How To Care For The Mimosa Pudica Plant: Growing The Sensitive Plant

Mimosa pudica (mim-MOH-suh, pud-EE-kuh) is a pantropical semi-erect or prostrate flowering shrub originating in South America and Central America. Today, it can be found throughout the tropical regions of the southern United States, Australia, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and even West Africa.

It is a rugged and adaptable perennial that can also spring back year after year as an annual thanks to vigorous seed production. 

Sensitive Plant (Mimosa Pudica) with flowersPin

The beautiful plant is well-known for its rapid plant movement, mimicking the sensibility through its tiny quick-response leaflets, which fold rapidly at the slightest touch or other external triggers like the wind. They also fold in response to darkness.

This member of the Legume or Fabaceae family of plants grows as a perennial in tropical settings and is naturalized in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. It can be kept as a houseplant in USDA hardiness zones 2-8.

Occasionally, this plant is referred to by its scientific name, Mimosa strigillosa (Mim-MOH-suh strig-ill-OH-sa). In many parts of the southern United States, you will hear Mimosa pudica referred to as Touch-Me-Not. 



It has multiple other common names in English, such as:

  • Prostrate Mimosa
  • Sunshine Mimosa
  • Curiosity Plant
  • Sensitive Plant
  • Humble Plant
  • Shame Plant
  • Action Plant
  • Powder-puff
  • Shy Plant
  • Sleepy plant
  • Live & Die

It has also been trademarked and marketed as the “TickleMe Plant®.”

This ubiquitous plant also has a sprawling array of common names in the languages of the many tropical settings in which it happily grows. Furthermore, about half a dozen species of prostrate Mimosa that closely resemble Mimosa pudica and go by the same or similar common names. 

Mimosa Pudica Care

Growing the Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica)

Size and Growth

Mimosa pudica plant is a prickly, coarse subshrub or herb with a semi-prostrate growth habit. It typically grows to about a foot high and may climb or trail a bit. When kept as a houseplant, it is easy to keep its growth compact through careful pruning.

Its growth habit is slightly slower and more controllable than that of some other varieties of prostrate Mimosa, such as Mimosa quadrivalvis which is quite similar but may attain a spread of 5’ feet. 

Flowering and Fragrance

Touch-Me-Not has small, pale pink or lavender puffball flowers about a half-inch in diameter. They are sweetly scented and very attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Each bloom is made up of hundreds of tiny, thread-like petals. Clusters of about half a dozen blooms appear on the leaf axils. The blooms look like miniatures of those found on Mimosa trees.

Foliage

The leaves, stems, and flower stalks of Humble Plant are covered with small, curved prickles that irritate the skin.

The tiny gray-green leaves of the plant droop in darkness and will rapidly fold and pull away when touched. This reflex from external triggers may be a defense mechanism for protection against predators or a way to reduce the plant’s water loss due to evaporation.

Sensitive Plant (Mimosa Pudica) Leaves in Action

Light and Temperature

Sensitive Plant is essentially a weed that likes to grow out in the open, on roadsides, and in disturbed soil. It requires bright light and hot, full sun and lots of warmth.

When planted outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9-11, the beautiful plant will thrive in areas such as exposed hillsides that stay sunny all day long.

If you are keeping Shy Plant as a houseplant, give it a setting that maintains a temperature of at least 60° degrees Fahrenheit. It also doesn’t tolerate temperature fluctuations. 

As a potted plant, it is a bit more sensitive to the sun. Bright, indirect sunlight is preferable to the full, hot sun.

Be advised that container plants will probably not perform well (or at all) in winter, so it’s best just to set the plant in an out-of-the-way place where it will receive adequate light and warmth. Provide minimal watering during the winter months.

Moreover, if proper sunlight is unavailable, artificial lighting will work well.

Watering and Feeding

Live & Die plants like soak-and-dry watering. In the landscape in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11, this drought-resistant plant may do just fine with nothing but rainfall.

In a container, you should provide thorough watering on a regular basis when the top couple of inches of soil feel dry. Take care not to overwater, as this will cause root rot.

In addition, they grow best in moist soil, so self-watering pots work best.

Fertilize lightly or not at all. Remember that this plant is a weed and that it is also a legume. This plant undergoes a process called nitrogen fixation, which takes the atmospheric nitrogen into a useful form for the plant. As such, it supplies its own nutrients.

Kept as a houseplant, annual repotting with fresh soil in the springtime should supply more than enough nutrients to keep Puffball Plant healthy.

Soil and Transplanting

The sensitive plant grows best in moist and well-drained soil but may adapt easily to any type of soil. Always ensure to check on the soil condition.

Moreover, use a 50/50 mix of good-quality potting soil, peat moss, or coco coir to create a light, rich substrate for potted plants. This mixture can also be used to start pudica seeds and for transplanting.

When keeping a Shy Plant as a potted plant, take care not to over-pot. Use small-to-medium-sized pots just to accommodate the size of the plant.

In the landscape, Prostrate Mimosa is happy in any soil that is light, airy, and well-draining.

Grooming and Maintenance

Mimosa pudica is a fairly compact type of prostrate Mimosa. When kept as a potted plant, you should prune gently during the growing season to help the beautiful plant maintain its shape.

Don’t prune aggressively, as this may discourage growth. Just pinch back tips and trim back at forks in the stem to encourage bushier growth.

If you are keeping Sensitive Mimosa indoors through the winter, prune it back a bit more dramatically at the end of autumn, and then don’t expect much from it through the winter. Just let it rest.

How To Propagate Mimosa Pudica

In its natural setting, prostrate Mimosa tends to ramble a bit and spreads through runners and seed production. It is possible to propagate the plant using root-bearing cuttings, but growing it from seed is actually easier.

The plant produces many small, prickly, bean-like seed pods, and they germinate enthusiastically when planted shallowly in a light mix of potting soil and coco coir or peat moss.

Before planting, it’s a good practice to soak the pudica seeds in warm water to reduce the amount of time it takes for the plant seeds to germinate.

After that, just place four or five dried seed pods in the pot with potting soil mixture where they will grow. Place the pot in a sheltered setting with bright, indirect sunlight and warm temperatures to grow easily. 

Keep the soil slightly moist until the plants begin to grow, and then transition to soak-and-dry watering.

Pudica seeds germinate quickly, and plants grow rapidly. The ease of growing these cheery perennial plants from seed makes it easy to see why simply growing new plants as annuals every spring is usually preferable to attempting to coddle a potted Shy Plant through the winter.

Mimosa Pudica Main Pest Or Diseases

Overwatering is the main cause of problems with this hardy, rugged, easily naturalized plant. Excess water will cause root rot.

As far as common houseplant pests go, spider mites are the main culprits that may negatively impact Curiosity Plant. 

If you notice pitting in the leaves, examine the plant carefully for tiny mites feeding on the undersides of the leaves. You will probably need to use a magnifying glass to see them.

Spider mites also commonly hinder the responsive closing of the sensitive plant, as it wraps the plant’s leaves in webs. 

If you find spider mites, you can blast them off with water. Do this daily for a week to eradicate spider mites on Mimosa pudica.

Is the plant considered toxic or poisonous to people, kids, and pets?

The tiny, sharp recurved thorns can irritate the skin, so be sure to wear gloves when handling the plant. 

The entire plant contains an amino acid known as mimosine, which can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. 

Is the plant considered invasive?

In areas where Mimosa pudica can return year after year, it has naturalized easily and is considered a nuisance weed but not an invasive species. 

It is considered invasive in a wide range of areas where it can thrive and run rampant year-round, such as the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Tanzania.  

Suggested Mimosa Pudica Uses

Touch-Me-Not is a grand choice as a novelty and a first plant for curious children. It is easily grown in a sunny window and provides education and entertainment as an interactive plant. 

Kids can also learn a great deal about plant propagation by gathering, saving, and sowing plant seeds.

As a member of the legume family, the Live & Die Plant also has agricultural value as a cover crop, and it can be used to control erosion on hillsides and in similar settings.

The plant makes a nice ground cover in a yard, garden, and commercial settings such as coconut groves.

This drought-tolerant plant might be used as a pollinator-attracting addition in a rock garden. It is also worth noting that this is an effective butterfly host plant that provides food for caterpillars.

Mimosa pudica also has several medicinal uses both in folk medicine and modern pharmaceutical medicine. Components of the plant have been found valuable as a snakebite antivenom ingredient, a deworming agent, an antidepressant, and much more.

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