Why Does My African Violet Smell Bad?

Are you wondering why your African violet smells bad? If yes, then this article is exactly what you are looking for. In the next paragraphs, we are going to explain to you the main reasons behind a foul-smelling African violet.

The main cause of bad-smelling African violet is root rot. In fact, when the roots of this plant rot, they stop receiving oxygen and water which causes them to sie and emit a strong unpleasant odor.

Root rot also can have multiple causes. Overwatering, poor drainage, and inadequate pot can all contribute to this issue.

In this article, we will go through all the causes of bad-smelling African violet as well as the solutions that you can implement in each case.

Le’s get started!

A woman selling the bad odor of an African Violet

What Causes African Violet to Smell Bad?

As we mentioned above, root rot is the main cause of bad-smelling African violet. Additionally, there are some factors that can contribute to this issue indirectly such as the degradation of peat moss and organic matter in the soil.

Let’s go over the factors that cause African violet to rot and eventually produce a bad smell.

Lack of Drainage

When you grow African violet in poorly draining soil, the roots will rot which will cause the plant to emit a bad odor.

Lack of drainage is probably one of the most common causes of root rot in houseplants. The soil should drain freely so that there is no standing water.

If the soil is not draining properly, the roots will not be able to absorb water and nutrients as they should. This can have a drastic impact on your plant as it may die completely if you keep giving it water while the soil holds most of it.


If you have a drainage problem, mulch and peat moss can help. These products create a physical barrier that helps water drain quickly out of the soil.

Mulching is very helpful for keeping the soil around your plants clean and free of weeds. It also prevents erosion and keeps the soil moist but not soggy.

On the other hand, peat Moss and Perlite have similar purposes. They are porous materials that allow water to filter into the soil rather than sit on the surface.

If you found this content helpful, don’t hesitate to check our latest article about droopy African violet.

Inadequate Pot

Growing African violet in a pot that does not have drainage holes will force water to sit in the bottom. This will cause the roots to stop getting oxygen and rot.

Example of Plastic Pots without Drainage

The main category of pots that cause root rot is plastic pots that do not have drainage holes. Plastic pots tend to have a greater risk of root rot as they are not porous. Additionally, when these pots do not come with drainage holes, they will not allow water to escape from the soil. Therefore, the roots will not receive enough oxygen and rot.


Good drainage is essential to having healthy houseplants. It allows water to circulate through the soil and avoid waterlogging problems. In order to offer good drainage, use pots that are made from porous materials and have drainage holes such as clay and terracotta pots.

If a plastic pot is the only solution that you have, then make sure that you dig a few holes in the bottom of it before using it for growing African violet.

Click here to check our latest article about soil acidity preferences for an African violet.


If you give your African violet more water than it needs, then this plant will rot no matter which soil or pot you are using.

If you keep watering your African violet too much, it will start rotting. You can notice that the leaves of the plant will become yellow and wilted. 


To prevent overwatering, you should only water your African violet when it is really needed. Usually check the soil using your finger before watering. If it feels dry to the touch, then you can add water to this plant.

Degradation of Organic Matter in the Soil

Soil organic matter is what gives your plants their nutrients. It’s also what keeps the soil loose and helps it retain moisture. But over time, your soil’s organic matter will decompose and break down, causing it to have a bad smell.

After degradation, the organic matter becomes compacted and clogged which creates a breeding ground for bacteria. These bacteria, along with fungi, can start producing unpleasant odors, similar to what you might find in an animal’s waste.


The only way to prevent the process of organic matter degradation for African violet is to re-pot this plant each year.

Every year, by the end of winter, you should prepare fresh potting soil for your African violet and re-pot it. This can be an occasion also to check if the plant is root bounded and change the pot as well.

This will also help the plants to have a good root environment and supply them with the nutrients they need.

Are you interested in using LED lights for African violet? Read this article before doing so.

How to Stop African Violet from Smelling Bad?

To stop African violet from smelling bad, you should repot into new potting soil. But before repotting, you should check if the problem is caused by root rot or degradation of organic matter.

African violet that stopped smelling bad after repotting

If the issue is caused by root rot, then you will need to cut all the rotten roots before repotting the plant. On the other hand, if the problem is caused by the degradation of organic matter in the soil then you can directly transfer the plant to the new pot.

The following table includes the steps that you should follow in each situation:

Cause Bad Smelling African VioletSolution
Root Rot1. Get the plant out of the pot.
2. Loosen and clean the roots.
3. Cut the dead roots.
4. Let the plant dry in a sunny area.
5. Disinfect the pot.
6. Prepare a new potting soil.
7. Add the fresh mix to the pot and plant your African violet in it.
8. Water the plant thoroughly.
Degradation of Organic Matter in the Soil1. Get the plant out of the pot.
2. Clean the roots using water.
3. Prepare a new potting soil.
4. Add the potting soil to the pot.
5. Plant your African violet in the fresh potting mix.
How to Stop African Violet from Smelling Bad

Are you dealing with a leggy African violet? Read this article to discover how to fix this issue.

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