Earthworms are beneficial to plants because they can aerate the soil and break down organic matter such as leaves into vital nutrients for plants to grow. Adding them to potted plants may seem like a good idea to help boost your plant’s growth.
Should you add earthworms to your potted plants?
Earthworms should not be added to potted plants since the soil used to pot the plant may not have enough food for them to grow and proliferate like ground soil or in a vermipost, they will eventually die or crawl out. You should use casting tea on the potted plant soil and as a foliar application on the plant.
Under the right conditions, earthworms will stay in a pot and continue to provide all the helpful benefits that are attributed to their presence in the soil.
In this article, we are going to explore beneficial and non-beneficial worms and the conditions that worms thrive best in, and if both plants and worms can survive when placed together in a potted environment.
I use this Miracle-Gro Potting Mix from amazon, which ensures my plants stay healthy long after repotting. You can find it by clicking here.
Can Earthworms Live in Potting Soil?
Worms cannot live in potting soil, unless if the right conditions exist. Potting soil is a term used for different kinds of specially formulated for flowering and potted plants and is often loose in texture to provide aeration for plants.
Earthworms love the following soil conditions
- Soil must be moist (not Soggy or dry)
- slightly acidic soil of pH (6.6 to 6.8)
- Have plenty of organic food.
- Soil must be cool
- Soil must be of a slightly loamy texture (not loose)
If you can get potting soil to a favorable condition for earthworms you may compromise the conditions that are favorable for the plant and may eventually kill the plant.
Are Worms Good or Bad for Plants?
Worms are good for plants depending on the type of worm in the soil.
Let’s take a look at earthworms. Earthworms are red to pink, long and slender type worms that love moist conditions because of their 80% body moisture composition.
Earthworms burrow through the soil and devour everything in their path. The microbes contained within the worm’s intestine are very beneficial for plants and whatever the worm eats comes out 10 times more beneficial for plants than what they have eaten.
Some worms have been known to eat other non-beneficial and parasitic organisms such as nematodes.
Other worms such as cutworms can have detrimental effects on the plant’s growth.
Cutworms curl their bodies around the stem and feed on it. This feeding causes the plant to be cut off just above the soil surface. Source.
Types of Worms in Potted Plants
Potted plants can attract different types of worms because the soil conditions are well suited for supporting different worm colonies.
As a result, potting soil may contain a variety of worms, without us even knowing. These worms can be both beneficial and also bad for plant growth.
Some of the good worms found in soil are:
- Earthworms or red wigglers –
As discussed these worms can be added or can be attracted to potting soil and can have multiple benefits (if they stay)
- Bacterial of fungal Nematodes –
Nematodes may be useful indicators of soil quality because of their tremendous diversity and their participation in many functions at different levels of the soil. These nematodes feed on both bacteria and fungi which are harmful to plants.
- Grub Worms
These worms exist as the larva stage of a beetle’s life cycle and can cause devastation by munching on the roots of your plants.
- Parasitic plant nematodes
There are several types of nematodes in this category and they all cause harm to plants and crops. These nematodes function in different ways from attacking plant roots to embedding themselves within the plant itself. (source)
They are –
- Stem and bulb nematodes
- Seed gall nematodes
- Foliar nematodes
- Pot worms –
Pot worms also add to soil aeration and the breakdown of organic matter into nutrients and are normally found in soil conditions that earthworms are not attracted to.
- Millipedes –
These worms pose no danger to plants and feed primarily on dead plant material, such as fallen leaves or old mulch. They in turn, also add beneficial nutrient to the soil.
How to Get Earthworms into Potted Plants Naturally?
Worms do not go into a potted plant naturally unless the plant is halfway buried into the soil in your garden and there is some type of food in the pot for the worms to eat.
To attract earthworms to a plant pot the right conditions must exist for the worms to survive.
Earthworms are made of 80% water and love to eat organic matter. For this reason, you should provide soil that is moist and not too soggy for them to breathe
- Use a loamy textured soil which is slightly acidic (pH 6.6 to 6.8)
- Use plenty of organic matter such as leaves and vegetable peels on the surface for the worms to eat
- Use organic mulch to keep the soil cool and moist
- Abstain from adding inorganic chemicals to the soil.
These types of conditions are hard to mimic in a potted environment. Even with the above-stated conditions achieved, worms will not just want to crawl into a potted plant.
The pot should be placed at least 3 inches into the bare dirt with holes at the bottom, to provide an entryway for the worms.
And that’s just being optimistic. Fingers Crossed!
How do you Get Rid of Earthworms in Potted Plants?
Firstly, you have to find out how the worms got into the potted plants in the first place.
If the worms were added with compost casting you may not have to worry about the worms as they are the beneficial type and would add a lot of value to the potted soil if they decide that they want to stay there.
Eventually, the worms would either leave for themselves or die since the potted soil will not have the right conditions for them to survive.
If the soil used when potting the plant came from the raw garden or topsoil you may have another type of worm that may actually cause damage to your plant rather than good.
These worms may include nematodes, cutworms, and caterpillars.
To get rid of non-beneficial worms from your potted plant you can employ the following methods.
- Mechanical method- Manually removing the worms with your hands
- Chemical Method – Spraying the soil with biological insecticide such as nematicides
- Biological methods – Employing the use of other insect species such as praying mantis, ladybugs and birds.
Can Too Much Earthworms be Bad?
If there are alot of earthworms naturally in the soil then that’s a really good thing, especially for the plants since the earthworms provide a lot of nutrients for the plants through their burrowing and eating habits.
In isolated cases where too much earthworm may not be good, is in forested areas where the worms eat most of the top dead leaves. The dead leaves are necessary for younger plants and seeds to germinate as it provides a cool moist environment for them to do so.
Unfortunately, this is the same environment that worms love and they would ten to flock to such areas.
Potted plants are planted in pots for a reason and that’s because we want them close to our dwelling for beautification, therapeutic, or because of their air-purifying properties. These plants require special care for them to thrive in this closed environment and we want the best for them.
Adding earthworms to the mix will be beneficial to them if the worms decide to stay. Depending on the potted plant, you can’t provide the right environment for both of them at the same time.
The best way to get the nutrients from the worms to a potted plant is to create a vermipost and use the castings from the worms (the byproduct or poop left behind after digestion) on the potted plants as a foliar spray on the leaves as casting tea or adding it to the potting soil.