What Does A Cactus Smell Like?

Cactuses are super cool-looking and come in all sorts of shapes. They also smell super strong and like cactus. They smell like wacky tobacco. They smell like sweat.

They smell like bug spray. They smell a bit like a skunk. They smell a bit like a skunk and a skunk’s best friend.

Cactus plants come in beautiful shapes and sizes, and many have bright, colorful flowers that you could be tempted to smell.

Sometimes, the cactus leaves and stems also give off an odor, and there could be many reasons why the plant is giving off a smell.

Most Succulents Don’t Smell

Most succulents naturally don’t have a smell in every season. Some plants give off a sweet odor when they are in their flowering phase, but the odor quickly goes away when they bear fruit or when the flowering season is over.

Most cacti don’t give off a strong smell because they rely on the visual senses of the insects to pollinate them rather than the olfactory senses.

Some Flowering Cacti Do Smell

Some flowering cacti do give off a beautiful scent. They can make your house smell fresh and floral, giving you even more reason to adorn your personal spaces with more succulents. Some of the most wonderful smelling cacti include:

Queen Of The Night

The Queen of the Night has a distinct and absolutely wonderful, sweet smell that most people can easily pick up.

It blooms in the summer, and instead of giving off a scent all day long, this plant suddenly fills the air with its gorgeous scent at night.

Many people grow Queen of the Night in their homes to fill their house with that wonderful scent.

Cereus And Sansevieria

These flowers bloom at the night and give off a very strong smell. The Cereus, also known as Pitahaya, produces a bright, red fruit known as dragon fruit.

These plants have flattened, fleshy pads and green stems that can grow very tall. These plants are usually not kept in homes because of their sudden, strong smells.

Vanilla Cactus

The vanilla cactus gives off a sweet smell from its large flowers, which only open for one night. The plant can easily be grown in greenhouses, and succulent experts often grow them in their homes.

Orchid Cactus

Orchid cacti are also wild plants that give off a sweet smell that comes from large, white flowers. The smell helps in pollination since they mainly use the hummingbird moth.

The hummingbird moth is attracted to the smell of the orchid cactus and helps in pollinating it. Succulent experts can grow these cacti in greenhouses and bloom different colored flowers as well.

Unpleasant Cactus Smells

Sometimes you will notice an unpleasant or foul odor coming from your favorite cactus. While cacti often naturally give off unpleasant smells to keep predators away, sometimes the unpleasant odor could signal something else entirely. Common reasons for foul-smelling cacti include:


Under-watering or overwatering the cactus plant can cause its roots to rot. Overwatering the cactus plant can cause waterlogged conditions, which can cause decay in the roots and make the cactus smell.

Other than that, when a strong, harmful substance is absorbed by the plant’s roots, such as concentrated vinegar, it may also cause the roots to rot. Therefore, you have to be very careful when caring for a cactus since they are resilient but still need care and attention.

Pest Attack

If your cactus suddenly starts giving off a terrible smell, it might be because of a pest attack. Fungus gnats, for example, attack the stems when there is excess moisture in the cactus’s soil and result in the growth of fungus on the cactus.

This, in turn, could make the cactus smell bad. Many pests also live in the plant’s soil and attack the roots, which also causes the plant to smell terrible.

Natural Foul Odors

Some cactus species naturally smell awful. This includes the much-coveted starfish cactus. The starfish cactus produces large flowers with five petals that emit a bad odor.

Most unpleasant-smelling cacti smell like rotting meat and corpses. However, this smell also attracts insects to the flower and helps in pollinating them. Most people do not grow naturally stinky cacti in their homes.

Most bad-smelling cacti also only smell when their flowers are in bloom. In other seasons, even these cacti are odorless.

So if you find that your cactus smells bad, but you cannot quite figure out the reason, you should check if it is in bloom.

You can’t really do anything about cacti that naturally smell bad, so you might want to keep them away from the inside of your house and keep them in a greenhouse, maybe.

Other Reasons

There can also be other reasons why your cactus smells bad. These may include pets and rodents urinating in the soil of the cactus.

Urinating once or twice may not cause any odor, but if animals around the cactus have made it a habit to do their business in the plant, it may eventually start smelling quite awful. To prevent this, you can try to keep the cactus out of reach from your pets.

Constant use of stinky substances on the cactus can also permanently give it a bad smell. This includes substances like vinegar and rubbing alcohol which can be used to treat pests attacking the plant.

Using excessive compost and organic manure to fertilize your plant can also cause it to smell quite terrible.

This especially goes for moist fertilizer since it can also cause over-fertilization of the cactus and cause its roots to rot as well.

So keep your plants out of reach from your pets and prevent using a lot of stinky substances to take care of the cactus since they may override its naturally beautiful smell in the flowering season as well.

Keep in mind that cacti are very resilient plants and going overboard with their care can prevent them from smelling horrid.


Succulents are wonderful plants and taking care of them is an excellent hobby since they are so fascinating.

Many flowering cacti give off a wonderful smell that can freshen your house. Also, there could be any number of reasons why your cactus has suddenly started to smell bad, but there is usually a rational explanation since most cacti are odorless for most of the year.

Related Articles