Your potted plants are like a perfectly controllable little microbiome where you can regulate your plant’s soil, watering, and sunlight. However, if you’ve recently found a worm in one of your potted plants, you may wonder what gives. How did the little guy crawl up the pot when they’re so slippery and small?
Worms get into your potted plants in numerous ways. They can crawl up the side of the pot (depending on how big it is). A worm may have already been in your compost or soil when planting or have crawled in from underneath.
While having worms in your soil comes with its open set of benefits, it can also come with its fair share of challenges. In this article, I’ll discuss how worms can make their way into your potted plants and how to control the situation. Let’s get started.
How Did Worms Get in My Potted Plants?
If you’ve ever seen a worm wiggling around or struggling to make it anywhere on the dry sidewalk, you may be shocked to see a worm in your tall potted plants. Just by observing these little creatures, it’s pretty obvious they aren’t super mobile on smooth surfaces like cement, terracotta, or plastic. So how did they manage to find their way into your soil?
Worms may have gotten in your potted plants via the compost, soil beneath it, a bird, or even crawling there themselves. You should consider the height of your potted plant, the holes at the bottom of your pot, and the compost you are using if you want to keep worms away.
Again, there is a chance that a worm has somehow gotten into your plant by crawling in there, but it’s usually not going to happen from above. I’ll get a little into each of these possibilities.
For this article, I am talking about the brown earthworms commonly found in gardens.
If you find something else in your garden (white, green, black), it might not be a worm! Be sure to research the species accordingly.
May Have Been in Your Compost
Compost and worms go hand in hand. Vermicomposting is the act of using worms to digest and break down your soil and food scraps to create more nutrient-dense soil.
If you don’t have a different way to compost–such as one of the pricey machines or a community composter–you might turn to vermicomposting as a cheap alternative. Some refer to this distinction as either hot composting (using machines) or cold composting (using worms).
Worms are extremely beneficial for composting because they live symbiotically within the soil. They get to eat your food scraps and, in turn, break down nutrients and make your soil richer. If you buy your compost from someone else, this is likely how the worms got into your soil.
Worms are attracted to the smell of compost (especially the smell of coffee grounds), so they’ll somehow make their way over through a ripped bag or a compost bin.
Even if you bought your compost in a store or from a less home-grown source, worms probably found their way in before you even got a hold of the bag.
Or, if you make compost at home but have had added worms in no way, shape, or form, they may have found your little stash on their own.
Worms Crawl In From Underneath
Those little holes on the bottom of your potted plants are good for more than just plant drainage. Sometimes, if your potted plant is in the right spot, it can attract worms that will crawl in through the bottom.
These worms may have been attracted to the scent of your soil, especially if you have begun composting recently. This, of course, can’t be the explanation if your potted plants are on a porch, concrete, or a shelf (unless it was a very skinny worm presented with the perfect set of circumstances).
However, if your potted plant is sitting amongst the soil in the garden, the worms could have gotten in through the drainage holes.
Might Have Been Dropped In
Since we are leaving no stone unturned in our hunt for how a worm got in your potted plant, it could be that it was accidentally dropped in.
It’s possible that a bird or other animal picked up the worm and dropped it in your potted plant.
Why is this possible? Birds, squirrels, and other creatures pick up worms and eat them as food. Birds fly around with the worms in their mouths to feed their young. Nobody is perfect–it may be that a bird dropped the worm right into your plant!
A bird or squirrel likely didn’t do it on purpose (though wouldn’t that be neat if birds could help us be better gardeners), but this could be a reasonable scenario if you’ve got lots of birds or nests around your garden and you’ve found a few worms.
As I’ve already mentioned, it will be hard for a worm to crawl into your plant from above. Maybe something dropped it!
Someone May Have Planted Them In
If you have adopted this plant from someone, you may consider giving them a call to see if they planted the worms in the pot. Many gardeners love to garden with worms because of the benefits they add to the soil.
If you got your plant already potted from a nursery or garden store, this could still be the explanation. Plant nurseries, especially the smaller ones, may make their nutrient-rich soil for potting. Such soil might include worms or their fertilized cocoons (which contain fertilized eggs).
Worms May Have Climbed In
I’ve stated numerous times that it’s nearly impossible for a worm to get in from above due to the texture of most potted plants and the ability of worms (they do better underground, move well only through soil or grass, and have a hard time moving on smooth surfaces).
But never did I say it was impossible.
Big, long worms might have an easier time getting into your pots, and sometimes if your pot is mossy enough, a worm may be able to climb up.
Or, consider a worm crawling up a mossy wall or a different plant to drop itself into your pot. Unlikely, but not impossible!
Worms can also climb up your pot if you place it close to the surface level or next to other plants that are close to the ground.
Should I Let Worms Live in My Soil?
So you’ve found some worms in your potted plants. Should they stay, or should they go? You may know that worms and gardens go hand in hand, but you may not be sure why. Is it because worms need soil or the other way around? It’s a little bit of both.
You should remove worms from your soil immediately, unless you are willing to begin farming them as needed. Benefits include soil aeration, helping with water drainage, and adding more nutrients to the soil. Challenges include their uncontrollability–when they eat organic matter, they won’t stop, and it does require skill to farm worms.
I like to err on the side of caution and would recommend removing worms immediately upon finding them. If you’re unsure how to take care of worms, it’s more likely they’ll cause harm to your plants by eating up organic matter rather than supporting your cause.
Worms are beneficial to the soil when well-watched or even vermicomposted, but they aren’t necessary for soil to be nutrient-rich or for your plant to grow. Think of it as a little add-on for your soil if you’re willing to learn the ins and outs of vermicomposting or worm farming.
Remember, though, this also depends on the worm. If you have earthworms digging around, you don’t have to give it much thought beyond your gardening goals and preferences. If you find something else in there of a different color or species, remove it immediately.
If you want to learn more about removing earthworms from potted plants, check out this article. I’ll specifically discuss common earthworms, if they can damage your plants, and how to remove them: Should You Remove Earthworms from Potted Plants?
Worms are wonderful creatures for your garden. They can help your soil by aerating, preventing compaction, and supporting compost. Some even find ways to get worms in their soil, such as worm farming or ordering online, because the benefits are numerous!
However, adding worms to your garden is a personal choice. Maybe you’re more interested in adding them to your compost, or you’re more interested in keeping them far (possibly because they give you the creeps!).
Regardless of your choice, worms may appear in your potted plants via no choice of your own.