Earthworms are not very common in houseplants because the conditions in our homes are not very suitable for them. Certainly, they do not manage to reproduce there and moreover, they remain small there.
When they are found, they are usually in small numbers (often there is only one) and, inevitably, they are found on a plant that has been in the ground during the summer. The worm(s) then penetrated the soil of the plant during its visit to the garden and became trapped when the plant was returned in the fall.
Worms in your houseplant?
Often, they are not even noticed unless they are discovered when repotting the plant, but sometimes you can find their turricles (clumps of waste) under the pot, near the drainage holes, or you can see the worms themselves when they come to the surface during heavy watering.
You will only find them in the soil of plants that like moist soil; earthworms cannot live in pots that dry out completely between waterings.
Normally, earthworms are not harmful to plants. On the contrary, they are beneficial, aerating the soil through their tunnels and enriching it with their turricles. But in pots, their main food, the organic matter present in the soil, quickly becomes scarce, especially since most potting soils are based on peat or coir (coconut fiber), two materials that are slow to decompose and low in minerals that offer almost nothing that a vermicompost can consume. The worms eat the young roots of the plants, which can hinder their growth and eventually even kill them.
The different worms that can be found in its plants
It is necessary to distinguish the worms which take part in the growth of your plants from those which only ravage the crops to avoid eliminating them systematically:
- The ketoin larva is harmless to the plant. It also participates in the elaboration of compost by feeding on plant waste. It should not be confused with the larva of the cockchafer, which on the contrary eats the roots of plants and represents a real danger.
- Earthworms, although harmless when they are few in number, they also help to aerate the soil and can be harmful when they are in too large quantities. In this case, they can attack the roots of plants.
- The wireworm is a real scourge because its larvae attack the roots of plants.
How to react?
Let’s start with prevention. Immerse the jar in soapy water to eliminate earthworms. Before bringing your plants in in the fall, dip their pot in a bucket of soapy water and keep them flooded for at least 20 minutes. Earthworms don’t like soap and water and will rise to the surface where you can pick them up and put them back in the garden. This method will also eliminate unwanted insects and critters living in the soil at the same time.
If you have skipped the first step, you can eliminate tapeworms by letting your plants’ soil dry completely before watering again. That’s why succulents and other plants that are left to dry thoroughly are not often found in the pot.
If you find them in houseplants that can’t tolerate their potting soil to dry out completely, simply repeat the same trick you should have applied in the fall: give them 20 minutes of soapy water to soak, picking up any worms that come up.
In the middle of winter, on the other hand, it is not always possible to save the worms you find. After all, you can’t release them into the garden if the ground is frozen. Instead, put them in your compost bin: sometimes there’s enough heat to keep them there… otherwise, well, dead worms are great compostable material!
How to get rid of worms in your potted plants?
1 – Repot the plant
If the attacked plant can still survive it is possible to proceed to its repotting, by cleaning the roots well to eliminate all the soil and larvae, to reinstall it in new soil.
Clean the roots under water between your fingers to remove as much soil as possible.
Remove withered parts of the plant and transfer it to a pot of similar size and material filled with fresh soil.
Clean the old pot with warm water and soap and then disinfect it with a sponge moistened with bleach.
2 – Allow the infested soil to dry out.
Allow the first five centimeters of soil to dry completely before re-watering an infested plant.
3 – Scratch the soil
If you regularly scratch the soil around the plant, you will bring the worms to the surface.
4 – To basin the plant
If the worms do not like dry land they do not like being flooded either. Basin your plant in the sink or a bowl. The worms will rise to the surface, allowing you to remove them.
5 – Pouring sand on the ground
By pouring a thin layer of sand on the soil of the pot, you will make it more difficult for the worms to lay their eggs.
6 – Red wine
Pour a glass of red wine into the ground: the worms will rise to the surface and you can remove them easily.
7 – Cover the ground with a ball of clay
By covering the soil with clay balls, the reproduction of worms will be prevented.
8 – Push a piece of apple into the ground
The worms in the soil, attracted by the smell, will lodge in the apple or potato to eat it.
All that will be left to do is to collect them every 2 days and eliminate them.
This method can also be used to check if the soil is infested with worms.
9 – Sulphur in the soil with matches
To scare the worms away, drive the red (sulfur) side of 4 or 5 matches into the soil.
After a few sprinkles, the water will help the sulfur spread through the soil, causing the worms to flee.
10 – fern manure
The use of plant liquid manure, especially fern liquid manure, is sometimes recommended. However, the results of efficiency remain contradictory and therefore do not present any guarantee.
How to prepare fern manure.
Cut with a knife the very green fern with large leaves that grows in moors or undergrowth, without trying to tear them off by hand, they are very sharp.
Place them in a net, which you will plunge into a basin filled with water.
Let them macerate for 2 to 3 weeks outside because the smell is difficult to bear.
Then spray on the plant, pure or diluted to 10%.
It is not uncommon for plants to be invaded by worms. Some species contribute to the good growth of plants, while others only wreak havoc.
To get rid of them, use the ecological solutions suggested above.