Are Earthworms Good or Bad for Potted Plants?

Are Earthworms Good or Bad for Potted Plants?

Do you have any houseplants? If you answered yes, you are probably contemplating several methods for keeping your plants healthy and growing strong. There are many methods for caring for your plants.

Adding earthworms to the soil or potting mix is a common technique of plant care. Is it secure? Which earthworms are often seen in potted plants? Should you supplement with more worms? Learn about worms in potted plants by reading this article.

Earthworms may be helpful to your potted plants. Worms assist in aerating the soil, which allows it to develop more rapidly. Take care to introduce the appropriate kinds of worms and to check the soil for worm overpopulation.

Earthworm Characteristics

The ordinary earthworm has a very different lifestyle than composting worms. The common nightcrawler, also known as the common earthworm or Canadian nightcrawler, is an anecic (or “out of the earth”) worm species that makes deep tunnels and visits the soil surface at night in search of food. Earthworms have a habit of returning to the same burrows and may dig up to 6 feet deep. If you see worm holes in the soil of potted plants and what look to be earthworms at the bottom of the pot, they are almost certainly the genuine article.

Composting Worm Characteristics

Composting worms, such as red wigglers, are epigeic, or “on the ground,” worms; they consume decaying material on the surface, converting it to worm castings that give beneficial nutrients to the soil. While some may consider them earthworms, their behaviors indicate otherwise. If red wigglers are present in the container, they will be at the surface or in a layer of loose plant debris or compost towards the top, rather than in a deep hole, as their burrowing cousins do.

Worms Associated with Potted Plants

It is not uncommon to discover worms or creatures that resemble worms in your pots. While some are helpful to your plant, others are harmful. How can you tell if a worm is helpful or harmful to your potted plants? The following are some of the most frequent worms seen in potted plants, along with their impact on the plant.


Who is unfamiliar with earthworms? They are ubiquitous and are often considered to as a farmer’s best buddy. Earthworms come in a variety of varieties and perform a variety of functions. Two instances are as follows:

  • Composting Worms: These worms consume decaying materials, hastening the decomposition process. They benefit your plants because they consume dead leaves, roots, and other organic matter and excrete casting that is nutrient-dense for your plants. The red wiggler is an example of a composting worm (Eisenia fetida)
  • Worms that live in the topsoil or subsoil: They are most often seen in gardens and around plants. They dig into the earth and feed on bacteria, fungus, and humus, among other things. They benefit plants by aerating the soil via their digging activities (which gives the root of your plant access to oxygen). They also contribute to soil aeration by eating decaying materials in the soil (although, they are not as effective as composting worms). The potworm is an example of a dirt worm (Enchytraeidae family).

You may include earthworms into your container plants. If you did not add earthworms to your pots but are able to locate them, this may indicate that the soil is nutrient-dense.


Nematodes are uncommon in container plants. While the majority of nematodes are free-living and assist in nutrient cycling, the plant-parasitic nematodes are of concern to farmers.

Plant-parasitic nematodes live in plants’ roots. If your plant is severely infected, plant-parasitic nematodes may destroy it.

As root-dwelling worms, plant-parasitic nematodes cause damage to the root tissues of your plant, making it more difficult for it to absorb nutrients and water from the soil. Root-knot nematodes, pratylenchus, and soybean cyst nematodes are all examples of plant-parasitic nematodes.

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Worms, including cutworms and grubworms

Cutworms are insect larvae such as butterflies and moths. They are found on the leaves and stems of plants. Additionally, they are referred to as caterpillars.

These insects are very detrimental to your plants since they do nothing but eat. They reproduce after they molt and become adults; the females then fly to another plant to deposit their eggs. They are capable of destroying your vegetation.

Grubworms are beetle larvae. They feed on leaves, stems, and roots, as well as any soft tissue they come upon. They are more destructive than cutworms since they develop slowly, which means they will remain on your plants for an extended period of time (except you remove them).

Where Did the Negative Worms Originate?

Where did worms such as nematodes, grubworms, and others originate? If you wish to prevent worms in your potted plants, you must first determine their source. Among their sources are the following:

  • Worms entered your container plants via other infested plants.
  • You planted in soil that is infested with plant-parasitic nematodes.
  • You left your plants outside during the summer, which attracted insects such as butterflies, moths, and beetles, which laid their eggs on them.

Will an Overabundance of Worms Affect Plants?

Yes. Everything in excess is detrimental. If your plant becomes infested with dangerous worms in sufficient numbers, it will die because it will be unable to replace old tissues at the rate at which the worms consume them.

A high density of earthworms in a container indicates that the soil is excessively rich or teeming with microorganisms such as bacteria, fungus, and so on. When there are too many earthworms in your container, the rivalry becomes too intense, and they may nibble away at the tender portions of your plant’s root.

A few individuals have expressed concern that earthworms are wreaking havoc on their plants. Earthworms cause harm to plants only when their number exceeds the capacity of the soil in which they reside.

In a natural setting, the worms have space to expand as their number increases, and nature has a way of balancing things out. However, in a potted plant, their numbers may become too numerous for the plant’s health.

Increase Worm Benefits

Rather of immediately putting worms in houseplants, construct a vermicomposting, or worm composting, bin that produces a nutrient-dense material to incorporate into potted plant soil. A worm bin is a vented container that is sufficiently deep to prevent worms from climbing out. Worm bedding made of shredded, crumpled newspaper and corrugated cardboard offers a perfect environment for worms to burrow. A trace of dirt or broken eggshells serves as a digestive help. Food leftovers from fruits and vegetables, as well as decaying materials such as dead leaves, are consumed by the worms. Red wigglers are excellent for vermicomposting, which converts waste into plant nourishment. As a natural fertilizer, combine worm castings — the byproduct of worm digestion — with potted plant soil.

Should You Remove Worms Discovered in Potted Plants?

It is situational. If the worms are helpful, you should let them alone. Otherwise, remove the worms to prevent them from wreaking havoc on your plants.

The following are safe ways to prevent and manage dangerous worm infestations:

Elimination of Negative Worm Infestation

  • Instead of dirt, use a bought potting mix. When you do not use soil, it is much simpler to avoid worm infestation (In which they can be found). Purchased potting mix components are worm-free and will stay worm-free until the plant is exposed to worm sources.
  • If using natural soil in a container is necessary, bake it beforehand. Certain experienced gardeners who live in areas infested with plant-parasitic nematodes cleanse their soil prior to using it for container plants. To sterilize your soil, put it in a metal pan and cover it, then set the pan on the burner. Remove it from the heat source after about 30 minutes (or when it reaches 180°F (82.2°C). When the earth gets cold, you may plant on it.
  • Plant Inside or in a Greenhouse: Growing your plants indoors or in a greenhouse minimizes the amount of insects that may fly to them. Indoor planting is particularly beneficial since you can regulate environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and so forth.
  • Before bringing your plants inside for the winter, check the potting soil for dangerous worms. Repot the plant if you discover worms in the container and do not want to retain them.
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Control of Negative Worms

There are many methods for reducing dangerous worm populations in your plants. Listed below are a handful of the most prevalent.

  • With your hands, separate them.
  • Insecticides or nematocides may be used.
  • Isolate the diseased plant to prevent the spread of the infection.
  • Incorporate praying mantises into your container plants.
  • Employ birds such as hens, ducks, and others to consume the worms.

What You Should Know Before Placing Worms in Containers/Pots

After learning about all the many kinds of worms, the pressing issue is: Can you put worms in potted plants?

Whether a worm is beneficial or simply neutral for your plants, you should exercise caution before adding a few to the pot. Here are a few points to consider:

Ascertain That They Discover ‘Organic’ Plant Roots

Generally, the majority of worms prefer to consume organic matter in a potted soil. Among these things are fallen leaves, plant debris, culinary trash, composted wood, and moss, among others.

When employing worms in potted plants, take care that the worms’ dish does not come into contact with the plant’s root system. This, of course, will immediately destroy the plant.

All you need to do is thoroughly research the worm and guarantee that it will consume only dead organic matter. Additionally, you must provide a lot of organic food for the worms to avoid them being too hungry to consume the plant root.

Assure That They Are Aerated

Worms that do not dig the soil to a sufficient depth provide insufficient air (oxygen) to the plant roots, which is necessary for the plant’s development.

On the other hand, a large number of worms (earthworms) are capable of tunneling through soils. And this ultimately provides the roots with the oxygen they need.

Another advantage of aeration is that the worm castings produced by the worms help to loosen the soil. As a result, the earth does not get compacted and hard.

Worm Manure is Required

For many growers, the only purpose of incorporating worms into a container plant is to get the profitable ‘Worm manure’ for their plants. Indeed, worm manures are one of the finest organic fertilizers for your plants.

Unlike many other organic manures, they do not need aging or composting prior to application to plants. Worm castings are ‘immediately’ edible by plants and give them with an instantaneous growth boost.

Prevent Population Growth

Apart from consuming all organic matter in the soil, there are many disadvantages to worm overpopulation in container plants.

Increased worm populations result in increased worm casting across the soil. They will serve as passive conduits for water to reach the pot’s dead bottom. As a result, when you water the plants, very little water reaches the roots.

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Is It Necessary to Include Earthworms in Your Potted Plants?

As previously mentioned, a healthy population of earthworms benefits your plants.

  • Some of the advantages of earthworms include aerating the soil for your plants’ roots and providing nourishing castings.
  • The following are some reasons why you should include earthworms into your container plants:
  • Earthworms transform a wet soil into one that is well-drained.
  • If you are searching for a low-cost source of fertilizers for your plants, look no further.
  • If your plant’s roots are exhibiting symptoms of oxygen deprivation.

How to Maintain a Healthy Population of Earthworms in Your Potted Plants

If the circumstances are favorable, earthworms will remain in your potted plants. Earthworms like a nutrient-dense, moist (but not wet) soil. According to NC State University, the following are some methods for keeping the worms in the pot:

  • Regularly water the plant.
  • Prevent worm overpopulation.
  • Leave the plant’s dead leaves on the container.
  • Perforate the pot to prevent it from retaining excessive water.
  • Earthworms despise high temperatures, therefore the container should be kept in a cool location.
  • Avoid using an excessive amount of inorganic fertilizer, since this can burn your crop and worms.
  • Earthworms, like certain plants such as tomatoes and peppers, like slightly acidic soil (pH 7.2).

Eliminating Earthworms and Other Pests from Your Potted Plants

If your potting soil has an excessive number of earthworms, you will need to eliminate some of them.

There are many simple methods for removing earthworms and bugs from your potted plant.

  • Watering down your potted plant.
  • Dehydration of the soil.

If you have an infestation of worms or bugs and are unable to remove them, overwatering your plant may help eliminate them.

If it does not resolve the issue, try immersing your pot in soapy water for about 20 minutes.

Pests and worms will rise to the surface, making identification simpler.

If your plant is capable of withstanding less watering, you may let the soil entirely dry up. This will result in the emergence of worms and pests from the soil in quest of moister ground. You will be able to identify them. (Adapted from Laidback Gardener)

An Alternative

After selecting your different earthworms, you may construct a worm composting container instead of putting them to a potted plant. Red wigglers, in particular, thrive in this habitat, and it is a more effective method of preventing worm overpopulation in a potted plant. The red wiggler consumes a wide variety of waste materials.

A little amount of soil and other specialized materials added to your composting bin creates the ideal habitat for worms to flourish. You will need the following supplies:

A container with a deep ventilation system

Newspaper shreds and corrugated cardboard

Decomposing leaves or plant materials


Scraps of fruit and vegetables

Once your compost pile is established, you may add worms to it to produce the ideal compost for your potted plants!


Worms may either benefit or harm the health of your plants, depending on the kind of worm. To ensure a healthy harvest, include the appropriate number of helpful worms into your potted plants. Beneficial worms include red wigglers and pot worms.

Plant-parasitic nematodes, cutworms, and grubworms are all examples of detrimental worms.

Detrimental worms may trigger the death of your plant by feeding on sensitive plant tissues.

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