‘Moskito Shocker’ is an attractively lacy foliage plant that grows in a mound about two feet in size. Since the plant does grow upright, a little shaping in full sun maintains it as a handsome specimen in a terra cotta pot—the deeply crinkled leaves are held in position by some very stiff stems. In the subtropics ‘Moskito Shocker’ is considered a perennial, so the plant invests significant energy in building a stiff infrastructure underneath the canopy.

In fact, the plant responds to shaping and pruning, and those leaf sprigs are surprisingly effective at vase work. They hold other flowers in position, as well as adding a lemony scent to an arrangement. Over the summer, small lavender flowers dot the surface with the typical Ivy Geranium complexity, as dark stains appear on the lips of the petals.

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Dark and complex stains mark the flower


‘Moskito Shocker’ has a tighter habit when grown in full sun; it will grow in partial sun but it sprawls a bit with a looser habit. If it stretches and falls over you’lll know that the plant needs more light. To get it back in shape, cut back the lanky branches and transplant in a sunnier location.

This plant is fairly tolerant of summer stresses, so it can handle the dry-to-wet-to-dry cycle that summer brings to Cincinnati. Keep in mind that it does need water in those extended dry spells. Since ‘Moskito Shocker’ is grown primarily for the foliage, be sure to top dress the soil with a high-nitrogen fertilizer.

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Leaves and buds have a light coat of hair when they emerge


Among the foliage plants, we would consider planting sun-loving Caladium or Coleus as companion plants. For flowers, we would use Zinnia, Dahlia, or Rudbeckia to form a garden thriller that rises above the Geranium’s filler role. If you want to surround ‘Moskito Shocker’ with a low spreading skirt, a trailing Vinca or spreading Petunia would be a good choice.

In a larger fragrance garden we would combine it with herbs like Lemon Thyme, Lemon Balm, Lemon Grass, Catmint, and Rosemary. Each of these plants has a similar bug-repelling reputation.

Geranium ‘Moskito Shocker’ comes in the 8-inch pot size.