Mimosa pudica is the botanical name of the sensitive plant. This tropical plant is native to Brazil. Mimosa pudica is a perennial flower that is drought and frost tender. In the wild, it grows up to 5 feet tall and spreads in clumps 3 feet wide. This short-lived evergreen shrub is grown as a flower garden annual and for its ornamental leaves. It is found growing in waste areas that have been disturbed by construction, lawns, open plantations and weedy thickets.
Mimosa pudica grows a prickly, upright stem that is red-brown. Slender branches radiate from the main stem. Small, fluffy pink to lilac ball-shaped blossoms appear in the summer. Seedpods are crowded together, round and brown. The prickly pods attach to fur or clothing when brushed against. The seeds are then transported to new growing areas.
The mimosa pudica leaves are pale green and fern-like. The leaves close up and droop when touched. They re-open within minutes of closing. The leaves fold up and bend at night as well. The sensitive plant has been documented for over 2,000 years. It is a curiosity in the plant world that has been under investigation since the 19th century by the world's botanists.
Mimosa pudica seeds are soaked in hot water overnight until they swell up. Plant them in a sunny area and they germinate in 14 to 21 days when the temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This tropical plant does not like transplanting. The sensitive plant grows in poor soil as long as the soil tends to stay moist. Feed the Mimosa pudica plants every week with half-strength water-soluble 10-10-10 fertilizer.
Mimosa pudica becomes a noxious weed in favorable growing areas if not controlled. This plant forms dense ground covers that prevent the growth of other plants. The chemical herbicide dicamba is used to eliminate the sensitive plant from unwanted growing sites.
Mimosa pudica turns into a fire hazard when it dries out. Parasitical insects infest Mimosa pudica; the insects are removed with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol. If the plant is too infested, remove the plant. Disinfect the plant pot with bleach or do not plant in the ground in that spot for a year.