Why Does My Aloe Plant Stink? 

Last Updated on April 21, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

Aloe is a hardy, tropical flowering plant that grows in places like the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Peninsula, parts of Africa, Madagascar, and Jordan.

There are over 500 varieties of Aloe Vera worldwide, with some considered an invasive species in many world regions. 

Foliage from some aloe varieties, however, has an unpleasant odor such as the smell of onions or garlic, possibly because aloe vera belongs to the same plant family.

So, the big question is are aloe plants supposed to emit a pungent odor, and if not, why does my aloe houseplant stink.

There are several reasons for the stench of your aloe plant, which is caused either due to the species and/or overall proper care and underlying issues with the plant.

In this article, we’ll highlight why certain species of aloe can smell as bad as a rotten onion, or have a strong garlic smell, and how to care for your aloe plant to prevent strong odor issues.

Why Does Your Aloe Vera Smell Bad?

Aloe has two types of sap-the watery fluid of plants. When you cut the leaves, the first one that flows out immediately is yellowish in color and has a very strong unpleasant odor like a stinky onion smell or strong or slight garlic smell.

The inner sap also called aloe latex is the gel and doesn’t have an onion-like scent but is soothing to your skin. The yellow sap should stop flowing after a bit, and is a common issue that isn’t harmful, so you’ll just have to keep your nose out for a bit.

The reason aloe vera smells like a common onion and garlic is that it is related to the same family of those plants, which is one of the reasons it also boasts similar medicinal properties.

What Does a Healthy Aloe Vera Plant Look Like?

Healthy aloe vera plants feature spiky, tall leaves that are a rich green color, and there’s a reason for concern if the leaves are turning yellowish color.

An aloe leaf of a healthy plant should only let out a foul odor when it’s cut such as when making aloe vera gel, aloe vera juice, etc., but if the flowers and foliage of the plant have smell of onion, then it could be a good sign of health issues with the plant.

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What to Do When You Notice A Bad Smell From Your Aloe Vera Stinky Plant?

If you notice an unpleasant odor from your aloe vera, you will have to investigate to determine what’s causing it. Aloe vera plants aren’t malodorous when healthy, but only let out an onion-like smell when you cut the entire leaves or when in distress.

The good news is that an aloe vera plant with a strong odour issue can, in most cases, be remedied in a few steps and with a little effort.

The first thing to do if you notice an unpleasant smell or very strong odor stemming from your aloe vera plant is to gently dig it out of the pot with a spade or similar tool, and set it on a paper towel.

Aloe Vera Root Rot

Root damage is one of the most common plant diseases in aloe plants and typically occurs when the soil is over-saturated with excess water and is one of the main reasons aloe leaves and plants let out a stinky smell.

Limp leaves in your aloe vera plants are a good indication of root rot. Aloe vera is an easy-to-grow succulent that can go for long periods without water.

Causes of Root Damage and Rotten Smell

Frequent watering

Aloe plants store water for long periods of time, therefore frequent watering isn’t required, but once a week or so is ideal. Check the soil before you water it to see if it’s dry or wet, and only water if the soil feels dry. Wet soil should be avoided at all times.

Soil may dry out faster during the hottest times of the day, which is why it’s important to check the soil often and adhere to an aloe plant watering guide and schedule.

When you overwater your aloe plants, the soil suffers from a lack of oxygen, which causes the death of the roots.

Just like humans, plant roots require oxygen to survive. Aloe plant leaves extract carbon dioxide from the air to make their food like sugars and starches, but they also need oxygen to stay healthy, which is obtained via the roots.

Small container

You may have not paid attention to this, but container size matters, and a small container will entangle the roots at the bottom in a tight ring.

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When you water an aloe plant that’s in a small container, the soil retains the moisture for a while, and makes water drainage difficult. This not only leads to a shortage of oxygen for the roots, but also encourages fungal growth.

Fungal growth

Root damage in your aloe houseplant can also be caused by various fungi including armillaria mellea. As the oxygen-starved roots die due to overwatering and poorly drained soil, soil fungus develops, and can remain dormant in the soil for a long time period.

There are several antifungal products and common household products available to prevent and get rid of fungi and the resulting stinky aloe smell, but as they say, “prevention is better than cure”.

Applying too much fertilizer

Just like overwatering, feeding your aloe vera plants too much and too often can cause root damage.

You should refer to a trusted aloe plant soil guide to determine how much and when to fertilize your plants. Overfertilizing aloe plants not only leaves them weak and vulnerable to pests and diseases, but also decreases their growth. 

Key Signs of a Rotting Aloe Vera Plant

Aloe plants require a few things to thrive – enough sunlight, very little water, and good drainage. Some other noteworthy indications of aloe plant rotting include:

Aloe leaves turning yellow and drooping

If your aloe houseplant leaves are turning yellow or look like rotting leaves, there’s a good chance of a developing root rot situation. Even though aloe is a drought-tolerant plant, it does need water, and not providing a sufficient amount can lead to root damage.

When you don’t water your aloe plant at regular intervals or when the top one inch of the soil is dry, the roots begin to shrink and shrivel, and eventually die.

A good sign of underwatering is when the an entire leaf or several leaves start turning yellow and start falling off. Adding to this, the leaves will also start losing their shiny green color, which may be followed by curling aloe leaves.

Spots on aloe leaves

When the roots of your aloe houseplant are affected by diseases, the leaves of the plant may turn brown. The onset of fungal disease can also make your plant smell bad and turn brown in color over time.

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How to Check for Root Rot in Aloe Plant?

After you remove the aloe plant from its container and set it aside, check if the roots have a pungent smell, which is a sign of a bad aloe plant. The roots of a healthy aloe plant should be tan and white, and not black, brown and crumbly. 

You can generally fix root rot and eliminate that unpleasant aloe plant smell that’s similar to onion or chicken soup-like odor by replanting the plant.

How to Repot an Aloe Vera Plant With Root Rot?

To treat a rot root or many roots in an aloe plant, you need to remove the plant from its current container and repot it in a new plant container so that it can start growing healthy normal roots.

Aloe plants with root rot cannot thrive in their existing environment, because it can cause the individual pieces of aloe roots to develop the same fungus.

Get a new pot that’s disinfected, and big enough to accommodate your aloe plant, and make sure it has drainage holes. Add good draining potting soil to the pot, and put the aloe plant in it at the same depth as it was in the old pot.

How to Prevent Root Rot in Aloe Vera?

There are several ways to prevent root rot and smell of aloe plants starting with watering it on schedule, which is around once a week.

Next, ensure your aloe houseplant is getting the right amount of sunlight, which is an area that receives direct sunlight.

Although it’s not necessary, it does help changing pots as your aloe vera plant grows. When choosing the right pot for aloe vera, make sure it is big enough for your plant and has a number of drainage holes.

Final Thoughts

If you notice a mild onion or strong onion or garlic stench from your aloe plant, it’s probably a good indication of root rot.

You can fix root rot before it’s too late by repotting your aloe plant in a new container with fresh soil. The rotting aloe smell can also be caused when you cut the leaves and release the inner yellow liquid gel.

References:

https://www.portland.gov/trees/get-involved/news/2021/3/30/tree-physiology-primer-all-about-roots#:~:text=Roots%20need%20oxygen%2C%20too!,little%20pockets%20called%20soil%20pores.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22260137/