Like most other eukaryotes, plants do not live alone but in close association with a diverse microflora. These plant-associated microbes contribute to plant health in many different ways, ranging from modulation of hormonal pathways to direct antibiosis of plant pathogens. Over the last 15 yr, the importance of volatile organic compounds as mediators of mutualistic interactions between plant-associated bacteria and their hosts has become evident. This review summarizes current knowledge concerning bacterial volatile-mediated plant protection against abiotic and biotic stresses. It then discusses the translational potential of such metabolites or of their emitters for sustainable crop protection, the possible ways to harness this potential, and the major challenges still preventing us from doing so. Finally, the review concludes with highlighting the most pressing scientific gaps that need to be filled in order to enable a better understanding of: the molecular mechanisms underlying the biosynthesis of bacterial volatiles; the complex regulation of bacterial volatile emission in natural communities; the perception of bacterial volatiles by plants; and the modes of actions of bacterial volatiles on their host. © 2019 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2019 New Phytologist Trust.