Last Updated on November 24, 2021 by Grow with Bovees
Have you ever noticed small little squiggly creatures in your plants’ potting soil? Have a closer look if you have, because they might just be pot worms invading your plant soil.
There are many white worms that can be found in the potted soil of your indoor and outdoor potted plants. Some worms in potted plants are good and some are not so good for the plant health of your garden plants.
It is important, as a gardener, to identify these critters and find out whether they are good or bad natured. If you have an infestation of non-beneficial bugs, it is of high importance to get rid of them in order to save your container plant from damage.
In this article, we will take you through some types of crawlers that you may find in your soil. Along with reasons why they got there and how to get rid of white worms if they are the pesky type.
Pot Worms In Potted Plants
Some pot worms are naturally found in soil, and they can actually be quite beneficial to your potted plants health and the health of the soil.
They break down and consume dead plant matter. Their casings — also called excretions — are an excellent fertilizer for plants. Some white worms are also able to aerate your potting soil, which in turns prevents it from ending up dense and compacted.
Worms certainly do not come in pre-packed potting soil. This soil is clean and sterile. There are a few other ways, however, that these small creatures can make their way into your plants’ soil.
How Do They Reach Potted Plants?
Some people deliberately mix a couple of white worms into their potted plants soil to promote healthy soil and plant health. Just don’t forget that these critters reproduce and once they become too many, they quickly spread and may start to cause havoc.
White worms can also make their way into your indoor potted plant if it has been placed outside for some time.
Placing your potted plants near other worm infested indoor plants may be another reason why your plants’ soil contains worms.
And lastly, if you use normal garden soil found in your yard for your potted plant, you always run the risk of using potentially worm infested soil. Using fresh soil is the safest way to ensure worm free indoor plants.
There are also a couple of environmental factors that contribute to the expansion and growth of worms in the soil. These are:
With episodes of heavy rainfall, the soil in your garden gets stripped away of vital nutrients, which in turn promotes the growth of plant pests and bugs.
These extremely moist conditions encourage them to thrive and flourish and, unfortunately, most of the time, these organisms feed on healthy plant tissue such as plant roots, plant stems and leaves of plants rather than other micronutrients found in the soil.
White worms thrive particularly well in wet conditions, increasing their reproduction rapidly. This fast-spreading bug is difficult to control and often spreads fast.
As you might already know, the correct soil pH is quite important for the healthy growth of a plant.
The wrong soil pH can cause severe damage to your plant in that it limits its growth, it damages leaves and flowers and makes great ground for pests such as worms.
The ideal pH would be between 5-8. If the soil, however, for some reason, reaches a more alkaline level, pests have the ideal breeding grounds.
Things that can increase the pH of your soil include ground clamshells, bone meal, or hardwood ashes.
Even though most houseplants prefer high humidity levels to dry conditions, problems can occur if the plant is consistently exposed to a lot of moisture without being cleaned or dusted in between.
A continuously moist plant is more susceptible to infections and pests and makes for the ideal breeding ground.
White worms are very fond of moist conditions, and they spread quickly by laying a great number of tiny eggs.
Like before mentioned, pests and bugs very happily feed on decomposing plant matter, such as fallen leaves, dead leaves or fruits. Failing to remove decomposing organic matter from your plant increases the probability of a worm infestation. This organic matter also happens to be the perfect breeding ground for larvae.
The first thing you need to do before planning on how to get rid of these pesky soil worms, is ask yourself, why are there worms in your soil? Where did they come from? Are they good or bad?
Signs Of A Worm Infestation In Potted Plants
There are a few things that you can look out for in order to diagnose a soil worm problem. The most obvious one is spotting the worms wiggling around on the soil surface. Before you physically notice the worms, you may see a few small holes located in the top part of your soil.
If the infestation starts getting bad, you will be able to see it in your plants’ health. It may start to slowly die due to the damage the worms cause to the root system.
With a worm infestation, you may also find large amounts of worm casings near and around your pot’s drainage holes.
If and when you come across any of the above-mentioned signs, carefully lift your plant and remove it from its pot to investigate whether there are any worms in the plants bottom.
Don’t stop looking if you can’t see them on the outside, they like to hide away. If you slowly break the soil apart, you might find worms on the inside of the soil.
If your investigation was successful, and you did indeed find some of these nuisance critters — get rid of them as soon as possible.
Negative Effects Of Worms On Potted Plants
The reason why we advise getting rid of soil worms as soon as you find them, is because they can have a few devastating effects on your houseplants.
Yes, they eat decayed plant matter — which, like we said, is beneficial. But, once dead plant material is not available anymore, the worms will start feeding on your plant’s structures.
Their main targets are the roots. The ingestion of healthy plant matter also occurs when there are too many worms in one pot. This is when they start competing for food, rapidly damaging the root ball, which in turn leads to plant damage or even plant death.
Once the root system has been destroyed by these pests, there is no going back. Without strong and healthy roots, the plant is unable to absorb vital nutrients and water from the soil, thus leading to its decay.
Types Of Worms In Potted Plants
There are a few different types of worm which can be found in potted plants. Continue reading for more information on these different types of soil worms and how to identify them.
Potworms — also known as enchytraeids — are tiny worms with a white body color which are only ever found in containers or pots. They are segmented creatures which are small and carry a white color. These small white worms are siblings of the popular earthworms.
This type of worm reproduces rapidly and can reach a number of 2500 worms in just one square foot of potting ground. They thrive best in organic environments which are just a tad acidic.
Much like the earthworm, these tiny white worms don’t usually have an effect on living plants. They decompose organic materials found in the pot and are great for soil aeration, which is of great benefit to the plant as it allows their roots to breathe.
Be careful not to confuse potworms with immature red wigglers — they are not the same.
Red wigglers — also known as Eisenia foetida — are another variety of the earthworm. These wiggler worms are great at turning waste from the garden into fertilizer. They are known to dig their way through the ground until they find their ideal moist environment, which is warm and wet.
These critters have a 2-3 inches long brown-red body. Their appearance is a reddish color with tones of yellow at the tail. These worms, too, have a body structure which is segmented.
Red wiggler worms are vegetarian and act as composting units, turning organic material into humus. This makes red wigglers helpful worms very highly beneficial for your potted plants.
Grub Worms Infestation
A colony of grub worms can be very harmful to your potted plants and is the last thing that you want to happen.
Grub worms are actually the larval stage of quite a few beetles. These include the African black beetle, scarab beetle, Christmas beetle, pasture cockchafer and a few more. Grub worm is the common name given to these larvae as they are all the same in appearance.
These larvae appear as C-shape white and plump bodies at a size of 2-3 centimeters. They have six legs and the bottom part is gray.
They are quite invasive worms which develop after the mother worms have laid eggs about 2-5 inches deep in the soil. When 30 days have passed. Grub worms start feeding. At first, they only feed on the soil’s micro organic matter, but then a few days later they start feeding on the plant’s roots. The trick is to find these worms before this happens.
These arthropods also have long segmented hard and black-brownish bodies. Its cylindrical body shape has hundreds of legs, and it is commonly found crawling underneath plant leaves.
Millipedes enjoy a wet and warm environment and are classified as one of the most harmless worms to invade your potted plants. So, it is not necessary to remove millipedes from plants.
Nematodes In Potting Soil
These tiny white worms differ from other types of worms and can be found in a few variations. Types of varieties of these plant parasites include plant-parasitic nematodes, bacterial feeding nematodes and fungal feeding nematodes.
The plant-parasitic nematode may be a potential threat to your potted plants as it can attach itself to most areas of the plant, including plant structures such as the roots of plants, flowers, the plant stalk and foliage.
Nematodes are worms with soft white bodies with no legs. They resemble tiny white tubes and measure only 50 micrometers in diameter and 1200 micrometers long. This whitish tube has a non-segmented body structure which makes it different to other more common worms.
Getting Rid Of Plant Pests Such As Worms In Potted Plants
Now that you are able to identify which worms have infested your plant, you can plan a strategy for how to get rid of them.
There are a few methods that you can use to eradicate soil worms.
- Physically remove them by repotting your entire plant.
- Chase the worms out by soaking your plant.
- Make use of an organic or chemical agent.
- Find a natural predator to worms, and add it to your potted plants.
Repotting Potted Plants
Repotting your plant is actually the best way to diagnose a heavy infestation. It is the easiest way to see them as they might hang out on the sides or bottom.
The first step when repotting is to remove all worms manually. Either grab some tweezers or use your hands.
Then rinse the roots to get rid of any eggs or parts of the worm population that might still be stuck somewhere. Then plant your shrub in a fresh potting soil mix along with fertilizer or potting mix with compost.
To be on the safe side, discard the old soil and clean the old pot with some bleach before reusing it. This is to ensure that reinfestation doesn’t occur.
Soaking Your Potted Plants
Soaking might be contradictory as we said that worms enjoy moist conditions. They do, however, not like to be submerged in water.
Remove your infected plant from its pot and soak the base in warm fresh water mixed with insecticidal soap for roughly 20 minutes. After a while, the critters will attempt to escape, making it easy for you to catch and discard them or add them to your compost pile.
This method works great on harmful worms and their larvae. Avoid using this method on beneficial worms.
This takes us to the end of this article on how to get rid of worms from your container plants. We hope that this information will help you identify a worm infestation in your potted plant garden that has a negative impact on plants. This information should also help you save your potted beauties by eradicating these creepy plant pathogens.
Good luck maintaining healthy plants and happy deworming!