It was Darwin who wrote in one of his best sellers (The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms) that “there are few animals that have had such an impact on the history of mankind as earthworms.”
It has been almost 140 years since then, and we still don’t know how many types of worms live on mother Earth.
However, if we narrow down our search to the types of worms in potted plants, it might be possible to shed some light on the subject. Even though we searched through tons of gardener forum posts, we came up with the answer.
Do you have a potted plant garden? You should stick to the rest of this post if the answer is positive.
Types of Worms in Potted Plants
If you have noticed some small white worms in your potted plants, it may be a potworm infestation.
The name ‘Potworms’ implies that this kind of worm lives only in containers or pots. Quite segmented, like typical ‘earthworms’ and with a white appearance, they are small and shriveled. There is a misconception that they are the same as baby worms, but they are quite different.
How to Identify?
When you see some tiny worms in potted plants, chances are it’s a potworm.
This type of worm invades in massive numbers and has a whitish body. You might find more than 2500 potworms in a square foot of container ground. However, this type of population does not clog the overall ecosystem of the pot soil.
Nature and Habitat
Enchytraeids, or potworms, like living in highly organic environments like containers and pots. They prefer slightly acidic environments by nature. Hence, they will spring up as soon as the container soil is amended with something acidic.
In terms of plant and soil effects, potworms are quite similar to earthworms in potted plants. Most of the time, they don’t harm living plants.
Here is a list:
- Aerates the soil and let plant roots breathe.
- Decomposes almost all sorts of organic materials in the pot.
- Helps in the composting process.
Potworms do not directly impact plant health in any way, as we have previously discussed. In time, though, their potential to grow massively in number could become an issue.
The population will have a clear competition for food and nutrition with other worms such as red wigglers if the population grows out of control. Therefore, other useful worms may not be able to perform their jobs properly. If this is the case, getting rid of worms from potted plants becomes imperative.
Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida)
Apparently, red worms feed on organic waste from your kitchen and garden, which you can then use to fertilize your plants.
Well, that also applies to plants in pots or containers.
“Eisenia foetida” is the scientific name for red wigglers. Earthworms are a significant species that can be used as a means of composting in worm bins.
It is a common characteristic of earthworms to dig in search of moist and warm environments. Consequently, red worms like warm environments like compost bins and potted plants, which explains why they thrive in them.
How to Identify
A red wiggler worm usually has a body length of 2-3 inches. Reddish-purpose colored, they have a physical appearance like their name implies. In more specific terms, yellow blemishes appear at the end of their bodies (tails).
Red wigglers, like all other earthworms in potted plants and beds, have a segmented body structure.
Nature and Habitat
In addition to being vegetarians, they have a strong sense of community. The leaves, kitchen scraps, garden waste, and other organic materials they consume are decomposable. By eating them, they transform the organic materials into humus that proves to be of great help to the plants.
Red wigglers have a shorter lifespan than other similar worms like Nightcrawlers. Additionally, they are capable of massive reproduction.
Red wiggler worms would behave quite well in your potted plants most of the time. Here is how:
- The organisms convert organic matter in the soil into rich and easy to digest (for the plants) nutrients.
- Due to the warm and moist environment of a potted environment, red wigglers do better in a potted environment than many other earthworms.
- The worms live near the surface of the soil, so they make a great compost bean companion.
- Although red worms do not reach that deep, they still provide a decent amount of aeration. By doing so, more oxygen is introduced into the soil.
- Increases the soil’s retention capacity and prevents soil compaction. The root gets to grow better and larger as a result of an impact.
The red worm does not pose a threat to plant health, as far as we are concerned. As with any overpopulation situation, the red wiggler populations might become congested if there are too many of them.
We can tell you with certainty that overpopulated potted plants can result in infestations as a result of grub worms. Your potted plant would be the last place you’d like to see grub worms. YES! That’s how harmful and bad they are.
In many cases, the larvae of those beetles are this worm, such as the Christmas Beetle, the African Black Beetle, the Pasture Cockchafer, and the Scarabs. The larvae of all of these beetles look similar, so they are known collectively as “Grub Worms.”.
How to Identify
There is a set of quick fact-checks to identify a Grub worm:
- It’ll come up in a whitish, plumpy body.
- Sized within 2-3 centimeters in a ‘C’ form.
- Have six legs on the top part and a grey bottom part.
Nature and Habitat
Under the ground, worm mothers lay their eggs two to five inches deep. Approximately 30 days after the grubs emerge, they begin eating themselves. Microorganisms are their primary source of feeding in the early stages of growth. After a few more days, they begin to eat the roots of the plants. The earlier you take action to resolve the grub worm problem in potted plants, the better.
These worms go through the larval stage for several months, mostly in the winter. The caterpillars turn into adult beetles in the spring.
Grub worms are one of the most damaging worms for potted plants, so they bring nothing good to them. However, if you are growing legumes such as beans or peas, they may not be affected by an infestation of grub worms.
Potted plants are equally damaged by these nasty-looking pets. The following are the most important harms they cause to plants:
- A heavy infestation of a Grub worm can eat up the whole root of a plant. Result? Death of your potted love.
- If the plants are not mature enough, the infestation might affect their growth and nutrition very badly.
- Once matured, grubs turn into beetles that eat up the plant leaves right away.
- In most of the cases, grub worms will make you to get rid of the entire soil of the pot and re-pot the plant over again.
There is a good chance that you will have to learn how to get rid of worms in potted plants if any of the symptoms above occur.
The millipede is another ‘vegetarian’ pest that we must discuss. Those who are not familiar with them might remember seeing a black bug with hundreds of legs crawl under containers or leaves.
Many millipede kind are known for their neutral nature, which makes them harmless to plants. Due to their affinity for wet environments, they are more useful under container plants rather than in dry and cool environments outdoors.
How to Identify
Plants within a houseplant or container have a cylindrical body shape with a tube-like body of 1″ long. They are blackish brown in color.
They can be easily identified by their segmented body and a few legs at the ends of each segment. Another interesting trait is that when they are hampered in their movement, they twist into a spiral structure.
Nature and Habitat
Millipedes love damp, wet and humid environments, which explains why they prefer to hide under leaves or in cracks during the day and come out at night.
Because a container plant’s environment is too moist, millipedes are quite attracted to it, especially when it’s kept out on the lawn throughout summer. The container soil then becomes a haven for these insects during summer.
Millipedes are one of the least harmful types of worms that can invade containers.
- Unless the plant health is in a sober state, they will not feed on it.
- Millipedes don’t have the ability to sting or bite.
Although millipedes are not harmful to plants, they can be annoying in some cases, such as:
- Getting them into the house can result in serious discomfort for the people who live there.
Nematodes are small and simple parasitic worms that are quite different from earthworms and other worms in the list. This group includes plants, animals, and even humans.
It is possible to find plant-parasitic nematodes in your potted garden. These nematodes can attach to several parts of the plant, including the soil, roots, foliage, and flowers.
Apart from soil-parasitic nematodes, there are several other diverse types of nematodes which are not damaging. For example, those that feed on bacteria, fungi, and other microbes. We will elaborate on this aspect later.
How to Identify
Earthworms differ from soft-bodied animals in that they do not have segmented bodies. They have no legs and resemble small, whitish tubes.
The body size is 50µm(1/500th of an inch) in diameter and the length sticks to 1/20 inches on usual.
Nature and Habitat
Nematodes are classified into five distinct categories, according to their preferred food sources:
- Bacterial feeder: Most common in agricultural soil.
- Fungal feeder: Lives on fungi and similar food.
- Plant parasites: Dangerous for plants.
- Predator: Feed on protozoa and soil nematode.
- Feed on several food kinds, based on condition and availability.
As a rule, the harmful kind of nematodes (plant parasites) do not stick to the potting soil that much. However, it is easy to transfer them from your garden bed to your houseplants if you are used to using garden soil as potting soil.
As long as you only use bacterial and fungal nematodes, there are a number of benefits for your potted plants:
- Bacterial feeding nematodes are responsible for converting soil nutrients into inorganic forms for the roots of plants.
- By grazing on old fungal and bacterial colonies, Nematodes promote nutrient decomposition and cycling in soils.
- Whenever there is a bacterial nematode in a container system, nitrogen mineralization occurs at a much higher rate.
Plant-parasitic nematodes are pests that feed on the roots of plants. Some of these nematodes stick to the roots, while others penetrate the roots and damage them.
What to Know Before Putting Worms in Pots/Containers?
Now that you know all the types of worms, the question is- can you put worms in potted plants?
Even if worms are good or neutral for your plants, it is best to be cautious before you put them into the pot. Here are a few concerns that you should be aware of:
Make Sure They Find the Plant Roots ‘Organic’
Worms tend to enjoy eating organic materials in a potted soil. Examples of such materials are fallen leaves, wood or yard waste, kitchen waste, composted wood, moss and other organic materials.
Make sure the root system of your potted plant does not get on the worm’s dish while you are using them. That will, of course, instantly kill your plant.
The first thing you must do is study the worm in-depth, so that you can ensure it sticks to dead organic materials only. You should also provide an abundance of organic materials for the worms to eat, so that they do not get too hungry to consume the plant’s root.
Make Sure that They Aerate
By not burrowing into the soil to a sufficient depth, they do not reach the roots with enough oxygen (air), which is essential for plant growth.
A large number of worms (earthworms) can create tunnels in the soil, which eventually provide oxygen to the roots.
In addition, aeration loosens soil as the worm castings contribute to soil loosening. This in turn prevents the soil from becoming hard and compacted.
Worm Manure is a Must
Worm manure is one of the best organic fertilizers that you can use to feed plants, but many growers use worms only for that lucrative product. As a matter of fact, worm manures are the best organic fertilizers.
They don’t need to be aged or composted before providing instant growth boosts to plants as they are immediately consumable. Worm castings are considered an organic manure, similar to chicken manure but in a writ-less form.
In addition to eating up all the organic materials in the soil, worm overpopulation in a container plant can lead to other problems.
If there are more worms, they will create more worm casting through the soil. These will act as passive channels for the water to reach the dead bottom of the pot. So, when you water the plants, very little will get to the roots.