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How to Care for a Mimosa Pudica Plant for Optimal Results

Learn more about the mimosa pudica including its characteristics, growing conditions, and habitats. We've included some tips on how to propagate these extraordinary plants that are a unique addition to any garden space.

Beautiful pink florets of the mimosa plant in full bloom

Mimosa Pudica

Okay, this is a very exciting plant. Plants by nature are very stationary by nature, as they are literally planted in the earth. So when a plant comes along that has a little bit of movement, people get really excited about it.

Mimosa pudica goes by a a few other common names that are all derived from the meaning behind their latin name which translates to shy, bashful, or shrinking. They also go by the names of sensitive plant, sleepy plant, action plant, shy plant, touch me not, prayer plant, shame plant, and humble plant.

These nicknames all come from a really cool characteristic that the mimosa plant has called Rapid Plant Movement, which only a small number of plant species have! But you’ll have to read the full article to learn all about that!

Mimosa plants are most commonly planted because of this interesting curiosity value, but they also happen to have another benefit that not everyone knows about. And of course, mimosas are a very lovely flowering plant! They were even awarded the award of Garden Merit by The Royal Horticultural Society.

What is Rapid Plant Movement?

Closing mimosa leaf plant due to rapid plant movement

Let’s start out with the fun stuff. Mimosa plants have this incredible adaptive feature that is what earned them their common names like sensitive plant, shame plant, or humble plant.

Rapid plant movement is basically a change in leaf orientation, termed either “sleep” or “nyctinastic movement”. All plant leaves are able to move – usually according to the placement of the sun in the sky – but mimosa plants are able to move at a much quicker pace.

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There are other plants that have this remarkable, almost unbelievable ability, and many of them are carnivorous plants – like a Venus flytrap or a sundew plant. The main difference here is that carnivorous plants react to an insect stimulating the leaf movement, whereas mimosas have incredibly sensitive plant cells.

The nyctinastic movement in a mimosa pudica plant can be triggered by something as gentle as blowing, shaking, warming, or touching. This happens because they have very sensitive, small hairs that cover the entire surface of their leaves, which then trigger the plant cell, telling them all to curl up.

Once something brushes against these sensitive hairs, the leaves will kind of curl in by means of defence or protection. They are also a plant that has foliage that will open during the day and close up during the night — much like a morning glory!

If you’re still feeling curious about the natural phenomena that is rapid plant movement, along with experiments regarding plant habituation and memory in plants, a plant scientist named Monica Gagliano has written several books about this subject, including titles like The Mind of Plants, Memory and Learning in Plants, or The Language of Plants.

What do Mimosa Plants Look Like?

Branching stems and beautiful leaves and flowers of the mimosa plant

Growth Habit

Outside of their natural growing range, m pudica will usually be planted as annuals that will perish after a single flowering season, whereas within their natural growing range (zones 9 through 11) they can be planted as perennial plants.

Young plants start out growing erect stems that eventually develop a creeping or trailing habit as they age, as the stems become heavy and they start to flop over. Each stem is slender and branching and can grow up to heights of 5 feet.

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Under the earth, mimosa plants develop root nodules that are nitrogen fixing. This is because the roots are habitable by nitrogen fixing bacteria, who are able to convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into a form that plants can actually use for photosynthesis. This is quite common in the fabaceae family.

Leaves

Mimosa leaves are quite intricate little things, but they have to be because of their extremely sensitive sensors! They are said to be fern like in appearance.

Each leaf is a bipinnately compound leaf (comprised of many leaflets) with each leaf being borne in 1 or 2 pinnae pairs, and anywhere between 10-26 leaflets per pinna.

A mimosa leaflet is densely covered with sensitive hairs (kind of like the hairs in your nostrils) which is what notifies them when to curl up! The plant petiole is also covered in these hairs.

Bright pink mimosa flower in full bloom growing in a summer garden

Flowers

Mimosa plants aren’t only loved for their fascinating foliage — they happen to have very lovely flowers as well! A mimosa flower is pedunculate (stalked) in nature and they arise from leaf axils of the plant.

Each mimosa flower is comprised of many floret petals that are so narrow that they look like filaments. Depending on the cultivar, mimosa flowers will be either pink or purple.

A mimosa plant will develop more and more flowers as the plant ages, and an older perennial variety will eventually have many flowering stems. Mimosa flowers will commonly bloom in the early summer or mid summer and last for several weeks.

Where are Mimosas Native Plants?

Lovely mimosa shrubs growing on either side of a dirt path

Something very valuable that I have learned throughout my gardening career is that learning about the origins of a plant is one of the best possible ways to learn what it may need from you.

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If a plant originates from an environment very different from the one you live in, chances are that it can only be kept outside certain months of the year, or should be kept as a houseplant.

Mimosas are native plants to the tropical Americas, mainly in the Caribbean and South America and Central America. They have since been naturalized in Australia, South Africa and West Africa, and are currently listed as an invasive species throughout North America, specifically in the Southern United States, as well as through southern Asia and eastern Asia.

Mimosa plants can be found growing wild in disturbed areas or sites that have low-nutrient soil .They can exist in USDA growing zones 9 through 11, indicating that they prefer hot temperatures and high humidity.

What are the Growing Conditions of Mimosa Plants?

Lovely mimosa plant blooming in the hot summer sun

Now that know all about the fundamentals of the mimosa plant, now it’s time to learn how to care for one of your very own. Lucky for us gardeners, once these guys are planted, they are extremely easy to care for! There are just a few things to keep in mind:

Soil Type

Mimosa plants can tolerate different soil types, but there are a few characteristics that it should have! First and foremost, the soil must be very well draining. Compacted soils can quickly become waterlogged and this will result in root rot.

Usually, folks will amend their soil with compost to help with drainage, but this will not work with a mimosa plant. This is because they actually prefer to exist in very nutrient poor soil, which may sound odd, but there are many plants that prefer this type of environment!

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In this case, amend your soil with peat moss to help ensure proper drainage. This will also help achieve the ideal acidity level as well, which should linger between being neutral and acidic.

Sun Exposure

Much like anyone borne between the 80’s and early 2000’s, mimosa plants love to sunbathe. They are sun loving creatures, meaning that they require a minimum of 6-8 of direct sunlight per day.

Though they are partially tolerant to partial shade, they are not at all shade tolerant. However, something cool about the mimosa plant is that they will very obviously tell you if they are not receiving enough direct sunlight!

If the leaves of your mimosa plant are noticeably curled up during the sunny hours of the day, that means that they are not receiving enough sunlight and should be moved to a sunnier a place — like a south facing window.

Two lovely pink flowers of the mimosa plant growing in the garden

Water Level

Mimosa plants have moderate watering requirements. Though they are partially drought tolerant, they prefer to exist in soil that remains moist. Just remember that they are not at all tolerant of saturated soil, so make sure that soil is well drained!

These plants also enjoy a decent amount of humidity. If they are living indoors, you can achieve higher humidity either by placing a humidifier in the room, or by placing the plant pot on top of a tray of pebbles filled with water.

Temperature

The one thing that mimosa plants are particularly picky about is their temperature. These are a plant species that prefer to live in high heat and high humidity. They can happily grow outdoors if temperatures hover between 65 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit, but should otherwise be kept indoors as a houseplant. They can exist outdoors in USDA growing zones 9 through 11.

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Fertilizer

Knowing that mimosa plants prefer to exist in low nutrient soil, should indicate to you that they really don’t need to be fertilized! If they live in soil that is high in nutrients they tend to exhibit a rather leggy growth habit.

Pruning

Pruning a mimosa plant does require a bit of time, but not so much as some other plants will. Because they can rather quickly develop a leggy or creeping growth habit, it is important to maintain a gentle level of pruning to help keep it under control during their growing season. Just snip away the runaway stems and it should maintain a nice bushy shape to it.

How do you Propagate a Mimosa Plant?

Amazing bushy mimosa leaves growing densely together

And now for the final step: planting your very own mimosa plant. Their growing conditions are very straight forward, but mimosa seeds do need a little bit of encouragement in order to properly germinate. So just follow these simple steps and you’ll have a blossoming mimosa patch in no time!

1. Grab your harvested or store bought mimosa seed. There is a tough exterior seed pod that surrounds the seed that needs to be stimulated in order to open. This can be done either by creating a little nick in the seed pod, or soaking it for a few hours to help soften it up.

2. Place the mimosa pudica seeds in a potting medium that is very well draining and is well moistened. They can either be sprinkled or planted at least an inch apart from one another.

3. Cover the mimosa seeds with a light later of moist soil (they need a certain amount of sunlight in order to germinate, so don’t cover completely).

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4. Place the seeds in a warm and bright location — usually a south facing window is the perfect place. Ensure that the soil remains moist as seedlings are getting established.

5. Seed germination should only take about a week to occur! Once seedlings are a couple of inches tall, they can they be planted outdoors in a sunny, well draining area, or to a large plant pot if they are staying indoors!

Focus image on two fluffy pink flowers blooming in the garden

FAQs

Is the mimosa plant deer resistant?

Mimosa plants are not particular deer resistant, though this isn’t such a bad thing. Larger pests like deer, squirrels, and rabbits help keep this plant species under control, as they are considered as being in invasive species in many regions outside of their natural growing range.

What are the damaging agents to mimosa plants?

One unfortunate thing about cultivating mimosa plants is that they are susceptible by several different kinds of damage. They often get infested by spider mites, mealybugs, thrips, and something extra sinister called the mimosa webworm.

Mimosa webworms cause damage by spinning webs around the mimosa leaves which disables the plant from being able to engage in their nastic movement!

These plants are also susceptible to fungal issues and root rot if they happen to be planted in poorly draining soil or soil that is waterlogged.

Can I plant a mimosa plant in a pot?

Planting a mimosa plant in a pot is a great way to help keep it moveable if you happen to live in a colder region. These plants can only exist in USDA growing zones 9 through 11, and should otherwise be brought indoors as a houseplant as they won’t be able to survive the fall or winter outside of those zones.

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When do mimosa flowers bloom?

Mimosa flowers will bloom in the early or mid summer and blossoms will last for several weeks. The plant itself will produce more and more flowering stems as the plant ages, which eventually creates quite a display of small purple flowers.

Why do mimosa leaves move?

Mimosa plants have this incredible adaptive feature that is what earned them their common names like sensitive plant, shame plant, or humble plant.

Rapid plant movement is basically a change in leaf orientation, termed either “sleep” or “nyctinastic movement”. All plant leaves are able to move – usually according to the placement of the sun in the sky – but mimosa plants are able to move at a much quicker pace.

There are other plants that have this remarkable, almost unbelievable ability, and many of them are carnivorous plants – like a Venus flytrap or a sundew plant. The main difference here is that carnivorous plants react to an insect stimulating the leaf movement, whereas mimosas have incredibly sensitive plant cells.

The nyctinastic movement in a mimosa pudica plant can be triggered by something as gentle as blowing, shaking, warming, or touching. This happens because they have very sensitive, small hairs that cover the entire surface of their leaves, which then trigger the plant cell, telling them all to curl up.

Once something brushes against these sensitive hairs, the leaves will kind of curl in by means of defence or protection. They are also a plant that has foliage that will open during the day and close up during the night — much like a morning glory!

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If you’re still feeling curious about the natural phenomena that is rapid plant movement, along with experiments regarding plant habituation and memory in plants, a plant scientist named Monica Gagliano has written several books about this subject, including titles like The Mind of Plants, Memory and Learning in Plants, or The Language of Plants.

Are mimosa plants shade tolerant?

Much like anyone borne between the 80’s and early 2000’s, mimosa plants love to sunbathe. They are sun loving creatures, meaning that they require a minimum of 6-8 of direct sunlight per day.

Though they are partially tolerant to partial shade, they are not at all shade tolerant. However, something cool about the mimosa plant is that they will very obviously tell you if they are not receiving enough direct sunlight!

If the leaves of your mimosa plant are noticeably curled up during the sunny hours of the day, that means that they are not receiving enough sunlight and should be moved to a sunnier a place — like a south facing window.

Do mimosa plants need fertilizer?

Knowing that mimosa plants prefer to exist in low nutrient soil, should indicate to you that they really don’t need to be fertilized! If they live in soil that is high in nutrients they tend to exhibit a rather leggy growth habit.

What is the difference between the mimosa tree and the Persian silk tree?

Albizia julibrissin is the latin term that is used for a Persian silk tree, which is a specific type of mimosa tree that is cultivated for its beautiful flowers.

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What are some common names for the mimosa pudica plant?

Mimosa pudica goes by a a few other common names that are all derived from the meaning behind their latin name which translates to shy, bashful, or shrinking. They also go by the names of sensitive plant, sleepy plant, action plant, shy plant, touch me not, prayer plant, shame plant, and humble plant.

These nicknames all come from a really cool characteristic that the mimosa plant has called Rapid Plant Movement, which only a small number of plant species have!

How tall do mimosa plants get?

Young plants start out growing erect stems that eventually develop a creeping or trailing habit as they age, as the stems become heavy and they start to flop over. Each stem is slender and branching and can grow up to heights of 5 feet.

Are mimosa tree roots invasive?

A mimosa tree has incredibly strong roots that grow in every direction and are incredibly hard to move, making them invasive roots.

How often should a mimosa plant be watered?

Mimosa plants have moderate watering requirements. Though they are partially drought tolerant, they prefer to exist in soil that remains moist. Just remember that they are not at all tolerant of saturated soil, so make sure that soil is well drained!

These plants also enjoy a decent amount of humidity. If they are living indoors, you can achieve higher humidity either by placing a humidifier in the room, or by placing the plant pot on top of a tray of pebbles filled with water.

Do mimosa plants need to be pruned?

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Pruning a mimosa plant does require a bit of time, but not so much as some other plants will. Because they can rather quickly develop a leggy or creeping growth habit, it is important to maintain a gentle level of pruning to help keep it under control during their growing season. Just snip away the runaway stems and it should maintain a nice bushy shape to it.

What do mimosa leaves look like?

Mimosa leaves are quite intricate little things, but they have to be because of their extremely sensitive sensors! They are said to be fern like in appearance.

Each leaf is a bipinnately compound leaf (comprised of many leaflets) with each leaf being borne in 1 or 2 pinnae pairs, and anywhere between 10-26 leaflets per pinna.

A mimosa leaflet is densely covered with sensitive hairs (kind of like the hairs in your nostrils) which is what notifies them when to curl up! The plant petiole is also covered in these hairs.

What is the best time of year for planting a mimosa plant?

The best time of year to start out a mimosa plant is in the spring. They don’t need to be started earlier as seed germination is rather quick, and they can transplanted outdoors early in the season (as long as it is warm enough).

What is the ideal soil type for a mimosa plant?

Mimosa plants can tolerate different soil types, but there are a few characteristics that it should have! First and foremost, the soil must be very well draining. Compacted soils can quickly become waterlogged and this will result in root rot.

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Usually, folks will amend their soil with compost to help with drainage, but this will not work with a mimosa plant. This is because they actually prefer to exist in very nutrient poor soil, which may sound odd, but there are many plants that prefer this type of environment!

In this case, amend your soil with peat moss to help ensure proper drainage. This will also help achieve the ideal acidity level as well, which should linger between being neutral and acidic.