Houseplant of the Week: The ‘Sensitive’ Plant

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Ah, the sensitive plant. Reader of romantic poetry, easy to upset, spending long hours in its room obsessing over comments in its Instagram feed . . .  oh wait, no, that’s a sensitive teenager.  Sorry, got them confused.

The fabulously named Mimosa Pudica (which sounds like an alcoholic beverage and a dessert all rolled into one) is commonly called the “sensitive plant” or the “touch-me-not.” Why? Well as you can see in the video above, it features this intriguing trick: at the slightest touch, its feathery leaves will quickly close together. The name is a Greek/Latin hybrid term meaning “bashful mime.”

And while they’re sensitive, there not too sensitive. Leaf closing aside, mimosa pudica is pretty easy to grow and lovely to look at. Here’s the basics:

Caring for Your Sensitive Plant

  • Mimosa pudica likes soil that can hold enough water to remain consistently moist while providing good drainage to prevent root rot. Self-watering pots are a good choice for this plant.
  • Our sensitive plant loves light and if it doesn’t get enough, it will close those fern-like leaves and fail to bloom with pretty pale pink and purple flowers. East facing windows that get lots of morning light will keep it happy.
  • This is a native of the tropics and it likes its humidity. Placing it near a humidifier or misting periodically will help it feel at home even in our high desert.
  • A diluted high-potassium fertilizer (like you would use for tomatoes) is a great choice because the plant’s movement requires energy.
  • Often sensitive plants are houseplant annuals because they decline after blooming in the summer. However, it is easy to propagate new plants from their seed.