What to do if your plant’s soil smells

What to do if your plant’s soil smells

Want to learn more about Smelly soil

Get individual care schedule and reminders for your plant with our app Planta. Never kill a plant again!

Planta on the app storePlanta on google play

Smelly soil in your houseplants can be unpleasant, and can be caused by a number of different reasons. Luckily, it’s quite simple to fix this!


Excess water in the pot Giving a plant too much water or fertilizer that ends up staying in the pot is the most common reason for why a soil starts to smell. The smell itself isn’t usually harmful to your plants, however, overwatering can lead to further problems such as root rot, so if you think that your plant is getting too much water, it may be a good idea to keep an eye on its overall health too.

To get rid of the smell, please try this:

  • Pour out any excess water and gently remove the plant from the pot - be careful with the roots!

  • Carefully squeeze out the water from the soil

  • Place your plant on paper or a towel and let it dry for a while before putting the plant back into the pot

  • If you like, you can also remove all the wet soil and repot it with new, healthy soil (remember to register this repotting task in Planta to get the care schedule updated). This may not be necessary, but can be a good way to ‘reset’ your plant if the soil is particularly wet and doesn’t seem to be drying out. However, note that repotting can be a stressful process for your plant

Next time you water, make sure that no water or fertilizer is left in the pot or on the tray for longer than 60 minutes to try and ensure that this issue doesn’t occur again. This is also a good practice in general to keep your plants healthy.

The smell of fertilizers If you open the fertilizer and smell it, does it smell the same as the soil? Some fertilizers don't smell like a flower meadow. This might be the cause of the smelly soil!

If the smell really bothers you, and doesn’t seem to be caused by a different issue, we would recommend trying a different fertilizer brand. Some smell a bit less than others, but it's a personal preference, so you can try searching for one that you can stand!

The smell of the soil most likely is not bad for your plant, but it can be an annoyance. You can always try repotting the plant with new soil in a pot which has very good drainage - this usually does the trick when nothing else seems to be the reason.

Smelly fertilizer


COULD THIS BE A SYMPTOM OF SOMETHING ELSE? Although the most likely reason for a smell in the soil is due to it being overwet, many soils also naturally contain various fungi that can give off a smell. These are typically harmless to your plants, so it’s nothing to worry about. However, if you want to you can allow the soil to air out a bit in order to combat this. By mixing the soil and exposing it to better airflow, you should be able to lessen the smell. If you do see visible mold on the soil surface, then you can scrape this off.

WILL ANY HARM BE DONE TO MY PLANT BECAUSE OF THIS? The soil smell itself shouldn’t have any direct effect on your plant. But, if your plant’s soil has been overly wet for too long, it may be at risk of developing root rot. When you remove the plant from its pot, check that the roots aren’t mushy. Alongside this, if the roots themselves smell, then unfortunately this probably means that your plant is past saving.