put worms in potted houseplants?

westsubwomanNovember 5, 2005

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?

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)



    Bookmark   November 5, 2005 at 11:31PM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

Not going to do any good, the worms will just die. To have any chance of success at reducing compaction you would need a burrowing worm. Burrowing worms burrow to various depths in the soil to regulate their temperature. Indoors in a pot they wouldn't be able to do this and would die.

I agree with Al, it is time to repot in some fresh mix.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 12:14AM
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mingtea(z9 Tucson)

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.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 5:34AM
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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.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 11:49AM
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Thanks everyone for your input. I will take your advise and repot.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2005 at 12:53PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

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.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 2:37PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

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.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 3:42PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

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.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 3:56PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)


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


    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 4:40PM
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Fledgeling_(4b SD)

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.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 4:12PM
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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...

    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 4:46PM
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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.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 5:26AM
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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.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 8:48PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

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

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 9:08PM
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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.


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

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 11:11PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

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.


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

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 2:19PM
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