Why Does My Succulent Smell So Bad?
7 Reasons and Solutions

Has your succulent started to smell strange and you can't tell what's going on? Here are some ways to identify the issues and how to deal with them.

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Jimena Bolívar

June 20, 2021


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Introduction

Unless your succulent is blooming, there is no reason for it to smell. Besides, the smell of a sick plant is much different from fresh flowers. If you’ve caught a whiff of something strange, especially with an oversaturated and wet texture to it, chances are that your succulent needs help, and we’re here to help you find out exactly what’s going on.

To combat these issues immediately, you can repot your succulent, change the soil, treat them with fungicide, and trim away rotted roots and leaves.

succulent arrangement on driftwood

Warning!

Please be aware that in some cases, your succulent might have reached a point where it won't be salvageable as it does not start to smell until it's too late. In such cases, prepare to propagate your succulent.

1. Pet Urine

a cat by plants

If you have a pet in the house, chances are that they’ve found a new litter spot to claim. It can be difficult to determine whether your pet is the culprit behind the strange smell, but if your plant looks healthy despite the smell then there is not much you need to worry about.

In this case, simply repot your plant in a clean planter and new soil, and find it a better place to rest. Also address your pet’s litter box.

Still, it’s not a very probable answer and you may need to dig deeper to get to the cause.

2. Rotting Roots

rotting roots in soil

Root rot is a common issue in smelly plants. In most cases, it’s usually too late to identify as the rot spreads upwards into the plant body. Within a week or two, the plant is too far along in its infection to be saved.

Your soil will most probably smell like rotten eggs because of it.

If you’re lucky to have caught the rot on time, simply trim away the dead roots and find your succulent a well-draining planter with a good gritty soil mixture and nice sunlight.

Warning!

Root rot is caused by overwatering, and can make way for other issues that you will need to keep an eye out for.

3. Bad Soil Mix

soil in a crate

We know you love your succulents and only want the best for it, but there is such a thing as providing over-nutrition to your succulent. Certain soil mixes are reserved for certain succulents for good reason. You don’t want foreign growth in the soil to sap away nutrition from your succulent.

Here are key things a good soil mix must include:

1. Good drainage

drain holes at the bottom of plant pot

As discussed in the previous point, overwatering can cause root rot, but it can also create a lot of moisture which could make way for unwanted bacterial growth. Ensure that your succulent gets the water it needs and the rest drains out by using an appropriate planter.

If you’re looking for a nice planted to buy, check out here

Potteur Cork Planter Set

These planters are not only aesthetic, but also provide great drainage

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2. Good soil texture

a spread of small rocks

Sometimes it’s not enough for the soil to be watered in a controlled amount. Not having a range of textures within the soil could hinder the waters path down the mix and trap it between particles too long to not dry out. There needs to be some space for air between the layers. Texture allows ventilation.

If you’re looking for some easy DIY soil recipes, view them here

3 Super Easy Homemade Succulent Soil Recipes That Will Nurture Your Plant!

When it comes to plants, good soil is vital. So here are some homemade soil recipes for your beloved succulents

3. Scarce fertilizer

a spread of fertilizer

Too much fertilizer is as bad as overwatering. Keep fertilizer use to a minimum, especially in the winters because most cacti are dormant during that time. if you have summer dormant succulents, avoid fertilizers during that time. Only ever use fertilizers when your succulent is during its growth period.

Pro-tip

Cacti are generally very low maintenance plants, and adequate research on the initial stages of caring for your plant will help avoid many of these issues.

4. Overusing Compost

compost by Lindsay is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Composts are great for most plants, but not for succulents. Cacti are great survivors in low nutrition and drought-prone areas. Do not battle their innate nature by giving them more than what they require.

Also, compost smells horrible in general and not something you’d want to be using for indoor succulents.

5. Fungal Infections

fungal infection on the underside of succulent leaves

Bad soil mixes can lead to a wide range of unwanted guests in your succulent’s planter, but fungal infestations are quite difficult to manage. Indoor plants are more susceptible to this issue due to the highly controlled environment inside homes.

Treatment is fairly simple, but requires consistency and attention. Simply spray your leaves with the following options once a day and let them do the work:

  • Neem oil
  • Horticultural oil
  • Cutting off highly infected areas
  • Dish soap solution
  • Copper fungicide

If you’re looking for a good copper fungicide to buy, check out here

Bonide 811 Copper 4E Fungicide 16oz (473ML)

This product works on most fungal infections for succulents

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6. Stagnant Water in Leaves

mist on the leaves of a succulent

Giving your plant a light mist may make it look aesthetic for the occasional social media post, but the droplets will eventually trickle down and collect in the crevices of the leaves. Sometimes these pockets of water will not dry out so easily and slowly weaken your plant’s surface. It won’t smell great, and you run the risk of more infections popping right onto your succulent’s beautiful leaves.

7. Sensitive Nose

woman sniffing a plant

Some things are easier to accept than change. It’s possible that some succulents might have flowers that don’t have the smell you would like, while others may appreciate the same scent. In that case, see if such succulents can be grown outdoors. If not, approach a friend that finds the scent appealing and gift it to them!

Conclusion

So far, we’ve gone over what could cause your succulent to smell bad. They could be pet urine, bad soil mix, overuse of compost, fungal infection, stagnant water in leaves, and a sensitive nose. All fo these have simple solutions that could mitigate the problem from spreading further and potentially killing your plant.

Jimena Bolívar Picture

By Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Jimena Bolívar Picture

Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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