The curious world of Mimosa pudica and what makes them so shy?
Mimosa pudica, commonly known as the Shy Plant, is a sought-after addition to many houseplant collections due to the curious movement of its leaves. Although native to tropical regions of south and central America, these plants are considered a common weed in their natural habitat.
Mimosa pudica is an unusual subshrub member of the Fabaceae family and they are closely related to Peas. They are loved for their feathery fronds which adorn delicate stems and are even capable of producing pink flowers during the growing season. Once flowering is complete, these plants produce seed pods. They can reach up to 30cm in height but like to be pruned regularly to maintain their bushy shape. This curious plant is often referred to as a Shy Plant or Sensitive Plant due to the ability to fold in their leaves when triggered by touch. This speedy response to stimuli is designed to protect the plant by startling grazing herbivores. This simple movement cleverly scares the animals into munching on other plants!
The ability to move their leaves is caused by specialized cells found at the base of the leaves and leaf stalks. When touched, these cells quickly release water which causes the leaves to curl up. After several minutes, when the danger has passed, the leaves will reopen. Like Calatheas, the Mimosa pudica also respond to changes in light and will often droop their leaves in the dark and then reopen in daylight.
Sensitive Plants can easily spread in the warmth and humidity of their natural habitat; however they are slightly more high maintenance for houseplant enthusiasts in the UK. To care for Shy Plants in our homes, they should be placed in bright, in-direct light and do particularly well when placed in East or West facing windows sills. It is important to keep them out of any cold, draughty spots. If the plant becomes overly cold, it’s leaves will begin to turn yellow. In the warmer temperatures of spring and summer, keep the soil moist to the touch. In the autumn and winter, when the temperature is much colder, water sparingly to avoid root rot. Mimosa pudica should be fed fortnightly throughout the growing season with a high-quality, general houseplant feed. One of our favourite and most versatile feeds is Liquid Gold Leaf.
Shy Plants are humidity lovers and should be misted frequently throughout the week. Alternatively, pop your Mimosa pudica in a terrarium or choose a pebble tray. To create humidity with a pebble tray, fill a saucer or plate with pebbles or grit. Fill the tray with water until the water level sits just below the top of the pebbles. Over time you will need to refill the tray as the water evaporates around your houseplant. As they mature, these plants can become less attractive, so it is recommended to re-grow them from the seeds they produce after flowering each year. As the plant matures, prune regularly to prevent leggy stems.
Mimosa pudica are particularly popular due to the movement of their leaves when triggered by touch. However, this movement drains the plant of energy and is generally only used when the Shy Plant feels like it is in danger. When overstimulated the plant will begin to have slow responses, and this will ultimately shorten its life span. We understand the temptation, but its best to admire this gorgeous specimen’s natural ability to move rather than constantly touching their leaves!
For more weird and wonderful plants check out our website. Alternatively, pop into either of shops and let our Plant Gurus guide you towards suitable options for your home!