5 Types of Worms in Potted Plants

Worms in potted plants is a common problem that can be difficult to identify and even more difficult to get rid of. There are many types of worms in potted plants and they all behave differently.

Aristotle once said that “worms are the intestines of the earth”. Many everyday people don’t like the idea of worms because they look unsightly and they can be a nuisance, but worms can be beneficial to potted plants!

We are still in the dark with how many kinds of worms there are on earth, almost 2500 years after Aristotle said the famous quote above. However, if we restrict our search to the distinct varieties of worms that may be found in potted plants, we might just shed some light on them. 

We’ve already figured out the solution regardless of how many gardeners posted their concerns on forums, so hopefully, this article will help.

This blog post will help you learn about 5 different types of worms, what they look like, how to spot them:

types of worms in soil snippet image

Table of Contents

Types of Worms in Potted Plants:

Potworms (Enchytraeids)

If you’ve noticed tiny white worms in potted plants, it’s quite likely that they’re potworm infestations.

The body of a potworm is tiny and white, and it invades in massive numbers. In roughly 1 square foot of container ground, you may discover more than 2500 potworms. However, the overall ecosystem of the potting soil isn’t harmed by this sort of population.

Potworms are beneficial worms that can help potted plants thrive. They create tunnels in the soil which allows air and water to pass through easily, while also removing excess food sources for harmful bacteria. The best part is that these worms don’t tend to damage potted plant roots.

How do you identify Potworms?

Potworms are tiny, white pests that infest in large numbers. In the space of a square foot of container ground, you might find more than 2500 potworms. However, because of the sheer number of potworms, this kind of population does not harm the overall environment of the soil.

What is the nature and habitat of a potworm?

Potworms live in the soil and consume decaying matter. They are beneficial to potted plants as they help create tunnels that allow air and water to pass through easily while removing excess food sources for harmful bacteria. They like a somewhat acidic environment. As a result, they will spring up as soon as you fill the container soil with something acidic.

The good points of Potworms:

In terms of plant and soil effects, potworms are comparable to earthworms in potted plants. They seldom have an effect on the living plants.

  • The worms will help potted plants thrive because they create tunnels in the soil which allows air and water to pass through easily.
  • They also remove excess food sources for harmful bacteria and don’t tend to damage potted plant roots.
  • Helps in the composting process.

The bad points of Potworms:

As previously stated, potworms have no direct influence on plants that are unhealthy for plant health. However, their propensity to increase in number may become an issue at some point.

If the population outgrows the available resources, other worms like red wigglers will compete for food and nutrients. As a result, other useful worms may be unable to do their function properly. In such circumstances, it is critical to eliminate worms from potted plants.

outdoor potted plants

Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida)

If you see small red worms in potted plants, they’re most likely red wigglers. Normally about one-and-a-half inches long and quite delicate; the average population of this worm is around 100 per square foot of potted soil. This kind of worm can be found across the U.K and North America where potted plants are grown outdoors or indoors with fresh potting mix.

Red Wigglers are also known as manure worms due to their habitation in organic matter like compost piles or very rich garden soils. They feed on decaying plant material which makes them an important part of any potted plant ecosystem.

They like to dig through the soil in search of damp and warm conditions, just as other earthworms do. This propensity of red worms to live in warm habitats such As a typical earthworm species, they prefer to excavate the soil in search of wet and warm surroundings.

How do you identify Red Wigglers?

Red wiggler worms are often 2-3 inches long. They have a physical appearance that is intended to be red in colour, as the name suggests. At the conclusion of their body (tail), you’ll notice small blemishes of yellowish hue (like bruising).

Red wigglers, like all other earthworms in potted plants and beds, have a segmented body structure.

What is the nature and habitat of Red Wrigglers?

Red wigglers like to live in potted plants where they have access to a consistent supply of decaying organic matter. They do not require much moisture but cannot survive without it, so you’ll find them burrowing deep inside the potted plant soil looking for water and food.

If there is no potted plant compost available, red worms will move on to your garden or lawn until conditions become more favourable. In that case, potted plants are an ideal home for this kind of worm as they can provide optimal living conditions all year round.

The good points of Red Wigglers:

They help potted plants thrive because they feed on decaying plant material which makes them an important part of any potted plant ecosystem.

  • A single population of red worms per square foot is usually enough to keep potted plants healthy.
  • They play an important role in the composting process by consuming decaying plant matter.

The bad points of Red Wigglers:

If the population exceeds food resources, competition for food may occur among worms which could lead to a decline in their numbers.

  • As previously stated, red wigglers have no direct influence on plants that are unhealthy for plant health. However, their propensity to increase in number may become an issue at some point.
  • If the population outgrows the available resources, other worms like blackworms will compete for food and nutrients.
composting worms with red wrigglers

Grub Worms (Phyllophaga)

Grub worms, also known as June Bugs, are the larvae of beetles in the family Scarabaeidae. These pests can be a major problem for potted plants and gardeners because they feed on the roots of plants. Adult beetles lay their eggs in soil where the larvae hatch and begin to feed on plant roots. The presence of grub worms can seriously damage potted plants or gardens.

How do you identify Grub Worms?

Grub worms are cream-coloured with a brown head capsule. They have a soft body that is easy to crush between your fingers. They grow up to one inch long when they mature.

There are a few fast fact-checks to distinguish a Grub worm:

  • It’s a white, plump body that will appear.
  • Within 2-3 centimetres in a ‘C’ shape, the size is tiny.
  • The top part has six legs and a grey bottom section.

What is the nature and habitat of Grub Worms?

Grub worms generally live in soil where they feed on the roots of plants. Adult beetles lay their eggs in soil where the larvae hatch and begin to feed on plant roots.

If you find grub worms in your potted plants, it is likely that they came from your garden or lawn. Grub worms are very mobile and can easily move from one place to another looking for food.

This stage of the worm’s life cycle, which includes both winter and summer, lasts for months. They become adult beetles in the springtime.

The good points of Grub Worms:

Grub worms are one of the most pernicious parasites for potted plants and offer few advantages to their hosts.

  • They play an important role in the natural cycle of things by feeding on dead plant material.
  • Adult beetles only lay their eggs in soil where the larvae hatch and begin to feed on plant roots.

The bad points of Grub Worms:

These unsightly pets are equally harmful to potted plants. The following are the major dangers that they pose to the plants:

  • Grub worms attack potted plants
  • They can wipe out entire potted plant populations if they invade in large numbers.
  • The biggest problem is precisely their ability to move around looking for food, as grub worms carry diseases such as verticillium wilt which affect potted plants.
  • Grub worms will generally cause you to replace the entire soil of the pot and re-pot the plant again.
garden soil

Millipedes

Millipedes are small, segmented worms that have two pairs of legs on each body section. They resemble centipedes in appearance and the name comes from their worm-like bodies with multiple segments. Millipede infestations typically occur during damp weather conditions or when potted plants remain wet for long periods of time.

Because of their ‘Neutral’ nature, most millipede kinds are considered safe for plants. However, because to their moist resemblance, they are preferable under a container plant rather than dry and cool outdoors.

How do you identify millipedes?

Millipedes are easy to identify because they have a unique appearance. They are long and slender worms with many segments. Each segment has two pairs of legs, giving them their ‘millipede’ name. Millipedes typically range in size from one-half inch to six inches long.

What is the nature and habitat of millipedes?

Millipedes live in moist environments where they feed on plant material. They can be found in gardens, potted plants, compost piles, under mulch, and in other damp places. Millipedes prefer dark, moist environments where they can hide from predators.

The good points about millipedes:

  • Millipedes play an important role in the natural cycle of things by feeding on dead plant material.
  • They help to break down organic matter and recycle nutrients back into the soil.
  • Millipedes don’t have the ability to sting or bite.

The bad points about millipedes:

In certain circumstances, millipedes may be annoying, but they don’t cause any direct damage to the plants.

  • If they get into your yard and invade your home, it will be extremely unpleasant for the people who live there.
soil surface

Nematodes

These worms are very small and typically range from one-sixteenth of an inch to two millimetres long. They have a simple worm shape with no legs or antennae, but they do resemble tiny snakes. Nematodes can be difficult to see without magnification, so you may need someone who is trained in nematode identification to help you identify them correctly.

These little worms are quite different from other worms on this list, including the popular red wiggler. There are a few variations of this species, and they include human, animal, and plant pathogens.

How do you identify Nematodes?

Nematodes are not the easiest worms to identify, but they do have some distinctive traits. Most nematode species are reddish-brown in colour and maybe pearly white or opaque depending on their age. They also vary greatly in size with the largest measuring one millimetre long

What is the nature and habitat of Nematodes?

Nematodes live underground where they feed on plant roots. Their feeding causes wilting leaves, yellowing plants, poor growth rates, stunted flowers or fruit production as well as reduced yields for potted plants.

They spend most of their lives inside potted plant soil waiting for a root system to come within reach before attaching themselves onto it like leeches sucking blood.

There are five species of nematodes, each with its own set of characteristics. Each species is classified according to a variety of factors, including food preferences. There are five distinct categories into which nematodes may be classified:

  • Bacterial feeder: It’s most prevalent in agricultural soil.
  • Fungal feeder: It lives on fungi and similar foods.
  • Plant parasites: Causing harm to plants.
  • Predator: They feed on protozoa and soil nematodes.
  • Feed on a variety of foods, depending on the current state and accessibility.

The harmful sort of nematode (plant parasitic) does not adhere to potting soil as much by nature. However, it is easy to transport them from your garden bed to your houseplants inadvertently. If you’re accustomed to gardening with dirt, the transition will be less difficult.

The good points about Nematodes:

If you’re new to gardening, or just unsure about what kinds of nematodes might be present in your soil, it may be difficult to figure out which ones you should care for. However, there are a few things you can do to create sure that you only care for bacterial and fungal nematodes. There are a number of advantages for potted plants if you follow these steps:

  • Mineralization is the process by which soil nutrients are changed into an inorganic form for plant roots. Feeding nematodes to the bacteria directly aids mineralization.
  • Nematodes feed on decaying fungal and bacterial colonies in the soil, rejuvenating them. This enhances nutrient decomposition and cycling by promoting nematode regeneration.
  • When there is bacterial nematode in a container system, nitrogen mineralization increases at a far greater rate.

The bad points about Nematodes:

If your potted plant is infested with plant-parasitic nematodes, it will only get worse. Plant-parasitic nematodes feed on the roots of the plant. Some may remain attached to the root tissue, while others will penetrate and damage it.

plant parasitic nematodes

Other Related Questions

Should I remove earthworms from potted plants?

Earthworms are beneficial to potted plants and should not be removed. They aerate the soil, help with drainage, and promote healthy plant growth.

What do I do if my potted plant has a nematode infestation?

If your potted plant has a nematode infestation, you may need to take some steps to get rid of them. You can try using a commercially available nematicide or remove the top layer of soil and replace it with fresh potting mix. Be sure to water the plant well after treatment so that the new soil will adhere to the roots.

How long can worms live in containers?

Approximately three weeks is required to keep worms healthy and active in a 32-ounce container with 1-2 dozen worms, which has been filled with moist compost.

worm castings

5 types of worms in potted plants

  • Potworms (Enchytraeids)
  • Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida)
  • Grub Worms (Phyllophaga)
  • Millipedes
  • Nematodes

Why worms come out in the rain?

Worms come out in the rain to breathe. They pierce tiny breathing holes on their skin so they can take oxygen from the outside air rather than soil air, which is too high in carbon dioxide for them to breathe properly.

What kind of soil do worms like?

Worms prefer soil that is rich in organic matter and has good moisture content.

organic materials

Why is my patio covered in worms?

It’s not unusual to observe earthworms emerging from the ground after a shower, or when humidity is high. When the soil is too dry, they move deeper into it in order to obtain moisture. They migrate closer to the surface when the soil is wet.

How do you keep worms out of your garden?

You can keep worms out of your garden by using a layer of mulch. This will help to retain moisture in the soil and prevent the earthworms from entering. You can also use nematode bait to kill them.

Do earthworms eat plants?

No, earthworms are not plant-eaters. They prefer to feed on decaying organic matter.

earthworms don't eat plants

What do I need to do to get rid of nematodes?

You can try using a commercially available nematicide or remove the top layer of soil and replace it with fresh potting mix. Be sure to water the plant well after treatment so that the new soil will adhere to the roots.

What do worms hate?

Worms don’t like extreme temperatures and can die if exposed to frost or extremely high temperatures. Worms also need the proper food, soil moisture and oxygen level in order to survive.

What do worm pheromones smell like?

Earthworm pheromones smell somewhat musty because of their burrowing nature that makes them release pheromones. The pheromones help the worms communicate with each other and find food.

bacterial feeding nematodes

How can you tell if there is a worm problem in your garden?

If you see earthworms on the surface of the soil, or if the soil is wet and slimy, it’s likely that you have a worm problem. You may also see their castings (droppings) on the surface of the soil.

Is coffee grounds good for worms?

Coffee grinds may also be eaten by earthworms. Earthworms feed on coffee grounds and deposit them deep in the soil, possibly explaining why soil structure improves.

Why are worms kept in the fridge?

Worms can be kept in the fridge to slow their activity and preserve them. You can also freeze them if you want to kill them.

5 types of worms in potted plants infographic
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Oliver Wright

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