7 Reasons Your Indoor Aloe Vera Smells Terrible

Does your indoor Aloe Vera smell awful? There are a number of different reasons this can happen, and many of them are able to be corrected if addressed early. In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley examines why your indoor Aloe plant may start to smell, and how to fix the problem once it arises.

Smelly Aloe Vera plant has been pulled from the pot and rests on cardboard

Aloe vera is a great plant to keep around the house and to start your houseplant collection. The plant offers many benefits, but it is most known for its multi-purpose leaves. Aloe vera is easy to grow and is well-known for its low maintenance needs indoors.

However, improper care can lead to many problems. One problem that may arise is that of a smelly plant. This popular succulent doesn’t naturally smell bad, so if you notice a smell, you need to take action.

A smelly plant is a good sign that something in their environment is off. If your Aloe Vera is producing a bad smell, you have come to the right place. In this article, we are going to take a look at seven reasons your aloe vera smells terrible and ways to fix it. Let’s dive in!

Root Rot

Aloe plant with root rot sitting on cardboard table. The roots are brown and dying.
Root rot is usually caused by overwatering and can cause the soil to smell.

Aloe vera naturally prefers drier soils, so when soil becomes too saturated for too long, the plant can develop root rot. Root rot is a fungal disease that begins at the roots and works its way up the plant. This disease can be challenging to identify, so you will need to remove the plant from the pot and inspect the roots.

If you notice brown or black mushy roots, this is a sign of root rot. You can cut away the discolored and mushy roots to help prevent the disease from spreading. Once you have removed the damaged roots, replant them in fresh soil.

When replacing the soil, be sure to use well-draining pot soil to help move excess water away from the roots. Once repotted, water lightly and place in a sunny location. Soils should be allowed to dry out between waterings. The plant should grow out of the root rot, and the smell should diminish over time.

Cut Leaves

Succulent plant is open with gel at the bottom of the opening. The opening is bright green and moist gel is at the bottom.
Aloe plants will smell when their leaves are cut.

When you first cut the leaves, the plant will ooze a slimy, yellow liquid. The liquid that oozes from the leaves is called aloin. The odor can smell similar to a body odor or a hint of garlic or onion. This aloin is separate from the gel and acts as a laxative but usually drains away.

The aloin is what gives the plant a foul odor after its cut, not the gel. The smell usually subsides as the aloin dries, and the plant forms a callus over the cut. There isn’t much to do to prevent this aloin from smelling.

The smell will dissipate over time, and you shouldn’t notice a smell. If your plant still smells bad after the leaf has healed, there is possibly another problem causing the smell. You can always place the plant in a well-ventilated area to remove the smell.

Poor Draining Soil

Overwatered succulent plant sitting in moist dark soil. The plant has three leaves and the soil is too moist. The succulent is yellow. The pot is a dark red color and sits on top of a white dish to collect water.
When plants sit in poor draining soil, the water will collect and sit at the roots.

If soils are poor draining, they can collect water, and over time this water can begin to produce an odor. If water isn’t able to drain from the container, it can collect at the bottom of the pot.

Stagnant water at the bottom of a container can begin to smell bad quickly. It is important to plant in a container that has proper drainage holes.

Proper drainage holes will allow excess water to leave the pot and help prevent standing water. Your pot should have at least one drainage hole, if not more. If your pot has drainage holes and your soil is still struggling to drain water, it is time to change the soil.

Changing the soil in your pot can be one of the best things you do for your plant. It can fix more problems than poor drainage. Replace soils with well-draining soil, such as succulent or cactus soil. These soils contain sand to help increase drainage.

Too Much Water

An overwatered aloe plant is planted in a white ceramic pot. It sits next to another plant with a ceramic pot on a wooden table.
Plants that are overwatered can be susceptible to diseases and other problems.

Overwatering is a common mistake Aloe Vera gardeners make. It will often cause water-soaked spots on the leaves. These spots are soggy and soft to the touch. The entire leaf will appear as it is saturated with water and, over time, will turn mushy.

When this happens, your plant can produce an odor from the decaying leaves. This is easily preventable. This succulent plant loves drier soils, so only water every couple of weeks or when soils are dry 2 inches below the surface.

You can remove these mushy leaves and discard them in the trash. The plant will heal the cut leaves, and the odor should disappear. If water-soaked leaves continue, consider changing soils to help increase drainage.

Natural Scent

Plant in soil up close with green fleshy leaves. The plant is young and the leaves are thin. The succulent has many small plants growing at the base.
Aloe plants give off a natural scent.

If you are noticing an onion or garlic smell, it could just be its natural perfume. The plant typically doesn’t smell unless cut or damaged, but occasionally it can produce a natural odor without being cut or damaged.

The variety of aloe you grow can smell more potent than others. Aloe Vera ‘Chinensis’ has a more noticeable smell than other varieties. The smell may be more pronounced if the plant is kept in a confined space with poor airflow.

If you are concerned about the smell, you can choose a variety that has less of an odor. You can also place the plant in a more open space to allow the scent to dissipate. Placing in an open room with good air circulation may improve the smell of the plant.

Dying Leaves

Succulent plant with dying leaves is planted in a white container. Several of the leaves are healthy, but a couple are turning brown and dying.
Dying leaves on succulents can cause problems, including pungent smells.

Like most plants, there comes a time when part of the plant is finished, and it begins to die. There isn’t much to do to prevent this, and it is healthy for the plant. Once you notice dying leaves, it is best to prune them from the plant.

If you allow the leaves to become brown and mushy, they begin to smell and create an odor. If dead leaves are allowed to lay on the soil for long periods of time, mold can develop. Most soil and dying leaf matter are excellent conditions for developing mold. Mold can bring along a foul odor and work its way onto the plant.

Keeping the plant pruned and soils clean will improve the overall health of your plant. You should need to prune too often but keep an eye out for leaves that are beginning to decay. Catching these decaying leaves early will help revitalize the plant and help avoid foul smells.

Insects

Small insect crawling on green leaves of succulent plant. The snail is crawling up the side of the plant leaves as it grows.
When insects infest a plant, it can cause plants to decay, and smell.

An insect infestation can lead to your plant smelling awful. Sucking insects such as aphids can cause the plant to develop mushy spots or mold on the leaves. These insects produce honeydew that adherence to the plant. If the honeydew sits on the leaves in the right conditions, it can create moldy spots.

These moldy spots can lead to a rotten smell. If you believe your plant is infested with insects, you need to take action quickly. You will want to remove your plant from others in your home. You can begin treatment once you identify the insect with your preferred method of treatment.

Once you have treated the plant and there are no signs of infestation, you can place the plant back in its original location. Plants that are stressed or weak are more susceptible to insect infestations. Provide ideal growing conditions to keep insects at bay.

Final Thoughts

Aloe Vera is naturally a low-maintenance plant, but when provided improper care, it can develop problems. You should never have an overly pungent-smelling plant. If your Aloe Vera smells terrible, you need to take action quickly to determine the problem.

Most common problems are quickly treatable. Once conditions are adjusted, your plant should grow out of its foul smell and back into the lovely houseplant it was meant to be!

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