The creeping Mimosa pudica [mim-MOH-suh, pud-EE-kuh] has thin, slender stems and fuzzy leaves.
It belongs to the Fabaceae family, commonly known as the bean or Leguminosae family and Mimosoideae subfamily.
Mimosa pudica comes from Central America and South America but now grows naturally in parts of the Southern US and Puerto Rico.
It has been introduced to many other regions and is regarded as an invasive species in Tanzania, South Asia and Southeast Asia and many Pacific Islands.
The plant has a wide variety of common names, such as:
- Sensitive plant
- Action plant
- Shame plant
- Zombie plant
- Shy plant
- Humble Plant
Most of the names come from the movement of the leaflets. When stimulated, the leaflets fold inward against the spine of the leaf.
Mimosa Pudica Care
Size and Growth
Mimosa pudica produces thin, weedy stems. As it matures and the stems lengthen, it becomes a creeping or trailing plant.
The stems start to branch and sparsely produce leaves. Within a few years, the stems may reach up to 5’ feet in length.
The leaves remain the most interesting feature of the plant. It produces bipinnate leaves with 26 leaflets per pinna.
Touching, blowing, or moving the leaves causes the leaflets to fold inward against the spine of the leaf.
This sometimes creates a chain reaction, with adjacent leaves folding in turn.
The globose to ovoid heads are roughly ½ inch in diameter (excluding the stamens).
Flowering and Fragrance
This houseplant produces rose or violet flowers without a noticeable fragrance.
The blooms are ball-shaped, fuzzy growths remaining for a long period.
The leaves are bipinnately compound, with one or two pinnae pairs, and 10–26 leaflets per pinna.
The compound leaves fold inward and droop at the petiole when touched or shaken, defending themselves from harm, and re-open a few minutes later.
Typically, the plant keeps its flowers from May to September.
The petioles are also prickly. Pedunculate (stalked) pale pink or purple flower heads arise from the leaf axils in mid-summer with more and more flowers as the plant gets older.
Like a number of other plant species, it undergoes changes in leaf orientation termed “sleep” or nyctinastic movement.
Light and Temperature
The flowering plant grows outdoors in United States USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.
M. pudica thrives in these regions and tends to spread aggressively.
In USDA zones 2 to 8, people commonly grow the plant outdoors as an annual.
Give it lots of sunlight, but without intense UV rays from the direct afternoon sunlight.
For indoor growth, the standard room temperature provides suitable conditions.
Watering and Feeding
Water the plant frequently, especially during the warmer months. Keep the soil moist.
If the soil dries out quickly, add peat moss or compost to increase water retention.
As the plant craves humidity, it may need a light misting. This also helps keep pests away from the plant.
Typically, homes are much dryer compared to the outdoors.
Growing it in groups or misting it each day should help it remain healthy.
Use liquid fertilizer during each watering until the end of the flowering period.
Soil and Transplanting
The mimosa pudica flowers do not need repotting when grown as an annual.
If grown as a perennial bush, repot only if it outgrows its current container.
Use quality peat moss and humus combined with regular potting soil to create a rich medium for sowing seeds or transplanting a young plant just purchased from the nursery.
Mimosa pudica’s seeds produce mucilage made up of D-glucuronic acid and D-xylose.
The mimosa pudica doesn’t need grooming.
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How To Propagate Mimosa Pudica
Propagate from seeds or cuttings.
- Take cuttings measuring at least six to eight inches long and containing several sets of leaves.
- Plant the cuttings in large containers using peat briquettes or peat moss combined with regular potting soil.
- To propagate from seed, sow the seeds in the spring using a starter tray and regular potting soil.
- Keep the soil moist and warm.
- After the mimosa pudica seeds germinate, thin them out into larger containers using peat moss or peat briquettes.
- Move the seedlings or cuttings to sunny spots.
- As with mature plants, avoid direct sunlight.
- Two to three weeks after planting in the containers, begin using a diluted fertilizer with each watering.
- Use one-part fertilizer to three-parts water.
- In the fall, remove scraggly plants.
- Keep the healthier plants in a cool spot and water occasionally.
- In the spring, the plants should resume growing.
Shy Plant Pests or Disease Problems
Cold temperature and blazing heat may harm the plant and lead to a couple of health issues.
If the leaves turn yellow, the plant is likely receiving cold water.
Use room temperature water when watering the plant.
If the leaves start to curl, it’s getting too much sun.
Shield it from the oppressive afternoon sunlight.
Spider mites may attack the plant.
- This is more common when grown indoors in dry conditions.
- Spray the plant with water to increase the humidity level and prevent infestations.
- If the spider mites spread, separate the plant from other plants.
- Mist it several times per day, ensuring to reach under the leaves.
- TIP: For severe infestations, use a miticide.
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Another concern is the aggressiveness of the root system.
Despite the common name, the show-me-not plant grows quickly and may overtake other plants when grown in a garden.
Keep it from getting too close to other plants or cultivate it in a container.
The plant also contains toxic alkaloids (mimosine), glycosides, and tannins which can harm humans and animals if ingested.
This rapid plant movement is thought to act as a defense against herbivores, which may be deterred by the rapid movement dramatic response.
These types of movements have been termed “seismonastic movements”.
Suggested Shame Plant Uses
Mimosa pudica plant grows best in areas with lots of sunlight and humidity.
In dry regions or indoors, grow the plant in groups to increase the humidity.
A cluster of Mimosa pudica linn helps lock in more of the moisture.
Commonly grown in greenhouses as a novelty for its rapid leaf movements in response to touch and also grown as a ground cover.