Mimosa Pudica - How to Care For The Sensitive Plant

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by Max - last update on July 30, 2019, 5:34 am
Mimosa pudica

This plant is popularly kept as a houseplant, but it can also be grown outside as annuals or evergreen perennials. It is commonly referred to as the sensitive plant because the leaves fold in on themselves in response to touch.

It is a small shrub which has a spreading habit and can be encouraged to trail or hang as it matures. It features pretty fluffy flowers in shades of pink and purple, which bloom in summer and last until winter.

Quick Facts

OriginCentral and South America
Scientific Name:Mimosa pudica
Common NamesSensitive plant, shame plant, humble plant, shy plant
FamilyFabaceae
TypePerennial shrub
WateringMaintain moist soil
LightBright, direct light
Height18 inches
HumidityModerate to high humidity
ToxicToxic when ingested by animals and humans, can result in alopecia (hair loss)
PestsRed spider mite, and other common houseplant pests

Varieties

There are several varieties of Mimosa pudica, as well as other similar plants that often get confused with this plant. The common sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) has many similarities with the giant sensitive plant (Mimosa diplotricha var. diplotricha), though it can be distinguished by the size and shape, as the giant sensitive plant is an upright climbing plant.

The giant sensitive tree (Mimosa pigra) also bears many similarities, with the main difference being that this tree grows as an upright shrub with many-branched leaves. The sensitive native plant (Neptunia gracilis) is commonly confused with Mimosa pudica, but this plant has a tendency to become invasive and is often considered to be a weed. You can distinguish between the two as the sensitive native plant will produce yellow flowers, and it does not have prickly stems like the true sensitive plant (Weeds of Australia- Queensland Government).

Varieties of Mimosa pudica include the following.

Mimosa pudica var. Hispida

Mimosa pudica Hispida
Golden Shrimp Plant (Pachystachys lutea)

This variety is very similar to the common sensitive plant, though its main feature is that it is densely hairy.

Mimosa pudica var. Unijuja

This variety of Mimosa pudica can be identified by its lack of hairs.

Watering

Mimosa pudica watering

This plant should be potted in well-draining soil, as it likes to have continual moisture. A well-draining soil will prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged, even with frequent waterings. Though the plant enjoys constantly moist soil, it will suffer root rot if its feet are kept too wet. To further ensure this doesn't happen, only add more water when the top layer of the soil has dried out. The best way to test this is simply to dip a finger into the soil surface and feel for moisture. Only continue with watering once the soil is dry to the touch.

Temperature

Average room temperatures of 65-75° F will be perfect for this plant. As a general rule, if you are comfortable in your home, then your plant will be too. It can be taken outdoors for the summer if you wish, or it can also be planted outside where it will grow as a perennial. It will struggle in very high temperatures, and this can cause the leaves to collapse, so if you live in a particularly warm climate, it may be best to keep this as a houseplant.

Humidity

This plant enjoys moderate to high humidity. Keep it from drying out by avoiding placing it near heating systems, which can dry out the air. If your home has particularly dry air, you can help your plant out by increasing the level of moisture in the air. This can be done by using an electric humidifier, which releases moisture into the air throughout the day. This might be particularly beneficial if you have many plants that enjoy high humidity.

However, if you only wish to increase the humidity directly around the plant, you can spray it with a light water mist. If this is something you are likely to forget to do, an alternative is to use a pebble tray. This involves sitting the plant pot on a tray of pebbles and filling the tray up with water. As the water evaporates from the surface of the pebbles, it will increase moisture around the plant. Always make sure the water level doesn’t meet the plant pot itself as water will be absorbed through the drainage holes and can make the soil too moist. Just remember to keep the water level in the tray topped up.

Light

This plant needs full direct sunlight to thrive. Set it in a position on a windowsill, or if you do not have a suitable area in your home, you could use grow lights to simulate sunlight. This plant responds to light by unfurling its leaves, and during the night time when it is dark, it will close its leaves. The plant responds similarly to touch, folding in on itself when it comes into contact with anything. It is this trait that earned the plant its common name of ‘sensitive plant.’

Propagation

Mimosa pudica can be propagated from seed. The seeds need assistance to encourage them to germinate. To do this, pierce the seeds with a knife or sharp tool until you can see the underlying white insides. Then, continue as with normal seed propagation, laying them on a moist growing medium and lightly covering them with potting soil. Position the seed tray in a warm environment and wait for germination; this should occur within a week or so.

Repotting

Mimosa pudica in a pot

This plant grows quickly and when grown in a container will need to be repotted every year or two to enable it the space to thrive. The plant will let you know that it needs to be repotted by sending roots searching out of the drainage holes in its pot. Select a pot one size bigger than the current pot and fill the bottom of it with moist potting soil.

Gently remove the sensitive plant from its current pot and rub the soil between your thumb and forefinger to crumble the soil away and reveal the plant's roots. Remove as much of the old soil as possible without damaging the roots, then set the root ball into the new pot and surround with fresh potting soil. The base of the plant should be at the same level within the soil as it was in its previous pot. Keep the soil moist and continue care as usual.

Pruning

Pruning of this plant is not required (Royal Horticultural Society).

Flowering

Mimosa pudica flowering

This plant produces fluffy flowers on long stalks that resemble pom-poms, in either purple or pink. The blooms appear in summer and fade in winter, and as the plant matures, more and more flowers are added to the plant. Though the flowers are quite attractive and unusual, this plant is most commonly grown for its foliage, which is delicate and slender aesthetically and is responsive to touch and movement, curling in on itself when touched or shaken.

Common Pests and Diseases

This plant is mostly disease-free, though it can fall victim to common houseplant pests. The most common pest for this plant is the red spider mite, which causes leaf discoloration, and premature leaf drop. Maintaining high humidity and regularly spraying the plant will help to curb an infestation, though the use of pesticides might be necessary in some cases.

Do you have any questions about Mimosa pudica plants? Leave us a comment below, and don’t forget to share this page with your horticultural friends!

Mimosa Pudica - How to Care For The Sensitive Plant

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