Have you ever pressed a spade into the ground, turned up a handful of pink wriggling things, and wondered “do they eat the roots of my plants?”
After all, when you’re putting hard hours into digging and planting, you don’t want anything munching up your plants’ valuable roots or damaging their growth.
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Will Worms Eat My Plant Roots?
On the whole, earthworms do not eat much of anything that is alive, and might only eat tiny amounts of plant roots.
They mostly feed on dead organic matter such as dead leaves, old food scraps, bits of decaying wood, etc.
However, some studies have been done that suggest worms may occasionally eat living tissue, including plant roots and some types of seeds.
But earthworms consume live plant roots in such small quantities that they could never be a serious threat to the plants in your garden.
However, if you are putting earthworms in your potted plants, they may begin to eat your plant’s roots once they run out of dead organic matter to eat.
How Do Earthworms Help Plants?
Earthworms are very good for your plants and are generally thought of as an excellent helper to the garden.
Related Article: Do Worms Eat Seeds? (All You Need To Know)
Worms Enrich Soil And Make Nutrients More Accessible To Plants
They work to recycle old scraps and dead organic tissue, breaking these things back down into nutrients that your plants can access.
Worms of all kinds are crucial to the decomposition of organic materials.
If you compost any garden waste or food waste, you’ve probably seen the worms wriggling around and munching away at it.
This makes the nutrients more accessible to plants, breaking them down into the soil where the plants can access them.
The waste of worms is also extremely beneficial, adding lots of value to the soil.
They Loosen The Soil For Plants
The worms create tunnels in the soil, which helps to prevent it from becoming too compacted.
If the soil gets too dense, it’s hard for plants to push their roots down into it and they don’t grow as well.
These tunnels serve to oxygenate the soil, too, which also helps the plants to grow; their roots need oxygen, or the plants suffocate.
Furthermore, the process of worms burrowing up and then back down, mixing the nutrients, ensuring that they get spread throughout the ground and don’t end up in dense pockets where they are of little use to the plants.
Some worms can burrow as far down as nine feet, so they make a big difference to plants of all sizes!
What To Do If Worms Are Eating Your Plant Roots?
It’s unlikely that worms are eating your plant roots – although it is apparently possible.
If you’ve put earthworms in your houseplants’ pots as a means of aerating and fertilizing the soil, they will eat the roots if they have run out of other food.
This is quite likely in a plant pot, especially a small one, and even more so if you use commercial compost.
Commercial compost is already broken down, so there’s very little for the worms to eat – and they are therefore more likely to turn to your plants as a source of food.
It is best not to add earthworms to your household plants.
You may occasionally find them there and there’s no particular reason to remove one or two, but they are generally better outdoors.
Most earthworms live deep underground, and won’t thrive in pots.
In your garden, it’s fairly unlikely that the worms will target your plant roots.
And if they do have the odd nibble at roots, it won’t affect the health of your plants.
The worms should have enough food available in the soil, and they probably won’t go for living matter unless they are desperate.
It May Not Be Worms Eating Your Plant Roots
If you think something is eating your plant roots, look for other culprits first – there are many species that do.
Cutworms Like To Eat Plant Roots
For example, you may have heard of cutworms, which certainly do damage a plant’s roots, and can kill off many plants throughout the summer months.
Cutworms will often work in rows along with plants, killing them one by one.
However, cutworms are not worms at all.
They are a nocturnal caterpillar, and the name is used for several different species that eventually turn into moths.
You are unlikely to see them unless you dig, but may find them curled up in the soil.
They are earthy-green and generally fat.
If you suspect root damage in your plants (often indicated by wilting, sickness, pale leaves, etc.), you should gently dig down to the roots and see what you find there.
Many pests hide in the roots and eat them, but it is fairly unlikely to be worms that are doing so.
Finding the culprit will let you research how to deal with it.
On the whole, worms are good for your plants and soil.
They do not attack living tissue very often and do help break down nutrients, aerate, and distribute your soil.
Worms are usually something to celebrate and not something to worry about.