You have probably heard about the citronella plant. You might even have one or two around your home right now. The citronella plant is commonly found under a variety of names including, citronella plant, citrosa geranium, mosquito plant and it scientific name Pelargonium citrosum. While many of it’s names suggest that it contains citronella, a common ingredient in insect repellents it actually does not. The citronella plant is a variety of scented geranium that produces a citronella-like scent when the leaves are crushed.

The citronella plant in bloom.
The citronella plant in bloom.

This plant is loved for it’s citrus scent, which despite its lack of actual citronella is believed to repel mosquitoes. However, does the citronella plant actually keep mosquitoes away? The truth, no it does not. Research has shown that this plant is ineffective as a mosquito repellent, even if you were to crush the leaves and rub them on your skin you would just smell like the plant. While it may be pretty and smell great, the mosquitoes will still keep coming you way. So keep that bug spray handy!



Poison ivy is a species of plant in which the leaves, stems and roots contain an oil with a sticky allergenic substance called urushiol that can cause a reaction when it comes in contact with human skin. This substance sticks easily to anything that comes in contact with it including skin, clothing, and pets and can cause an itchy rash upon contact. Not everyone is allergic to poison ivy, while some are more allergic then others.

While poison ivy is often associated with summer it actually grows as long as the weather is nice. Poison ivy can grow in just about any environment, although it is most commonly found on edges of forest, roads, streams and lakes and even some lawns. Poison ivy can also grow in a variety of ways including, along the ground (in which new roots are created as it goes), as a vine (up a tree or fence post), and as a bush.

Poison ivy creates very tough and hardy roots, once it begins to grow it can become very difficult to remove. Here is a great article at about removing poison ivy.

Like its western counterpart, both the size and shape of poison ivy varies, but the climbing vine variety is most common. Poison ivy also has three leaves on each leaflet but it doesn’t have serrate (notched) leaves. The leaves may have a waxy appearance, a hairy underside, and seasonal change in color.

Identifying Poison Ivy
Identifying Poison Ivy


Identifying Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is identified by 3 leafs on each leaflet. Two common phrases to help remember the leaves of three rule are “Leaves of three? Let them be!” or “”One, two, three? Don’t touch me.” The leaflets are broad and the two side leaves are smaller then the larger end leaf. The middle leaf almost always has a small stem, while the side leaves grow directly from the vine or plant. The leaves tend to be a bright dark green with a waxy top appearance. The bottoms of the leaves are lighter and fuzzier. In spring the leaves are a brighter green and in the fall the leaves turn red.

Heading into the winter months give evergreen plants the opportunity to take the spotlight in Michigan landscapes. Unlike deciduous trees which give us canopies of green throughout the spring and summer and a stunning show of vibrant colors in the winter, evergreens provide us with green all year round.

There are a variety of trees and shrubs that fall into the evergreen family, which hold their leaves throughout all the seasons. Conifers (Hemlock, Blue Spruce, Red Cedar and White Pine) and holly are the most popular types of evergreen found in Michigan. Evergreen trees do loose their leaves, but they do not loose them all at the same time.

Evergreens | Michigan Landscape Design
DID YOU KNOW? Planting evergreen trees strategically around your home you can save you up to 50% on winter heating cost as the trees will act as a “windbreaker” from cold gusts.


Because evergreens provide lush green foliage all year round they are a very beneficial plant to use in your landscape. There are a variety of different ways evergreen plants can be used in your landscape, here are a few for you to consider.

  • Privacy – The lush season long foliage of evergreens such as arborvitae, juniper and yew make great privacy hedges.
  • Borders – Outline your beds and paths with dwarf versions that will accentuate these key areas of landscape design all year round.
  • Backdrop – You can create a beautiful backdrop you can enjoy all year round. By choosing different varieties you can very the shades of green to create a very pleasing display.
  • Groundcover– Low lying species of spreading evergreen can create a beautiful carpet of green when needed.
  • Hide areas of your home – Have some unsightly areas around your home you would rather not see all the time? Evergreens are a great way to hide your homes foundation, water faucets, water meters and any other area you may not like.

The professionals at Berns Landscaping recognize that sometimes homeowners have problems obtaining and maintaining  healthy plants in their landscapes. The reasons for plants becoming unhealthy or damaged can depend on a large variety of factors which are often hard to identify. This is exactly why we offer plant diagnostic consultation services. Our consultation services are here to help those who are having difficulties achieving and maintaining healthy plants in their landscape.

With our plant diagnostic consultation a certified Berns Landscaping professional will make an onsite appointment to meet with you at your home. During this consultation, we will provide professional advice specific to your plant care needs on how to improve the current condition of your plants.

If you would like to schedule an appointment for a plant diagnostic consultation you can do so by calling Berns Landscaping at 586.756.1145 (Macomb) or 248.835.3000 (Oakland). You can also do so by filling out our online plant diagnostic consultation form.

Impatiens Downy Mildew
Downy Mildew on the underside of an impatiens leaf.

Cases of Downy Mildew on Michigan Impatiens has been confirmed. The confirmation came from findings on greenhouse bedding and double impatiens. Downy Mildew can be spread by wind-dispersed aerial spores from infected plants or introduced into a greenhouse by infected materials such as plants, cuttings or plugs.

In many cases the Downy Mildew appears to form overnight as the very early stages are microscopic, this allows the pathogen to advance unnoticed until it explodes with its white mildew. The plants can appear fine from the top as the mold forms on the undersides of the impatiens leaves (as seen in the photo on the right).


  • Stippling of leaves or light-green yellowing
  • Subtle grey markings on the upper leaf surface
  • Downward curling of infected leaves.
  • White mildew on the undersides of leaves.


  • Stunted growth of the plants overall structure
  • Flower and leaf drop, which results in bare leafless stems
  • Infected stems become soft, causing the plant to collapse under continuous wet and cool conditions

Once downy mildew has been discovered the infected plant should be destroyed and removed from the area immediately.

If you are looking to purchase impatiens ask your retailer if they have had any problems with impatiens this year. While plants may appear healthy in stores they can become infected once planted into your landscape, which could cause problems for other plants in your yard.

Planting a butterfly garden at home is a great way to enjoy these beautiful and interesting creatures. With the right type of plants you can create a butterfly habitat right in your own backyard and enjoy these fascinating creatures all season long. Butterfly gardens can range in size, from a small window box on a porch to a dedicated portion of your yard.

Butterfly gardens have some basic requirements to assist with the various stages of a butterflies life.

  • Nectar Sources: Plants to attract and nourish adult butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Plants that will serve as a food source for developing larva.
  • Shelter: Vegetation to provide protection from temperature extremes, storms and predators. These plants will also provide the butterflies with areas to sleep.
  • Water Source: A water source with a fountain is the best choice for a butterfly garden. Butterflies require water for drinking and thermoregulation.

If you are interested in more detailed information about creating a butterfly garden please take a look at our  butterfly garden basics. Below you will find some plants that make great additions to any butterfly garden and what type of benefits they provide.

Butterfly Garden Plants


Black-Eyed Susan
Black-Eyed Susan
Nectar Source


Butterfly Weed
Nectar Source & Host Plant


Butterfly Garden Plants
Host Plant


Red Clover
Red Clover
Nectar Source / Host Plant




Butterfly Garden Plants - Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush
Nectar Source


Common Milkweed
Common Milkweed
Nectar Source / Host Plant


New England Aster
New England Aster
Nectar Source / Host Plant


Host Plant


The plants below are also great butterfly garden additions.

Zinnia (nectar source), Marigold (nectar source), Swamp Milk Weed (nectar source & host plant), Oregeno (nectar source), Parsely (host plant), Fennel (host plant), Lantana (nectar source), Pearly Everlasting (host plant), Swamp Milkweed (nectar source & host plant), Butterfly Milkweed (nectar source & host plant), Purple Cone Flower (nectar source), Blazing Star (nectar source), Tall Verbena (nectar source), Violet (host plant), Willow Trees (host plant) and Wild Beramot (nectar source).

There are many other plants that can go great in your garden, these are just a few ideas to help get you started. Researching the butterflies in your area and choosing the appropriate plants are a great way to ensure you will have a successful butterfly garden.

The Summer season is quickly approaching and more and more homeowners will be spending time outdoors. While many people enjoy there time outdoors, it can often be ruined by mosquitoes who often force homeowners indoors during the summer months.

Mosquitoes are not only damaging to gardens but they can also carry deadly viruses. One of the most common way to repel mosquitoes (that really doesn’t work all to great) is to spray ourselves and clothing with sprays that involve poisonous chemicals and undesirable odors.

The trick to keeping these pestering summer bugs away may be right in your garden itself. There are a select few easy to grow plants that help keep mosquitoes away.



When people think of catnip they usually think of the green herb that is commonly used to stuff toys or feed cats for their own amusement. However, the oil found in catnip has been found to be ten times better at repelling mosquitoes than DEET (a chemical commonly used in bug replants). Planting this plant in your yard will help repel mosquitoes.


Citronella Grass

Many people are familiar with the word citronella, s the oil from this plant is used to create candles which are known for repelling bugs without dangerous chemicals. However, these plants can grow to be up to 6 feet tall and thrive in tropical environments.



Horsemint (also known as Bee Balm) produces a similar scent to citronella and grows wild through most of the Eastern United States. In addition to its mosquito repellent scent, horsemint oil is a natural fungicidal and bacterial retardant.

Keep away mosquitoes in a natural way.


Marigolds are annuals with come in a variety of warm colors from yellow to red. However, marigolds produce a scent that often turns away not only insects but humans as well. They are a great repellant for mosquitoes as well as insects that attack vegetable plants and aphids.



Rosemary is a common herb that is an attractive choice for gardeners because of its uses in the kitchen. Most are unaware that Rosemary contains an oil that helps to repel mosquitoes. Rosemary requires hot, dry weather and well-drained soil and are hard to grow in colder climates. If climate is an issue for you, you can also grow Rosemary in a pot and keep it indoors durring the winter.



Ageratum (also known as Flossflowers) emits a smell which Mosquitoes find particularly offensive. These plants produce coumarin which is widely used in commercial insecticides, its horrible scent repulses mosquitoes. These easy to grow flowers thrive in full or partial sun and do not require rich soil.  Ageratum leaves can be crushed to increase the emitted odor, however it is not recommended to put this directly onto your skin.


Lemon Thyme

Lemon Thyme is approximately 62% at repelling mosquitoes as DEET. However unlike the other plants on this list the plant itself with not keep mosquitoes at bay. The trick of lemon thyme is crushing the leaves to rub the resulting oils on your skin. Growing your own will allow you to always have some on hand and offer a natural source of mosquito repellant.