Tickle Me Houseplant – How To Make A Tickle Me Plant Grow
By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden
It’s not a bird or a plane, but it sure is fun to grow. The tickle me plant goes by many names (sensitive plant, humble plant, touch-me-not), but all can agree that Mimosa pudica is a must have in the home, especially if you have kids.
What Kind of Plant is a Tickle Me Plant?
So what kind of plant is a tickle me plant exactly? It’s a shrubby perennial plant native to tropical regions. The plant can be grown outdoors as an annual, but it is more commonly grown indoors for its unusual growing characteristics. When touched, its fern-like leaves close up and droop as if being tickled. Mimosa plants will also close their leaves at night. This unique sensitivity and ability to move has fascinated people since early times, and kids are especially fond of the plant.
Not only are they fascinating, but attractive too. Tickle me houseplants have prickly stems and, in summer, produce fluffy pink, ball-shaped flowers. Since the plants are commonly grown around children, the thorns can easily be removed with a nail clipper to prevent any possible injury, though rare.
How to Make a Tickle Me Plant Grow
Outdoors, these plants prefer full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Indoor tickle me plants should be placed in a bright or partially sunny location of the home. While potted plants can be purchased, they’re actually just as easy (and more fun) to grow from seed.
How to make a tickle me plant grow from seed isn’t difficult at all. The most important thing to keep in mind is the soaking of the seeds in hot water overnight prior to planting them. This will simply help them to germinate quicker. Gently plant the seeds about 1/8 of an inch (0.5 cm.) deep in potting soil. Gently water or mist the soil and keep it moist but not overly wet. It also helps to cover the top of the pot with clear plastic until it sprouts, though it’s not required.
Place your tickle me houseplant in a warm area, with temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21-29 C). Cooler temps will make it more difficult for the plant to develop and grow properly. In fact, this can cause it to take up to a month longer to grow. Once sprouts appear, the plant can be moved to a brighter location. You should see its first true leaves within a week or so; however, these leaves cannot be “tickled.” It will take at least a month or more before the tickle me plant is ready to react to touch.
Caring for Tickle Me Houseplant
Care for tickle me plant is minimal. You’ll want to water the plant well during its active growth and then sparingly in winter. Tickle me plants can be fertilized with a general houseplant or all-purpose fertilizer in the spring and summer.
If desired, the plant can be moved outside for summer and brought back indoors once temperatures begin to fall below 65°F. (18 C.). Remember to acclimate plants both before putting them outdoors and bringing them back inside. Outdoor garden plants will not come back; therefore, you will have to either save the seeds or take summer cuttings in order to enjoy them again the following year.
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Great in landscapes and containers and will grow well in sunny to shady locations. They can also be grown indoors as a houseplant where they prefer bright light or a sunny window.
Caladiums can be an irritant if ingested. The ASPCA has more information on which plants may be harmful.
Caladiums can be a very nice windowsill or sunroom plant and for much of the United States and certainly in Canada this might be the best use for Caladiums. Since they are tropical they need to have warmth and humidity, try to always keep the temperatures above 65 F for best growth and leaf size, and a pebble tray or frequent misting can help to keep humidity up around your plants. If you live in a northern climate, be careful not to plant too early in spring as temperatures below 50F will chill and stunt plants, normal indoor temperatures should be fine and winter heaters usually dry things out a bit too much. So this can be a good guide for when to grow these Caladiums, when you turn the heater off for the summer.
Plant tubers pointed end facing upwards, so the tuber is about 2” below the soil level, the roots form on the top of the tuber , so you need to plant them deep enough that roots have room to grow, but not too deep because it delays new leaves and weakens the plant. If your plants are already growing in pots when you purchase them, plant them about ½” deeper when you transplant them to make sure the tubers have room to keep growing.
Caladiums do not need a lot of fertilizer, about ¼ of what most folks feed their flowering annuals, and too much fertilizer can burn the leaves especially the white portions of the leaf. So just fertilize with ¼ the strength what you normally do for your flowers and apply weekly or every other week.
Keep plants in a sunny to partly sunny location and avoid burning hot southern exposures especially at higher altitudes.
Keep soil in your pots moist at all times, wilting will cause leaves to yellow and drop, so just check to make they do not dry out!
Since Caladiums prefer heat and humidity and do not tolerate cold, soggy soils, for most gardeners who live in the north will have best results in containers, as the soil in pots or planters warms up faster and has better drainage so plants will not become soggy. Remember for best growth always keep the temperatures above 65 F.
A ¼ - ½ strength fertilizing every week or every other week is fine throughout the season, too strong a fertilizer can burn leaves, and since the leaves last all season you want to keep them looking fresh. Caladiums like to be moist at all times so avoid allowing them to dry out as it also causes leaves to yellow and drop.
Where the Caladiums will do best depends a lot on your location within the US, since sunlight intensity varies depending on where you live here’s a quick reference to help guide to help you succeed.
When to Plant
Sun or Shade
Containers or in the garden
NW & NE United States & Canada
Caladiums do best in containers in this part of the country and usually need to be in a protected warm location for best results. Like a sunroom or warm patio setting. If growing outdoors select the warmest protected locations in the garden.
shade to light shade only
Containers may be easiest but a shady, cool garden spot can also be lovely. Watch your watering to keep the plants from drying out.
Containers are likely best, but a late spring planting into a protected shade flower bed will also be fine.
Both containers and garden plantings work fine, in the deep south Caladiums may even come back the following year if kept dry over the winter.