Sensitive Plant (Mimosa Pudica) Care Guide + Tips

The world of indoor tropical house plants can be strange, exciting, and all-enveloping.  Maybe your fascination started with the ‘Dente’, or more famously known as the ‘Venus Fly trap’.  Maybe you stumbled into collecting plants in another form, or perhaps this is your very first dive into all things household plants.  Whichever path you took, the result is you’re sitting here looking into Mimosa Pudica, or the more famously known ‘Sensitive plant’.

The Sensitive Plant (or mimosa pudica) has gained a lot of attention due to the odd, un-plant-like movements this species has. The leaflets can close together in response to stimuli. This is a fascinating action that can capture the attention of both adults and children. This form of stimulus is incredibly rare and uncommon.

It works through the release of chemicals that create turgor pressure. This takes a fair amount of energy to manage, and it can even interfere with photosynthesis. Botanists have not yet clearly found out, how these plants manage to do this. The mystery of the mechanism is another reason to own this unique plant. Another good thing about the Sensitive Plant is that it is completely non-toxic. This means that you can safely keep it around pets and babies without worrying about them potentially ingesting it. 

What’s even more interesting is that a slight touch from a finger, heavier air movement, heat, or even a shake/rattle can cause this plant to close its leaves up. Aside from that, you will notice that the plant can go dormant in unsuitable living conditions (too cold, not enough sun, too much wind, etc) and will also close its leaves up during this time.

Scientists and plant hobbyists alike have noted that the plant even tends to sleep with a curled up leaf position, which adds to that rare and ‘weird’ factor this wondrous plant has, acting more animalistic than plant-based – even going as far as getting a boost, (or perhaps preferring?) a higher carb-laden fertilizer to help store its energy for moving these leaves.

If you’re in the prepping stage to owning your first Sensitive plant, or you’re snuggled up with it as you try to find a way to help it grow big and strong, we’re glad you’re here!  These fascinating plants are rewarding but do take some time, effort, knowledge, and a bit of magic. 

Don’t be discouraged, and don’t hit the panic button.  This guide will help you understand the needs of your Mimosa that much more.  You’ll be able to bond a bit better, and you’ll always have this article to come back to whenever you need a refresher course.

 Let’s start with the basic supplies, and move on from that:

  • Information
  • Mimosa Pudica Plant (or seeds)
  • Soil
  • Pot/Container
  • Fairly warm – controlled temperature (60-80F / 16-30C)
  • High Humidity
  • Watering can – and plan
  • Light
  • Fertilizer
  • Calendar (optional)
  • Protection (against pests – optional)
  • Hope, determination, love

Information

So, honestly, the best thing (aside from the plant, soil, and water) to arm yourself with is information.  Mimosa Pudica (Sensitive Plant) isn’t really all that hard to keep happy once you have the tools, and know what to look out for.  I firmly believe that any plant (or other living thing) should be thoroughly researched before bringing it home just to ensure you give it the best possible jumpstart to a happy life with you.

First and foremost: No. Sensitive Plants are not carnivorous. However, the hairs can be very sensitive to touch and they close together in a fan-like motion.This leaf action is known as ‘nastic movement’.  This unique response to stimuli is one of the reasons why the sensitive plant is so popular to keep in a household. The plant originates in tropical South and Central America. It produces delicate cluster flowers in midsummer that are fluffy and eye-catching.   Possibly a bigger threat to the Mimosa Pudica would be its tendency to attract fungi due to a combination of the high humidity needed to make the plant happy, and stagnant air.  The best way to protect against this would be to place your Mimosa Pudica in an airy place – while ensuring it’s away from any drafts. 

This can be a bit tricky, because if you place it near a window, but you have cooler temperatures than what the Sensitive plant prefers, you can get a timid plant that stunts growth (or even goes into hibernation mode).  The same can be said for placing your plant next to a door, or even near an air conditioner. You really just want a weak, low and slow setting fan near it (not directly on your plant) to keep circulation moving.

One additional thing worth noting, while Mimosa Pudica (Sensitive Plants) can live up to two years outdoors in a tropical (preferred) living environment, most house plants will live for about a year, making this plant an annual. 

Once your mimosa pudica starts to seed (noted by the flowers, and following tiny little seed pellets) you can absolutely take those seeds, dry them out, and use them to replant your next mimosa whenever you’re ready, so you always have a mimosa in your world.  You can also share your seeds with friends and family, or jumpstart someone new into the world of plants as well!

One common question that many plant owners will have is long their plant takes to grow. In the case of the sensitive plant, they tend to live for around 2-3 years in their natural habitat. However, when they are grown as indoor houseplants they tend to decline after blooming. This means that you should let them die off and collect their seeds. 

Soil

Sensitive plants  prefer a soil that holds enough moisture to keep the plant moist, but doesn’t hold so much water that the plant lives in a swampland.  This is usually where many indoor house plants ‘sink or swim’. You want something that isn’t too dense, and still allows for air movement even in the bottom of the pot (you don’t want to overly pack the soil in either).  Most veterans of the plant world prefer to stick with mixing their own.

Usually, this will consist of peat moss, loam, perlite (or sand) and some gravel at the bottom. All of these can be found at your local gardening center.  You usually want a 2:2:1:.5 ratio, meaning 1 cup of loam, 1 cup of peat moss, and one half cup of your sand or perlite mixture. You can add a quarter cup or less of gravel to the very bottom of your pot for better drainage as well.

If you don’t trust that you’ll make the best mixture, or don’t want to spend money on each portion of mix you’ll need, you can certainly buy ready-made mix in a variety of areas, just look for a soil that drains well, but holds moisture.

Fertilizer

While optional, you can definitely give your plant a little pick me up every two weeks or so.  The best type of fertilizer to look for would be any fertilizer that focuses on potassium, as the sensitive plant is known for movement, and needs to stock up on energy in order to move, potassium will allow for extra energy encouraging your plant more freedom without exhaustion from opening and closing it’s leafs – making for a happier plant overall.

Supplying your plant with potassium fertilizer is more likely to allow your plant to move a bit more through touch, or otherwise (as it will have stored energy to do so). If you choose to go with a standard fertilizer, that’s fine as well, but will most aid in your plant growing a bit taller, rather than allowing it to move as freely as it would with a more potassium rich fertilizer base.

Temperature

If you’re a pretty good gauge for temperature, you can just keep a watchful eye on your plant, ensuring that it doesn’t get wilty or droopy, and continues to move/respond as anticipated in day to day life.  If you’re not too sure of the temperature surrounding the area you’ll have your plant in, or you want to be extra cautious, you can invest in a cheap thermometer that you can view at all times. You want to ensure that your plant is consistently living in a location that’s warmed to around 60-80F or 16-30C.  This is a must, as below and above this temperature can cause your plant to wilt, go droopy, lose leaves, or even tap out. The sensitive plant may be sensitive to touch, but it’s just as sensitive to temperature.

Humidity

No, we’re not messing with you. I know! We said you’re going to want air circulation, and now we’re saying you want to keep your plant in a humid state as well.  The reason you want air circulation is because it’s assumed you’ll keep your plant in a humid area. The issue with a humidity-loving plant is usually that comes with stagnant/stale air. That stagnant and stale air can lead to fungus growth which can completely destroy the life of your plant.  This may be the trickiest part to owning a mimosa pudica plant. You want it to be warm and humid (you can also help this along by keeping a spray bottle and ever so gently, every once in a while, misting your leaves) but you also want some sort of circulation to keep water and moisture from being stagnant for too long. It is true that many indoor houseplants tend to well in the usual humidity of a home. However, in the case of the sensitive plant, it certainly needs a higher level to properly thrive.

Container

You’re going to want a container that has ample holes for drainage on the bottom of the pot, and a small pot around 2-4 inches.  Sensitive plants are bashful, and do enjoy to have a more cozy/tight home for its roots. You can get whatever type of pot you’d like aside from that – any color, any shape, as long as it has ample drainage, and isn’t made out of biodegradable material (it will break down as your plant grows).  

You can optionally look for a shallow dish to place your pot on (some pots even come with this) as a way to water your mimosa pudica from the bottom of the container rather than the top. This is done to help keep fungi from starting at the root of the plant there it comes up from the soil.

Seeds, cuttings, or plants

With the internet age upon us, it’s now very easy to come by seeds, seedlings, or even full plants sent to you with just a few button taps.  This is where you decide which it is that you want.  

Seeds

Stem cuttings can be used for propagation, however most people prefer using seeds due to the ease of planting. You should always get your seeds from a reputable grower. They should be planted during the springtime, unless you are using artificial lighting and temperature. Yes. It sounds scary, but it’s not hard to start your sensitive plant from seed, as long as you follow the steps.  You’re going to want to get luke-warm distilled water, to soak your seed or seeds in for 24 hours before planting. 

Once you’ve soaked for 24 hours, you’re going to want to take that seed and lightly push it into your prepared soil, just slightly buried, with only about ⅛ of an inch of soil over top of the seed.  You will then want to cover the container with some plastic wrap (or other clingy plastic) to keep the humidity in while germinating. Make sure you use a see-through plastic so you can check daily to ensure your soil is moist, not wet.

Once you have finished planting, you should place the seeds in a place where they will be able to get plenty of light and temperatures of at least 65-70 Fahrenheit. You should never let the potting mixture dry out. But, it is also important not to overwater the soil since this can lead to waterlogging. If you provide your seeds with the best conditions, then you can expect them to germinate in around a week. However, if the conditions are not optimum then you may have to wait up to 4 weeks for germination to begin. Weaker seedlings can be clipped away to make way for the strongest plant. 

As soon as you notice there’s a sprout, remove the cover and get a gentle breeze over your new little seedling to help fight against fungi. 

Cuttings

If you already have a mimosa pudica, and want to propagate (or grow additional plants from) it – or if you’re lucky enough to have a friend that’s already growing one, and offers a cutting to you:

Make sure you take the cutting from a healthy, established plant.  Find a nice leafy, healthy green branch with a healthy lookin’ nodule (a nodule will be like a little knot on the branch itself. This can be green, or if it’s already ready to seed, it’ll usually be more of a brown color).  Find that node, and then cut with sharp scissors at a clean angle at least an inch below that node. Take that cutting, and immediately place the cut portion into some clean water.

During this time, you can gather the necessary equipment to plant. You will need soil, a container (with drainage holes) for your cutting, rooting hormone, a clear plastic bag of some sort and a tie.  Fill your container with your soil, and then take that container and place it into a small pool of water – ensuring that the water doesn’t get into the top of the pot, but is drawn up and into the soil from the drainage hole.

Check your soil by touching the top of the pot. Once the soil is damp / moist, remove the pot from the water. It’s at this time you can remove your cutting from the water, and add a small amount of rooting hormone to your cutting (via instructions on your particular rooting hormone).  Once you’ve prepped the cutting, place it into the center of your pot deep enough for it to stand on its own, but not too deep that most of the plant is covered in soil. Take your entire container (plant included) and wrap it in your bag, then tie it off to create a greenhouse effect.

Put your newly planted cutting into a window or warm area with indirect sunlight, remove the bag after 24 hours, and monitor to ensure your soil stays moist, and you have air movement.

Whole Plant

You’ve skipped the germinating, and then prepping for a cutting.  You found yourself an entire plant, great! Check to make sure that there are no spider mites (usually you’ll see tiny red little speckles, or feel a gritty texture on the leaves). If you do notice signs of spider mites, go ahead and give your new buddy a nice rub down with a gentle cloth, removing all dots visible.

It’s also at this time (whether you have spider mites or not) that you would like to get your personal potting mixture, and preferably your own container, and repot your plant. This is to help give your plant a good chance at clean living conditions without the possibility of infecting any other plants you may already have in your area with any kind of infestation or fungus that this plant might have picked up before you owned it.

Watering

Okay, so we have the soil, the fertilizer, the pot, the plant, the water, the thermometer (optional) and the spray bottle (optional).  Now you need to think about watering. While you can water your mimosa pudica with regular water, most plant enthusiasts prefer to go with distilled water for their plants to help cut down on the build-up of unnecessary minerals into the soil.  Watering should always be done from the bottom of the container (again to help keep puddles and excess water from the top of the pot). 

You can start by adding a capful or two of water (standard water cap) to the dish your container sits on, or if you’re not using a dish, you can place your container in a small bowl with a cap or two of water in it.  The soil (and roots from the plant) will bring that water up into the pot from the bottom, eventually reaching the top of the pot. Let the water sit for 15 minutes, and check the top of your pot. If the soil is still dry, add another capful and wait another 10 minutes, do this until your soil is just moist/damp at the top of the plant.

Lighting

Your mimosa pudica will enjoy lighting, but too much light can burn the leaves, and cause your plant to suffer more than appreciate the conditions. It’s best to keep your plant in a window with indirect lighting, or at least move and rotate your plant often throughout the day. If you notice any leaves falling, any droopage, or any wilting, you may want to pull the plant more into the shade for a day and see if that improves.  Likewise, if you leave your plant in too much shade and start to see those signs (droopy plant, loose leaves, wilted in general) it may signal that you need additional lighting on your buddy.

Additional tidbits

If you’re new to, owning plants in general, or just slightly forgetful; you may be interested in grabbing yourself a calendar or journal of some sort.  There are loads of free apps for this, you can set alarms as well, you can grab a pen and piece of paper, or get a little plant log. Either way, you can journal things down about your plants which will help you identify any issues that pop up later while you care for your plant. 

This will allow you to remember when you should water your plant, how often you need to check for moisture, how much you should water, and other things.  For example, you can write down when you last fertilized your soil and make a note to fertilize again in the next two weeks (or whatever your personal fertilizer’s direction goes by).  You can note down how tall your plant is by the day/week/month, or how many new sprouts you see. The optimal conditions can vary depending on a range of factors, and sometimes it can take time to figure out the best routine for the Mimosa Pudica. 

You can take this information and form a log about how well your plant fairs in different rooms of your house, or different areas.  If you get more growth at 70F rather than 80, and more.

Top 5 Care Tips

Below, we will go through the essential care tips that you need to know for allowing your Mimosa Pudica. 

  1. Ensure that your sensitive plant is kept in high humidity conditions
  1. Keep the potting mixture consistently moist 
  1. Always source seeds from a reputable source
  1. Prune your Sensitive Plant regularly 
  1. Use half-strength fertilizer during the growing season 

Final Thoughts

Getting into the plant world, whether of the, more ‘savage’ variety, or any variety is a big journey.  You get to care and appreciate something that fully relies on you, but doesn’t talk back, and can’t complain openly about how you forgot to water it that one time a few weekends back. 

The world of plants is ever-growing (see what we did there?), and expanding.  You can find a variety of species, and a million ways to house, own, and care for each one.  Working on your green thumb, or flexing an already green thumb can be quite addicting. We’re glad you’re on your own journey, and we hope this article has given you some tips, tricks, or little facts/information pieces that you didn’t know previously.  

At the end of the day, one additional plant growing is another reason to celebrate, plants give us oxygen and something pretty and interesting to look at, even inspiring conversation and questions.  The plant journey is fun and amazing, and we hope this article helps you on your own plant journey! The Mimosa Pudica is a highly rewarding indoor plant to own and it can add a touch of dazzle to any interior space. 

Welcome to the world of owning your own little Mimosa Pudica!

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