Special thanks goes to Brandon, our local worm and horticultural expert at Armstrong Garden Center in Tustin, California. It’s thanks to Brandon that I found out what I am about to share with you!

Worms. Pick ’em up and drop ’em in. That easy. BUT! There’s something magic that happens. Brandon explains it more like the horticultural expert that he is, but I will tell it to you like the dabbling hobbyist gardener that I am.

These are red worms, which stay closer to the surface. Earthworms tend to dig deeper.

They poop 💩. They excrete stuff that is beneficial for the plants in two ways—nutrition and help with pest control. There are enzymes in their digestive tract that is harmful and unpalatable for the bad bugs that gets passed along with the nutrients that the plants take up. Plus, all their digging and activity makes the soil super light and fluffy, which is called aeration. This helps minimize compaction of roots and helps plants grow a healthier root system that is better able at absorbing nutrients and water. It is a mutually beneficial relationship! Plant matter getting broken down feeds the worms, worms feed and safeguard the plants.

You can use worm castings to shoo potential bad bugs away, they will think that there are worms and vamoose. Does it work? I have a 20 gallon gardenia pot that is full of worms, deeply watered once a week, and sometimes neglected, and I have not seen any issues with bugs or the plant looking anything other than deep green and lively, even during the summer when heat spiked to triple digits.

Did you know that you can feed them? Brandon highly recommends this stuff:

Down to Earth fertilizers can be found at most major garden centers

Whether for outdoor, indoor, raised bed, and container gardening, you can drop some worms into some holes you dig into the dirt or pots and sprinkle this stuff on top. They eat it and turn it into even better fertilizer for your plants.

I don’t know how, but there were some in my indoor bird of paradise and outdoor gardenia pots. Which is how I got to asking Brandon at the garden center about worms and (pun 🧀 cheesily intended) opened up a whole can of worms about worms. I am telling you, this guy needs his own show. He’s like Bob Ross, Neil Degrassi Tyson, and Bill Nye for plants.

I popped some in my fuchsia, rose, begonia boliviensis, abutilon, and camellia pots. Here’s my lovely yuletide camellia:

The water pan has some dirt and stuff that comes through when I water. The jizo statue is from Portland Japanese Gardens, I just placed him in along with patches of cotton candy fern, selaginella, an alpine strawberry sprout, and a pansy.

Did you know that hummingbirds are interested in camellias? I’ve had a few visitors and am just loving it. Currently, I am living in Southern California. It’s supposed to be winter, which is when camellias like to bloom but we are having a temporary hot spell. Still, the camellia seems unfazed! The hardiness zone here is 10. I will introduce Jizo to you and show you the Portland Japanese Garden in another post. Thanks for reading my blog!

You can contact your local garden centers to check to see if they have good bugs and to ask questions to learn more. If you are in Orange County, California, here are some places where you can find good bugs for the garden:

  • Green Thumb Nursery (multiple locations)
  • Armstrong Gardens
  • Roger’s Gardens
  • Plant Depot San Juan Capistrano