If you’re a gardener, it’s easy to forget that there are other living things in your potted plants… besides the plants!
And sometimes those little creatures can be more than just pests – they can actually help your garden thrive.
The types of worms in potted plants you might find include:
- Potworms (Enchytraeids)
- Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida)
- Grub Worms
- Parasitic Nematodes
In this article, we’ll discuss these 5 types of worms found in potted plants in more detail and what they do for your plant – both the benefits and the disadvantages
What Types of Worms Will You Find in Potted Plants?
1. Potworms (Enchytraeids)
Potworms are small white worms that live in the first few inches of potting soil, rather than at the bottom of the pot.
They’re also known for aerating the soil, making it easier for plants to grow.
They may even release hormones that encourage flower blooming.
Where do they live?
When you check your potted plants, look an inch or two beneath the surface of the soil.
If there are a lot of small white worms crawling around in there, you’ve got Potworms!
How can I get rid of them?
You don’t necessarily have to get rid of the Potworms. In fact, you shouldn’t.
They’re a great way to help your plants, assuming they’re not causing damage.
However, if they’re multiplying too quickly or crawling out of the pot to freedom, it’s time to act.
Adding any type of mulch on top of the soil will suffocate the Potworms over time – they need air to survive.
What do Potworms eat?
Potworms eat decomposing plant matter and bacteria in order to survive, so if you add organic fertilizers to your potting mix, you’ll be doing a lot of good by adding extra food for your potworms.
- Aerate soil
- It decomposes nearly all sorts of organic materials in the container.
- Aids in the composting process
2. Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida) or Common Earthworms
Red wigglers, also known as Eisenia foetida or red worms, are a type of earthworm that are popularly used for vermicomposting (composting with worms).
They’re reddish-brown in color and thrive in moist environments.
These red worms eat organic matter like potworms do, but they also break down tougher materials like cardboard and paper.
This makes them perfect for vermicomposting, because red worms can help turn waste into valuable compost.
If you’re not doing vermicomposting, you can still use red wigglers to your advantage.
You can release them into your garden soil to help break down organic matter and improve the soil’s fertility.
How can I get rid of them?
Generally, in small populations, these worms are beneficial.
These worms are usually sold as fishing bait, but if they’re released into the wild before they make their way onto your property, they can become a nuisance.
If you don’t want to use red wigglers for composting, it may be a good idea to avoid purchasing them from bait shops and plant nurseries.
And if you do, keep them well away from your potting soils.
Red wigglers are easy to contain and get rid of – just dump them into a container of water and drown them (harsh, but effective).
TIP: Instead of drowning our wriggly worm friends, why not use them to your advantage?
Add worms to plastic containers and create a worm compost bin so they can create nutrient-rich worm castings and compost for your potting soil.
Alternatively, buy a good worm compost bin (See our favorite worm compost bins reviewed) and put the red wiggler worms in there, so they can turn your excess kitchen waste, kitchen scraps and things like dead leaves into organic fertilizer gold!
What do red wigglers eat?
Like other earthworms, red wigglers eat organic matter like leaves, grass, and fruit skins.
They also consume decomposing plant matter, which makes them great for composting!
- They can help break down garden waste.
- They’re great for vermicomposting and assisting the growth of your garden plants via soil aeration and with their castings which are rich in nutrients and taken up by your plant’s root system.
- If they’re not used as composting worms, they will multiply quickly and may overpopulate your plants.
3. Grub Worms
Grub worms are technically not a worm or earthworms – they are the larvae of beetles.
They’re usually white or grey with a dark head, and they can be identified by their C-shape.
These little guys eat the roots of grasses and weeds.
If they munch on your plants’ roots, they can do some serious damage.
How can you get rid of grub worms?
You can manually remove grub worms by hand.
But more effectively, you can also use a beneficial nematode insecticide to get rid of them, but take care not to harm the beneficial insects in your garden. (beneficial nematodes tend not to)
What do grub worms eat?
None – Grub worms eat the roots of plants, which can damage or kill your plants if there are too many.
Grub worms are one of the most fatal pests for potted plants, and they don’t provide them with much benefit.
If they eat the roots of your plants, it can cause significant damage to your garden.
Grubs become beetles that devour the plant leaves soon after.
Millipedes are perhaps the most common of all worm “pests” that infect potted plants.
We put that in quotes because again, they’re generally not in danger of causing harm to your houseplants.
They’re long, segmented worm-like creatures with hundreds of legs.
While they can’t do much damage to your plants’ roots, their habit of hiding beneath the surface and chewing on plant stems of young plants or seedlings can be troublesome.
Millipedes are naturally drawn to humid, wet, and damp places.
How can I get rid of them?
Millipedes can be removed from your plants by hand or with an insecticide.
What do millipedes eat?
Millipedes consume decaying plant matter, so they’re generally beneficial for breaking down organic material in the soil.
However, if there are too many millipedes, they can become trouble, especially in early stage plant growth where they may start feeding on seedlings and young plants.
Millipedes are one of the most beneficial worms for potted plants.
- They eat decaying plant matter that would otherwise contribute to a buildup of fungus or bacteria, which can cause problems in your garden.
- If there are too many millipedes, they can become a nuisance by eating seedlings or early-stage potted plants.
5. Parasitic Nematodes
These Nematodes are tiny, thread-like worms that can cause a great deal of damage to your plants.
They feed on the roots of plants, and can quickly kill them.
How can you get rid of them?
There are several ways to get rid of them. You can manually remove them by hand or with an insecticide.
You can pre-treat plants with beneficial bacteria like “Steinernema carpocapsae” aka beneficial nematodes, which kill off destructive plant worms and grubs.
What do they eat?
Nematodes feed on plant roots, which causes the plants to die.
They also eat beneficial nematodes and other beneficial insects.
- Parasitic nematodes can be difficult to get rid of and can quickly kill off your potted plants.
You may still have some questions about worms in your potted plants. These were the most common questions we found being asked online:
Why Are There Worms in My Potted Plant?
Wherever there is soil present, there is a big possibility of having worms in them.
Likewise, in potted plants, worms will always find their way there.
So, if you find some friendly wriggling worms in your potted plants, don’t panic because their presence and activities are beneficial to the soil (They are nature’s sent fertilizer).
You’ll want to avoid a worm overpopulation or a worm infestation as then they can be detrimental to the plant’s health.
Are Pot Worms Harmful to Plants?
Yes and No.
There are some kinds of worms that you’ll find in your potted plant that will add value to the soil and aid the plant’s growth as well.
On the contrary, there are some worms in potted plants whose eventual plan is to eat up leaves of the plant or the plant roots.
Below, you’ll find a list and description of worms that are good or bad for your potted plant.
What Worms Are Bad for Plants?
NOTE: Harmful worms generally do not stay on the soil surface, so if you want to get a hold of them, you may have to dig them out.
1. Grub worms
These are ticking bombs waiting to explode.
Grub worms are not entirely worms but are beetles in the larval stage.
Once you notice them, it will be in your best interest and that of your plant to get rid of them as soon as possible.
Because if you don’t remove them in the lavarl stage, they’ll eventually eat up the plant roots that they called ‘home’ as baby beetles.
To identify a grub in your potted plant, you’ll see that they are whitish and will be curled up in a c-shape with 6 legs towards the head.
2. Horn worms
Horn worms in potted plants is a cause for alarm.
They pose great threat to the overall health of the plant as they can eat up its pride- the leaves.
Moreover, horn worms do not only limit their destruction to the leaves alone because when they are done with the blossomed leaves, they can go for the stems, roots, and fruits.
These are no time wasters in destroying potted plants when infested.
Their target for young potted plants include their roots and foliage.
Plus, their destructive attribute extends to damaging the plant beyond repair by cutting it from underneath the soil.
4. Parasitic nematodes
These are worm-like organisms that are detrimental to the plant health.
They inflict injuries on the plant, leaving behind some microbial diseases.
This results in swelling and destruction of the roots and the eventual death of the plant.
To cap, when you see worms like these in your potted plants, be quick to action!
Which Worms Are Good in Pot Plants?
These are the worms that can add many benefits, and most importantly, the much-needed aeration and nutrients to the soil of your potted plant.
- Red worms [tiger worms]
- Indian blue worms
- Pot worms
- Beneficial nematodes
How Do You Get Rid of Pot Worms? (and Should You?)
There are a few ways to get rid of pot worms or any worms that are causing your household pot plants grief:
1. Drown them: As earlier stated in this article, you can give them a treat of abundant water for them to drown.
2. Use insecticides, pesticides, or nematocide (beneficial nematodes) as they will effectively eliminate them, however, be sure to check if they are indoor-friendly or not.
3. Use natural predators like fireflies or praying mantis.
4. Repot your plant and eliminate the worms.
Should you eliminate them?
If they are not causing a nuisance or evident damage to your plants, then you should leave them to their composting activities.
However, if they are, then you should get rid of them. Especially, if you know they are pests that damage your plants instead of benefiting them (which you’ll now know having read this article!)
Pro Tip: Gather the discovered worms, if they are earthworms, and add them to a worm bin – they can break down your kitchen and garden scraps and provide you with nutrient rich worm castings (worm manure) which are indirectly more useful to your plants, and any you want to grow in the future!
Are Pot Worms Harmful to Humans?
No, they are not.
In fact, they are beneficial to sustain green plants, which in turn, helps bring balance to the atmosphere.
So, these little agents, in their own way, are helping humans and they are one reason people have not packed their bags to Mars.
Potted plants can be a great addition to any home or office space, but if you’re not careful about the types of worms that enter your pot, they can quickly become a nuisance.
Parasitic Nematodes, Grubs and Millipedes are typically more common worm pests for potted plants – Potworms and Red Wigglers are less likely to cause problems.
Too many worms in your houseplants, pots and potting soils may still cause problems for your container plants and some, like red wigglers, are best off in your vegetable garden or in compost bins.