All worms are not equal. Even if a worm resembles an earthworm, it is not an earthworm just because it was found in a garden, yard, or plant container.
Earthworms aren’t usually damaging to plants. They are, on the contrary, beneficial, aerating and enriching the soil through their tunnels and castings. However, in pots, their main food source, the organic matter found in soil, is scarce, especially since most potting soils are mostly made of peat or coir (coco fiber), two slow-decomposing and mineral-poor materials that provide almost nothing that an earthworm can eat.
The worms will then begin to devour the young roots of the plant developing in the pot, which might obstruct or even destroy the plant’s growth.
What Are Earthworms?
Earthworms are invertebrates that burrow into the soil and aerate it, which speeds up the decomposition of matter, which is extremely nourishing for plants. They eat and discard their weight in food and soil every day while burrowing, and they frequently graze on rotting plants and other organisms.
Earthworms come in a variety of species and have different effects on the soil. The shallow-soil burrowing habit of red wigglers is considered epigenic, whereas the deep-soil burrowing habit of the common earthworm is called anecic.
Their castings are beneficial in both cases if they have enough food in the potting soil to feed on; otherwise, they will turn on the plant’s young roots and consume them.
What Caused Worms To Infest My Potted Plants?
When your potted plants are outside throughout the summer, you’re more likely to find worms in them. After crawling in the potting soil while outside, worms become prisoners inside the pot because the container is hauled back indoors in the fall.
On the other hand, white microscopic worms come from the fungus gnat larvae while the black fly flies around or crawls into your plant. They can devour the plant’s organic elements, as well as the root tissues of young plants.
Common Types of Worms Found in Potted Plants
Pot Worms (Enchytraeids)
If you’ve seen any small white worms in your potted plants, it’s most likely a pot worm infestation. As the name ‘Potworms’ implies these worms are only found in containers or pots. They have a little, creepy, white appearance and are segmented siblings of normal earthworms. They’re sometimes confused with baby red wigglers, but they’re not the same thing.
The nightcrawler is the most well-known earthworm; it is a brownish-grey worm that is generally found in a yard or garden, or on the cement after heavy rain. They’re more correctly called Canadian or European nightcrawlers.
Even though Canadian nightcrawlers can grow up to 14 inches in length, they rarely survive in warmer climates. European nightcrawlers are smaller than their larger counterparts, reaching just around 3 inches in length.
Because they burrow in the soil and carry nutrients as they go, nightcrawlers are topsoil and subsoil inhabitants. Their continual movement aerates the soil and allows oxygen to reach the roots. Aside from aeration, the nightcrawler will also leave castings behind as it moves.
They are known as nightcrawlers because they come to the surface to eat at night, then return to the subsurface, mixing nutrients from the subsoil to the topsoil and back again.
Red Wigglers (Eisenia Foetida)
The red wiggler is an earthworm related to the nightcrawler. These wiggly animals are not the same as their cousin when it comes to plants and soil. The red wiggler is a worm that decomposes organic matter.
They’re in charge of keeping the garden and plants clean and healthy. They will devour items that are dead or dying, such as leaves and roots. The castings produced by the decomposition of organic waste are nutrient-dense. They are also great when it comes to aeration.
The name “red wiggler” comes from their color. They have a yellow tail and are red-brown body color. They can reach 2 to 3 inches in growth. Because it is warm and moist, they will mostly stay in the topsoil and thrive in a potted plant setting. They are also more easily reproduced than other worms.
Potted Plants Worms You Should Get Rid Of
Grub Worms And Cutworms
The larvae stages of several adult beetles, butterflies, and moths are known as grub worms and cutworms. Caterpillars are another name for cutworms. Because they eat live organic materials such as healthy leaves, stems, and roots, both grub worms and cutworms will swiftly destroy your plants. Cutworms also spend more time in the larvae stage, causing more harm.
A grub worm is a huge white or grey worm with six front legs. They reach a length of 2 to 3 cm and curl into a ‘C’ shape. Caterpillars, also known as cutworms, come in a variety of colors and sizes, with some even appearing furry or spiny. They always have three pairs of legs and various appendages. Some of them are poisonous or stingy, so use caution when handling them.
Millipedes attack your plant only when it is sick or dying. These nasty crawlies may be more bothersome to you than they are to your plant. They are most at ease in the highly moist atmosphere of a potted plant. Millipedes have a brownish-black body with a 1-inch spherical, rigid body and many legs.
Nematodes, unlike earthworms with segmented bodies, are exceedingly small and often difficult to spot. Their bodies are slim and white, with pointy tips. Because they prey on bacteria, fungus, and other soil-damaging insects, most nematodes are beneficial to the plant.
However, parasitic nematodes can cause harm to your plants. They can get access to a plant’s inside or inflict damage on the outside by attacking all parts of the plant. You can see unusually stunted growth or dead spots. They are most commonly found in outdoor plants and gardens.
Heating the soil in a covered metal pan for 30 minutes until the temperature reaches 180°F is an easy technique to get rid of parasitic nematodes. And the soil will be ready for use once it has cooled.
How To Prevent Worms From Infesting Your Potted Plants
Before bringing your houseplants back inside in the fall, soak their pots in a bucket of soapy water for about 20 minutes. Earthworms despise both water and soap and will try to escape by rising to the surface. Then you can pick them up and return them to the garden. Most other soil pests will be eliminated from the potting mix as well.
If you forgot to soak the plant before bringing it in, you may get rid of any worms by allowing the potting soil to dry before watering it again. That’s why earthworms are rarely found in succulents and other plant pots that are allowed to dry out completely on a regular basis.
Is it OK To Put Worms In My Planter?
You don’t need an entire worm in the pot even if worm castings are important to houseplants. There is another option. Instead of putting worms directly into your plants, just put your energy into a worm bin for vermicomposting. You could obtain a worm factory and begin to culture the castings, then place the castings on the plants, and your plants will thrive.
Potted plants are placed in pots for a reason, and that reason is that we want them close to our homes for aesthetic, medicinal, or air-purifying purposes. For these plants to grow in this enclosed setting, they require specific attention.
The easiest technique to obtain nutrients from worms to a potted plant is to make a vermicompost and use the worm castings as a foliar spray on the leaves as casting tea or adding it to the potting soil.