Why Do My Succulents and Cactus Smell?
Providing Solutions for Removing This Smell

Succulents often produce a foul smell making people wonder what causes this. Read the blog to find out the causes, and discover solutions to getting rid of it.

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Jimena Bolívar

April 25, 2021


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What’s This Post About?

Succulents are the new trendy plants that can be found in different shapes. The love and demand for them are increasing day by day.

These are xerophytic plants that can easily be taken care of. Although not all, some succulents have been found to emit a kind of smell. While some people incurred a sweet and pleasant smell, others experienced a foul smell.

Plant lovers usually complain about why their succulents and cacti smell. There can be several reasons for the bad smell.

A sweet and delightful smell is produced by Succulents when they are in their flowering phase. In other growth phases, Succulents don’t often give off any smell. The foul smell produced by Succulents may be due to root rot, improper drainage, urination by pets or they may naturally smell bad.

multiple succulents in a pot

Do Succulents and Cactus Smell Naturally?

spraying on a succulent pot

Most succulents don’t usually have a smell; however, some do.

The smell of succulents is primarily due to their flowers. Hence, when in the growing phase, you won’t find any smell in them but as soon as they begin to bloom, they start smelling sweet.

This is mostly the case in succulent species like Lithops and Hoyas, and some genera of cacti.

Which Succulents Produce A Sweet Smell?

multiple succulents on display

1. Lithops and Hoyas

The flowers of these succulents produce a beautiful smell. The extent of their smell is usually moderate or low so people searching for fragrant succulents can surely buy these.

2. Mammillaria and Hedgehog Cacti

These genera of cactus are well known for producing alluring scented flowers. You will find this in South America.

3. Agave Virginica

This type does not flourish much yet leaves behind a beautiful fragrance.

4. Cereus and Sansevieria

Popular for producing night-blooming flowers, the Cereus genus, and Sansevieria produce extremely strong-smelling flowers which may not be suitable for placing at homes.

5. Epiphyllums and Discocactus

They are another genera of the cactus family having a pleasant citrus-like smell.

6. Aloe and Haworthias

These smell mildly even after flowering.

If you are a plant lover, you might have noticed that some succulents produce a smell other than these beautiful fragrances. Usually, people don’t find that smell good.

There could be several reasons for this kind of smell. Some of these are listed down here for you!

Why Do Succulents and Cactus Smell?

green and red succulents

1. Root Rot

Root rots are dreadful. For a gardener or someone who loves plants, root rot is bad news.

Since succulents are very delicate plants, root rot is very common in them. This may occur due to irregular watering patterns or bad drainage.

Although succulents require less watering as compared to other plants, extensive watering can invite root rot. Once they catch a rot, succulents start giving off a rotten egg-like smell.

The rot can then spread all around the plant body if not taken care of causing the succulent to eventually die. It is thus, imperative to keep a check on your succulents for any root rots, and in case you find one, you may have to carry out surgery to remove it.

2. The Emergence Of Fungus Gnats In Your Soil

Before growing plants in your homes, ensure there is an excellent drainage system available.

Indoor plantations usually lack the resources required for better nourishment of plants thus even the slightest of inconveniences and shortfalls can have drastic effects on the growth of your succulents.

The absence of a good drainage system would result in soil being exposed to water for a longer period, which can prompt the emergence of Fungus gnats.

Moreover, your succulents may as well catch root rot due to continuous exposure to water which can cause great harm to them.

3. The Smell Caused By Pet Urination

Urination by pets can also be one of the reasons why succulents and cacti smell. Make sure to place your plants in a place where your pets or other animals are unable to reach them.

You may be confused as to what is causing your succulents to smell bad even though they seem to be in a good condition. Check if pet urination is the issue, if not then there may be another alarming reason.

4. Excessive Use of Compost in Succulent Plantations

It is not compulsory to use compost when raising succulents as succulents are prone to thriving in drought and nutrient-deprived soil conditions.

It is often seen that the use of compost rather than benefiting harms the plant. This is due to a lower level of drainage and aeration of the soil. Also, you might want to avoid compost due to its stinky smell.

People usually make their composts using various greeneries which produces a sewage-like smell. So, be sure to use the right and balanced ingredients for making the compost.

Some Succulents Produce A Foul Smell Naturally

Succulents produce a fancy delightful smell during their flowering season, however, some of the succulents tend to radiate a really bad smell which you would want to avoid.

How bad the smell seems may vary from person to person as one may find it unbearable while the other may not be bothered about it.

People have different perspectives regarding scents. You and I may have different views on a particular scent too.

An example is Crassula Muscosa, some people find its smell quite irritating and unbearable while some claim that they are unbothered with the smell and find it good.

In conclusion, how good or bad a smell is, depends on the smell sensitivity a person has. And that may vary from person to person.

Solutions to Getting Rid of This Smell

Nobody likes a smelly plant. Are you looking for ways to get rid of the foul smell from your succulents?

Methods for the removal of this foul smell vary according to the causes behind it. If the smell is due to the rotting of the root, you will need to remove the infected part using a sterilized knife.

You should look for any discolorations on the cactuses using gloves.

It is crucial for soil mix to be drainage-friendly. If it is not, determine the time it would take for drying up the soil using either the moisture meter or by inserting a toothpick to check for moisture.

Consider changing the soil mix if it is taking longer for the soil to dry up. The ideal soil mixes for succulents are ones having large amounts of inorganic components and have a good drainage system.

Change the soil mix if the foul smell is caused due to the excess use of compost.

If you find your succulent producing a smell naturally, you can either place it outdoors to avoid the smell in the house or gift the plant to someone who doesn’t find the smell bothering.

To plant your succulents, you can also use gritty soil mixes. Succulents usually flourish in these.

Checklist to Prevent Your Succulents From Smelling Bad

small succulents in a pot

If you want to make sure that your succulents stay fresh and don’t smell bad, ensure that they receive proper exposure to direct or indirect sunlight to enable healthy growth.

Succulents love sunlight. They should be daily provided with 4-6 hours of sunlight. You can put them on windows facing the sun. Adequate exposure to the sun will also speed up the drying of the soil.

Succulents and cacti should be grown in a location having an excellent drainage system. You can either use the cactus mix soil for growing them or make a soil mix having inorganic compounds yourself.

While buying succulents, make sure you are aware of the smell it gives off as some succulents naturally give off a bad smell.

It is recommended to transplant the succulents after their purchase as you may be bringing in a pest manifested soil that can infect other pots too.

Astonishingly, unlike other plants, under watering does not harm succulents as much as overwatering does. Wait for the soil to dry up completely before watering it again.

Treatment of Rotten Cactus and Succulent

Treatment of rotten plants becomes difficult if succulents begin to produce a foul smell. The smell may be a cause of rotted roots and a strong foul smell may as well indicate that most of the plant has been rotted too.

The rotted plants produce a smell similar to mold and rancid peanut butter.

If your succulents are rotting, you should scrap them from the ground and place them in isolation. This way you can take care of them better. The rots are usually brown and can cause the withering of hair and spines.

The spines of the cacti which are exposed to moist soil and water are the ones most affected. You may not be able to save your plant if the base of the plant providing support to the body has been rotten. However, if that’s not the case, remove the dirt from the part infected and clean it up.

For cleaning the rot, you will need 2-3 q-tips, water, and an anti-bacterial soap such as SoftSoap.

Point to Note!

Make sure to not use the same q-tips for cleaning different parts of the plant as this may cause the rot to spread throughout the plant and you will then not be able to save it!

You should mix the anti-bacterial soap in water and dip the q-tip into the solution and then clean the infected area gently. After that, throw that q-tip away and use another one for further cleaning.

If you find molds emerging at the bottom of the roots, make sure to cut them. Before planting the succulent again, ensure that the base has dried up and that the infected area is not covered in soil. Replant your succulent in new soil to avoid further infection.

When you replant the succulent, do not water it for at least two weeks. This is because the plant is dormant and will heal itself. After a month, you will find new scar tissue developed at the infected part of the plant. You can then start watering the plant and covering it with more soil.

Follow these steps and your succulent and cactus will survive!

Keep Reading!

Succulents are amazing and in-demand plants that offer a wide array of benefits for us individuals and our homes as well. In this blog, we provided you with the causes of foul smell from succulents and cacti as well as put forth the possible solutions to get rid of the smell.

You can view our other blogs on succulents and cacti to know more about them.

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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