worms in ficus - Knowledgebase Question

Question by nachos1
October 29, 2007
Two months ago I purchased a ficus at my local Home Depot. It steadily lost leaves until I became concerned at the number. About 3 weeks ago I also began noticing quite a few worms coming onto the surface of the soil after watering. They look like small centipedes -- about a quarter inch to one inch long. They even crawl out of the pot and onto my carpet where they dry up and die. I went back to the HD store where I purchased the plant. They told me that a ficus often looses many of its leaves when moved. They couldn't tell me how the worms fit in -- whether they are responsible of partly responsible for the leaf loss. Also, I want to get rid of them nonetheless, as I don't want them crawling over my carpet. Any suggestions. The people in the store couldn't help me and referred me to you experts. Thanks. Steve Neumeister

Answer from NGA
October 29, 2007


The leaf loss is more likely due to moving the ficus into your home where the light, temperature and humidity is different than where it was growing before. After some adjustment period, the plant should leaf out again. Sometimes just the act of transporting plant in a vehicle can stress them. Just water when the soil dries out and keep the plant away from heat registers or air conditioning vents and it should recover.

As for the soil pests, I'm not sure from your description whether you are dealing with Millipedes or Centipedes - they are quite similar in appearance.

Millipedes can build up in potted plants. They feed on plant parts, but more frequently, on decaying organic material. They become a nuisance when present in large numbers. Many species can occur on plants. They vary in color and can be tiny or up to 11/2 inches or more in length. They are easily identified by the presence of many legs, by the rounded shape, and by their slow movement.

Centipedes are not plant pests. They feed on many insects and insect relatives and, thus, are beneficial. While they resemble millipedes by having many legs, they are very flat and very fast moving. They vary in size (1/4 to 2 inches) as well as in color. Some of the larger ones often bite when disturbed. So, if their presence is annoying, remove them carefully and place them outdoors where they can continue to be useful in nature's scheme of things.

If there are great numbers of these critters, your best option is to repot the plant in fresh potting soil and toss the old potting soil into a garden bed.

Best wishes with your ficus!

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