westsubwoman

put worms in potted houseplants?

westsubwoman
14 years ago

This may sound weird but has anyone tried putting earthworms (red wigglers) in their potted houseplants? The soil in my houseplants has become compacted and I think that adding earthworms would help to break it up. My plants reside on an enclosed balcony so if the worms were to escape, they couldn't wiggle too far. What do you think?

Comments (52)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    I find it more than a little amazing how closed-minded folks can be about this topic :-) Despite all the scientific data and all the sources available that stress the very significant differences between gardening in containers and gardening in the ground, many still insist that the same approaches and the same soils/amendments can be used interchangeably and with equal success. I guess "success" means different things to different people.........but it would sure be easy to establish if one were to conduct a side by side growing test! The differences of one methodology over the other would become abundantly clear!!

    Best Answer
  • mingtea
    14 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    don't do it. worms in your garden have lots of space to move about, but in the confinement of a pot, they do more harm than good. with their constant burrowing, you could expect them to shear through some roots.

    -ming

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  • DianeKaryl
    14 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Never mind the worms, that's not what you need. You say your soil is compact....and you must have some reason to think that.

    Usually we go by how the plant drains to determine whether the soil is compact or not.
    A houseplant must drain in a reasonable manner, depending on the size of the pot, the amount of water given, the type of soil the pot has within it and whether the pot itself might absorb some of the water.

    You should determine first whether the pot drains well enough before deciding to re-pot. Some plants react to being removed and others bloom much better when pot bound.

    If your plant is indeed "too compact", then it is a candidate for re-potting.

    If you do repot, and use fresh potting soil, monitor your fertilizing needs. Fresh potting soil will deliver nutritives to the plant for a month or so.

  • westsubwoman
    Original Author
    14 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Thanks everyone for your input. I will take your advise and repot.

  • jon_d
    14 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I wish I could be succinct like Al. I was going to say "Bad Idea", which is twice as many words as Al's. But, I have a story so... A few years back on the gesneriphiles email group we had an enthusiastic young grower who bombarded us with problems about growing. Her plants were just suffering, and had one problem after another. Dozens of us, posted back and forth for the longest time trying to solve her problems. Then finally one day, she innocently mentioned something like, "Oh, and I even have earth worms in all my pots to help improve the soil".

    Well, needless to say, everyone told her to get those creatures out of her pots. She resisted mightily but I think in the end we convinced her. They were most likely the source of all her problems. They turn the soil into fine grained mush, and probably destroy the roots as well. They need freedom.

    Jon

  • tapla
    14 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Very good point, Jon. In container culture, we want to do what we can to preserve soil structure rather than to introduce variables that in the end work toward the collapse of that structure.

    Al

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    14 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Eggsactly! The outdoor soil is a living, breathing, working SYSTEM that cannot be duplicated in the confines of a container. If you take a tubfull of the most delectable native soil, and plunk it into a container, that system will soon break down and you will have a tubfull of dead dirt! Biota just don't function well in a container.

  • tapla
    14 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Amen!

    I'm going to call you up next time I get in a ..uh .. er .. well, discussion about that.

    Al

  • Fledgeling_
    14 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Well ONCE I put 1 earthworm into a indoor pot from outdoors, never saw another indication of it until 8 months later when I found it while repotting the plant. My soil was fine and it appeared to live off the dead leaves from the plant. But it was a bad idea and I was just lucky it did not do any damage. The worm was set free, still very much alive.

  • raptoress
    13 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I have a Dream Pink rose tree planted in a large white pot, and a couple of days ago I decided it was too dry to be happy, so I soaked it in the tub. About 3" of the soil at the top of the pot rose up in chunks, and I thought it was odd. Left it overnight, and this morning I found hundreds of earthworms wriggling around. At first I thought, "Hm, Earthworms are good..." but after reading this thread I decided to remove all the earthworm infested soil and put it into buckets. I noticed that lots of the roots were eaten, and its a good thing I decided to "water" the plant, otherwise I wouldn't have seen this problem at all. I think dad probably dumped the worms we use for fishing into the pot, and they made hundreds of babies while the rose was sleeping/inside for the winter. Hopefully this won't happen again...

  • thomas_slimail_com
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I always use my own compost for my houseplants which usually has wigglers in it, if even the eggs. So it happened more by accident. I have nothing but good experiences. They keep the soil structured and crumbly, they feed of decaying matter, I just sometimes add spent tea leaves and coffee grounds as well as dry and cut-up houseplants leaves. This mimics the leaf litter youd find in nature and helps to keep the soil moist. The worms do not escape and do not multiply in numbers. Perhaps this is only practical with large size pots, but again - I can only recommend it.

  • edlincoln
    6 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Oddly, I just noticed while repotting a plant that it had two earthworms in it.

    Should I do something about it?

    This is a "temporary" houseplant...it's sitting on a balcony and is going to be planted outside in the Fall.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    6 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I wouldn't worry about it since you'll be planting outside. Earthworms belong in and benefit the outdoor soil system.

  • mielejam
    6 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I have a potted palm tree in my office with a small philodendron also in the pot. I just bought these a month ago and potted them together in a large pot, and although philodendron are supposed to be hearty, mine is suffering and dying quickly.

    The past two days I have been finding and rescuing baby snails from the soil which were near the roots of the philodendron, and today I also noticed other pests moving around in the dirt. I removed as many snails as I could find, and then sprayed the plant's foliage and soil heavily with insecticide (Garden Safe Houseplant & Garden Insect Killer) to exterminate anything that may be hurting my plants.

    To my surprise, about 10 worms starting surfacing and flipping around on top of the soil! I did a google search and found this forum, and I see that these guys can harm indoor plants. My questions to you are, 1. How do I eradicate the worms in this pot? 2. Will the insecticide I sprayed the surface of the soil with do the trick? 3. Do you have any other suggestions for how to revive my plants? I feel bad killing worms, but at the same time don't want my plants to die.

    The palm tree doesn't look that great either. I moved it near a window yesterday for extra light, and water it once a week. I've sprayed the foliage with this insecticide twice before because I am finding mealybugs on the palm and found ONE scale insect (shown in the link provided). I cut the portion of the leaf with the scale off, and haven't seen any before or since. I still see mealybug fuzz on the palm, but am not sure if it is from the prior infestation or if they're still active.

    HELP!!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Scale Insect on my Palm (white with red dot)

  • tapla
    6 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Rec'd your message & the link.

    Someone is undoubtedly thinking that a palm and philodendron don't belong in the same pot because their cultural wants are different. If they're thinking about light, they'd be right; if about the soil, they'd be wrong.

    The palm is going to want more light than the philo will probably tolerate, so that's going to be an issue you'll need to experiment with, or split the plants - can't help a whole lot there.

    The palm tolerates dryer soils than the philo, and the philo tolerates soils more moist that the palm will; but, what plants tolerate is far from an indication of what they like. Both plants will thrive in a soil you can keep moist w/o a lot of excess moisture accumulating in the bottom of the pot. That means your soils should me made of/based on primarily chunky material (instead of on fine ingredients like peat, compost, composted forest products, coir, sand, topsoil .....)

    If you're serious about wanting to save the plants, I'd skip the pyrethrin (a topical, contact insecticide with some short term deterrent effect) and go directly to a systemic insecticide, imidicloprid, for the scale. This can be applied outdoors in aerosol form or as a soil drench - the latter being most effective at ridding the soil of the earthworm population.

    I'll answer your questions. If the replies in some cases seem overly broad, you should look at that as an invitation to ask questions that allow expansion into the areas that bother you most. Sometimes though, I find that the areas the bother some growers most are much lower on the list of the plant's priorities than they are the growers, in which case you'll probably get steered in another direction. ;-)

    1&2) The insecticide you used seems to have worked, but w/o examining the root mass for remaining annilids, there is no way to be sure to what extent it worked. If there is no shortage of rotting (composting) vegetation, I wouldn't expect damage to roots to be a significant issue, because of their feeding habits, but never having been troubled by earthworms in containers, I can't say from experience. What they DO do is break down the structure of the soil at a much faster pace than smaller soil organisms. Since I feel that the most important aspect of container media is their structure, I don't feel earthworms have a place in container soils. Those that do are trying to bring the garden to pots, and failing to recognize just how significantly different growing in pots is than growing in the garden.

    Reviving your plants depends entirely on your ability to eliminate those factors forcing the plant to operate at the limits of what it's programmed to tolerate. This is the part that might seem vague, but think about it - If we can identify and eliminate those things that are limiting our plants, the plant will be able to perform to its genetic potential in every case ..... and that's the very most you can ask of any plant or organism. Even in humans, those that excel, do excel because they worked hard at getting as close to realizing their full potential as possible. Plants in pots have only us to help them, so it's up to you and your helpers to figure it out.

    I think the info at the link below will be very helpful, and might answer some questions before you ask them. At any rate, it should give you a sense of direction and help you to ask the questions you'll need answered to turn things around. It's not an insurmountable obstacle you face - just a little challenge that if overcome will prolly yield a good measure of satisfaction for having made the effort.

    Al

    Here is a link that might be useful: A basic overview from the plant's perspective .....

  • mecturnbull
    5 years ago

    I was searching tonight to see how long earth worms live. I have a goldfish plant and it has been knocked over with a broken pot about 6 years ago and I found a worm. My son now 18 told me he put the worm in there not sure why. So I have left him. I don't pay much attention to my plants, water them

    when I think to. Today we thought we would check on the worm and freshen the soil. He leaves a mess in the bottom if not checked for a year or two. Sure enough he was there looking healthy we took a few pictures and replanted him.

  • nomen_nudum
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Kind of fun to see a form neglect doing so well In a sense it's almost saying; Living working earth soil is the same as a potted soil being that the pot and it's contents are an equal part of the same earth.

  • tapla
    5 years ago

    I think the sludge in the bottom of the pot is confirmation that earthworms are an unwelcome visitor if the view is from the plant's perspective. That's not to say I'm trying to discourage or make sport of Mecturnbull's practice. I can see the worm has some kind of value to him/her - even if only as a curiosity. In the end, worms turn soil to sludge, and sludge serves poorly as a container medium, so from the plant's perspective, it's best to avoid worms if possible.


    Al

  • Phuong Nguyen
    4 years ago

    I wish that I had read this advice earlier. I thought earthworm is good for soil and plants so I put some worms in my herb pots few months ago, now little young worms are everywhere and my herbs do not seem to be any better. Hundreds of little worms wiggle out of the pots everyday on the balcony that scare the heck of me. I dont know how to get rid of them rather than throwing the pots away but I love my herbs so much :(

  • tapla
    4 years ago

    You might do an online search for instructions on how to make a "9 volt worm zapper".

    Perennial herbs can be bare-rooted, and repotted into fresh soil after washing roots, too.

    Are you using a medium made for container culture or using something else?

    Al

  • Vinh Nguyen
    4 years ago

    I found earthworm in my culantro plants two month ago. I repotted with fresh potting mix and washed the roots with warm water. However, my plants are still slowly growing so I checked the pot and found a small earthworm again.

    How can I get rid of them :-( .

    Does spraying indoor pesticides on the surface help? I'm afraid it might affect the roots.


  • lmontestella
    4 years ago

    You shouldn't spray pesticides on food plants unless it says on package that it's safe to eat. I assume Culantro will be used for cooking.

  • rayork
    4 years ago

    We put earthworms (is that 'red wigglers'?) in big round pots. Big = about 10 inches tall and 10 inch diameter at the top. Gradual tapering to about 6 inches. They work out just fine. Cow or horse manure helps, which would be good for the plants, anyway. Since everything a worm eats goes straight through from one end to the other, it's total re-recycling :->

  • Dave
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I would not recommend putting any of the directly above in an indoor potted plant.

  • tapla
    4 years ago

    I agree.


    Al

  • Kara Jenkins
    4 years ago

    I've always put EARTHWORMS in my plants inside and they live just fine and do wonders for my plants.

    In your case though it sounds like you watered your planted pots and then the balcony sun dried the plant or and compacted the soil.

    I'd REplant with fresh soil and add them though.

    There's a huge difference in red wiggler worms and earthworms.

    Red wiggler worms are composter worms that eat old fruits and veggies and turn the remains into black gold. Their poop is organic known as castings. These red wiggler worms tolerate heat well and aren't for potted plants.

    Earthworms are tunneling worms and same with most nightcrawlers. They tunnel and airiate the soil. These are the ones you need. They will come to the top after a good watering because they also need that moisture. I have earthworms from outside in all my inside potted plants right now and have done so for probably 15 yrs. They work great. I take my plants in and out of our home for sunlight and rain water also. I'm in Ohio by youngstown so it's too early for us to plant most things in the ground especially with them calling for freezing rain mixed with snow tomorrow lol.

    Try the worms out in new dirt in a big pot with your plants and keep us posted. It should work great.

    Kara and 4 kids these are my potted plants doing great. I had them outside for two days in the rain when it was in the 60's here. Earthworms are in all these plants. Use big containers so they have lots of room and aren't confined. these are three of my five red wiggler worm bins that I make my own organic fertilizer with from their work castings - poop.

    Happy planting



  • Dave
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    To help clear things up, it's been confirmed that earthworms are unwelcome visitors in the plants perspective. Don't add them to your indoor potted plants. Don't add any bugs or and types of soil meant for outdoor use.

    Just saying, so there's not any confusion.

  • tapla
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Alternately - I've never put EARTHWORMS in my plants inside or out and the practice of focusing on a soil's structure as its key feature has proven a wise course for me and thousands of other growers. What primarily determines a medium's suitability for container culture is its structure and it's structural stability - not it's ability to provide nutrients for the plant - that's the grower's job. In gardens/beds the 'feed the soil instead of the plant' meme works just fine, but container culture is much closer to hydroponics than growing in the earth and requires letting go of some of our gardening beliefs for best results ...... or in some cases, ANY results.

    We don't grow in chopped celery, which starts out as a nicely aerated, free-draining mix, but quickly breaks down into a mucky mess. What do worms do in a container? They attack soil particles, collapsing soils' structural stability and turning them into a mucky mess of worm castings.

    Container media don't NEED worms or the byproduct of worms to grow perfectly happy/healthy plants, and it's MUCH easier to maintain plants in top vitality when using structurally stable media with plenty of air space from top to bottom and a fertilizer that allows us to know exactly what our plants are getting in terms of nutrition, how much, and when it's available.

    Al

  • Dave
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    On top of that, if you're using a fast draining mix made up of mostly pine bark, earthworms wouldn't do well in there anyway.

    The only type of soil earthworms would do well in, is a type of soil the plants won't do as well in and the worms will only further breakdown the soil, making it even worse.

  • Fouzia Husainy
    3 years ago

    I found a worm in my potted lime tree in my house which freaked the hell out of me, when I was watering it. I didn't know if it was good to leave it there, so I consulted this forum, then removed it and its baby and flushed them out. Now I don't know if I should repot my plant coz I am scared there could be more. I used soil which I composted in my own backyard using fruit and vegetable peels and a few of these wrigglers. All my potted plants have the same soil and they have begun to look healthy after I started using this compost.I can't repot all of my plants now, I am so confused. Some of my plants are in the kitchen and some are in the living room. Please advice.

  • Dave
    3 years ago

    Don't use your own compost for potted plants.

    This will help you:

    http://forums2.gardenweb.com/discussions/2842847/container-soils-water-movement-and-retention-xxii

  • Angelina Shabazz
    2 years ago

    I have a barely thriving pumpkin plant in my kitchen window, my 4 year old's school project that they so graciously bestowed on parents XD. So this is not pumpkin planting season and I'm struggling to get this baby to survive indoors. It's just two seedlings that are determined to live. They sprouted flowers in the plastic cup given by the school XD. So I'm determined to see them thrrough the winter (California) I think they will be fine. They are in the window with the most natural daylight and besides the potted soil I've introduced 2 earthworms and water them according to the weather outside. They have grown all up the window and are intertwining with the blinds :) I hope the worms survive spring planting in the ground.


  • Angelina Shabazz
    2 years ago

    The pot they are in is 12 in long, 6 in wide and 6in deep. Is this enough for 2 sprouts and 2 worms?

  • somegu7
    2 years ago

    Worms would munch on the fine roots of the plant so no it's a bad idea.

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.
    2 years ago

    "somegu7 Worms would munch on the fine roots of the plant ... "


    Huh?

  • Karen S. (7b, NYC)
    2 years ago

    Albert,

    The poster Angelina explained she apparently got earthworms involved:

    "They are in the window with the most natural daylight and besides the potted soil I've introduced 2 earthworms and water them according to the weather outside. "

    If this is indoor, in a container, worms aren't recommended for containers. Best to use them outside, where other forces like insects & healthy bacteria can interact as nature meant them to.

  • Dave
    2 years ago

    Worms will not eat the roots, but they will break down the soil much faster than you’d like.

    Theyre not good to have in potted houseplants. They do not benefit the plant in any way.

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.
    2 years ago

    Dave(Vermont - z5a)'' Worms will not eat the roots, ... ''

    That was what I was thinking.

  • Soham Thakur
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    EARTHWORMS are too good for potted plants. The help plant to get more nutrients inshort they break the decaying food by which plant gets nutrients (they will not attack on ur alive plants they will starve but will not attack ur plant ) unless and untill ur plant is already dead (feed them daily r weekly with ur household organic garbage they will live for years☺ # OVER WATERING WILL POP THEM UP BUT STILL AS WATER DRAINS THEY WILL AGAIN VANISH IN SOIL they wouldn't wiggle in any of ur rooms besides even if they come out of pot they will live below it HENCE THEY R AWESOME FOR PLANT MY PLANTS LIVE TOO HEALTHy LIFE and with good resistance against pest

  • tapla
    2 years ago

    IOW, you're forced to sacrifice soil structure and root health on the altar of nutrition, nutrition that can very efficiently be entirely supplied by an application of a quality fertilizer, like Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. When your earthworms break your soil particles down into a mush not unlike pudding, what then?

    You cannot have a healthy plant w/o it having a healthy root system, and you cannot have a healthy root system unless the ratio of air:water in soils is conducive to root health. And NO, earthworms in pots cannot keep the soil aerated. When soil particles are fine, earthworms can only exist in the layer of soil above the PWT. They cannot penetrate the soggy, saturated mess at the bottom of the pot for the same reason you don't like at the bottom of a lake - they cannot breathe there.

    It makes no difference to me what a single misguided soul decides to do with/to their plants, but for others with the ability to reason through what I said, I urge you to make sure your soil's structure can provide a healthy place for roots to live for the intended life of the planting, or from repot to repot. Leave that "feed the soil so the soil can feed the plant" thing to gardeners who grow in the earth. It can be a very destructive approach to container culture.

    Al

  • tapla
    2 years ago

    When it comes to growing in containers, acting on a perceived need to work within the boundaries of an ideology is almost always a self-limiting proposition that ends in a negative sum game for both grower and plant. By far, the most common exemplification of self-imposed limits is what we're discussing at the moment, and occurs when that whole 'feed the soil to feed the plant' thing is dragged all the way from the garden to the potting bench. If someone were to give consideration to and define what nutritional goals best serve the containerized plant, it would immediately become clear that it's much easier to effectuate those goals by focusing on your soil's ability to maintain its structure, while the grower shoulders responsibility, entirely, for providing all essential nutrients at favorable levels and ratios.

    If someone thinks they don't agree, a good place to start a rebuttal would be by establishing a short list of nutrition-related goals and describing how they can best be implemented.

    Al

  • Simone Singleton
    2 years ago

    Hello all, I have a 50(189 liters) gallon storage tote with 1 and half CU organic dirt with 2 LED lights plus a plant grow light, also have a 6 mini fan on. I was wondering if adding earthworms will help my plants?

  • Dave
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    No. Leave them in the earth not in containers.

  • Gudang TropEq
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    It's depend on your growing medium. If you grow plant in organic medium, depend on decomposition of organic materials to feed the plant, the worm is good for it. It will increase aeration for oxigen circulation on wettest spot of the pot. Digest dead roots, falling leaves and all so bacteria able to convert them back to ionic nutrients faster. But if you grow plant under inorganic medium, feeding plant using commercial fertilizer, worm doesn't do any good. All plant nutrients depend on you, or in more straight forward, depend on fertilizer factory.

  • Sarah Jane
    9 months ago

    I can't comment with any great authority on the merits of worms in indoor plants, as that is a bit of a new adventure for me, but I have been growing absolutely thriving outdoor plants in containers for years..... and every time people ask me what my secret to thriving pot plants is I tell them just add worms and sheep poo! Yes is does change the soil structure but my plants thrive in it. I was agast reading comments of people ridding obviously outdoor plants like fruit trees of worms! I have very high yielding lemon, orange, lime and mandarin trees in pots and are absolutely full of wigglers. Not to mention all the veges, palms, ferns and flowing plants. In the larger fruit tree pots I've never had a problem with drainage and if I ever do in smaller pots I simply repot with new homemade potting mix and a healthy dose of the original worm filled soil. I regularly buy the marked down "sad" plants from the nursery that look like they're on their last legs and have about a 95% hit rate for reviving them and turning them into healthy, lasting plants...which, you guessed it, I do in my worm filled potting mix! I hope that newer gardeners reading this don't turn off worms in their outdoor potted plants as they are wonderful! I understand the effect they have on soil structure but at the end of the day the proof of their benefits (in outdoor potted plants) is on the pudding (or in this case my thriving garden). These forums are a wonderful medium for sharing knowledge but try different things out for yourself to see what works for you. Why not do a little experiment with 2 identical (outdoor) pots and plants and try adding worms to 1 and leave the other alone and see what happens? After reading this forum and the differing opinions re indoor plants I'm currently trying the same thing with some indoor plants as as I mentioned that's a bit of a new gardening adventure for me and I'm still discovering what works for the temperamental little buggers! Happy gardening!

  • Dave
    9 months ago
    last modified: 9 months ago

    Outside you at least have the sun and wind drying things out and the additional light has plants growing and using more water. While worms still aren’t ideal outside in potted plants, theyre a really bad idea for indoor plants.

    The worms are constantly breaking down the soil into smaller and smaller particles. Your plants then aren’t able to get as much needed oxygen to their roots and the soil stars retaining more and more water. This is a recipe for disaster.

    The faster the soil dries and the more often you need to water the better it is for the plant.

  • Pahe Poo
    2 days ago

    I will possibly disagree with most people here. Seems like people have no idea about how plants and earthworms work but like giving advice nonetheless. Anyways, upto you if you don't want to add earthworms to your potted plant however, I've not only used them but had great success. Your pot should be a big one, something like 10-15 gallons and 1-2 earthworms in one pot should give you good results. Most fertilizers are chemicals and if I'm growing something I wanna eat, I would probably stay away from chemical fertilizers but used manure and compost mix and use worms with them. THEY WORK WONDERS FOR PLANTS!

  • Pahe Poo
    2 days ago

    No Dave it's not a receipe for a disaster, it's a receipe for success. You just gotta be smart enough to understand how to use them :)

  • Dave
    2 days ago

    Good luck with that. You’ll need it.

  • tapla
    2 days ago

    ..... agree.

    Al