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Why Do My Succulents Smell Bad?

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Why Do My Succulents Smell Bad?


No one likes a smelly succulent! There are many reasons why you may be struggling with an unsavory smell coming from your plants, but all of these problems are fixable. To learn about some of the most common reasons why your succulents may smell bad, read on:

Root Rot

Root rot is a condition that occurs typically when you’ve overwatered your succulents, and the sheer amount of moisture in the soil causes your roots to rot. Anything that’s rotting typically smells horrible, but you can check for root rot by removing your succulent from the pot and looking at its roots. If your succulent’s roots are dark brown or black, then they’re rotting.

Root rot in succulent
To check for root rot, remove your succulent from the pot and look at its roots


You need to treat root rot immediately, or else your plant will die. With mild cases of root rot, you can let your succulent air out for a day or so to let the roots dry out. If only part of your succulent’s roots are rotted, you can also use clean, sharp scissors to prune the rotted roots. When pruning your succulent’s roots, be sure to trim slightly above where the rot ends to keep it from spreading. Repot your succulents in fresh soil and a clean pot to ensure the best results. With serious cases of root rot, your best bet is to behead and propagate the plant, then transfer it to a new pot with fresh soil.

Fungal Infection

Fungal infections typically occur when there’s a sudden change in your succulent’s environment. Since fungus is a natural decomposer, they’ll rot your plant just like root rot can. However, fungal infections don’t always affect your succulent’s roots. Some kinds of fungus, like powdery mildew, only affect your plant’s leaves, while others may accompany root rot. Fungal infections tend to make your succulents smell bad, but they aren’t by any means a death sentence for your succulents.


Fungicides do wonders when treating your succulents for any kind of fungal infection, but it’s best to repot them as soon as possible. Keep your environment at a stable humidity and temperature throughout the year to avoid future infections.

Too Much Fertilizer or Compost

Just like underwatering and overwatering, you can underfertilize or overfertilize your succulents. With too much fertilizer of any kind, you may encounter a foul smell from the fertilizer mixture. With too much compost, you’ll probably end up with the traditional compost smell, which isn’t very fun, to begin with.


Make sure you always measure and dilute your fertilizer before fertilizing your succulents. You only need a little fertilizer per plant: always follow the instructions provided on your succulent fertilizer container. If you’re using a liquid plant fertilizer, dilute it in a 50/50 mixture with water. If you use compost, make sure the compost is dry, or remove any moist elements one to two days after application to prevent mold growth.

Pet Urine

Occasionally, your pets may use your plants as a toilet instead of going outside or using the litter box. Along with the smell, your succulent may also start to wilt from the chemicals in the urine.

Pet and succulent
Your pets may use your plants as a toilet
Photo by Tranmautritam from Pexels


To get rid of the smell, clean your pots and the areas around them with soap and water. Then, repot your succulent in a fresh potting mixture. To prevent future accidents, move your succulents onto a windowsill or out of reach from pets. You may consider talking with your veterinarian to discuss options for helping your pet through accidents and finding solutions to help them feel comfortable using the litter box or going outside.


If you mist your succulents, water can accumulate in spaces between your leaves, causing mold, decay, and the uncomfortable smell of still water. Misting can also increase your succulent’s risk of fungal infection, especially on the plant’s leaves.

Misting can also increase your succulent’s risk of fungal infection, especially on the plant’s leaves.
Photo by Elina Sazonova from Pexels


Instead of misting your succulents, water them at the roots. To do so, you can use a watering bottle or bottom-watering techniques to ensure your plant stays hydrated and happy. Always water your succulents from the roots instead of the leaves. Since succulents absorb water and nutrients mainly from their roots, you won’t get the best results with a mister unless you’re propagating a cutting.

Poor Drainage

Poor drainage can lead to fungal infections, root rot, smelly soil, and in some cases, insect problems-- all of which tend to smell horrible. If you’re struggling with a stinky succulent, your drainage is always the first place to look.


Outside of dealing with root rot and fungal infections, there are a few things you can do to help improve your succulent’s drainage:

1. Check Your Soil

First, check your soil mixture. Typically succulents need porous soil to prevent root rot. A good soil mixture will contain one part organic substance (like peat, compost, or coir) and one part inorganic substance (like gravel, perlite, or chicken grit). You can always use store-bought soil mixes and dilute them with extra gravel to ensure better drainage as well.

A good soil mixture will contain one part organic substance and one part inorganic substance
Photo by Teona Swift from Pexels


2. Check Your Pot

If your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, you should probably repot your succulent or drill a drainage hole yourself. Without a hole for excess water to escape through, your succulent won’t be able to drain water properly. In addition, pots made from a porous material like terracotta, concrete, or ceramic pots tend to have better drainage.


See more about How to Grow and Care for String of Bananas

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