Many people add a sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) to their collection because it is truly one-of-a-kind. This plant displays thigmotropism, meaning it moves in response to touch.
Also known as touch-me-not plants, the leaves of these unique plants will close up when touched.
For as special as sensitive plants are, they are also known for being difficult plants to care for, and they can easily die.
Why is my sensitive plant dying? The most common causes of health problems (and death) in your sensitive plant are incorrect watering and lighting. They’re not just sensitive to touch, they are also sensitive to their environment. These plants require bright, indirect light, and consistently moist soil.
While watering and lighting are the most common culprits for issues with sensitive plants, they are not the only reasons.
We will go over 11 reasons why your sensitive plant is dying and offer solutions to help save it.
11 Reasons Your Sensitive Plant Is Dying (& Solutions)
If you fear that your sensitive plant is dying, it is important to address the problem quickly.
However, since sensitive plants grow extremely slowly, you may not need an improvement for a little while.
Just follow the appropriate solution, and maintain excellent care until your plant’s health improves.
Oftentimes, people end up overwatering their sensitive plant when they are trying to avoid underwatering it.
Symptoms of overwatering include the lower leaves turning yellow or dropping, soft stems, drooping stems, and mold on the soil.
Overwatering itself can be detrimental to the plant, but it can also lead to additional problems like root rot or pests.
Wait until the top 2 inches of soil are dry to water your sensitive plant. Use lukewarm water and always allow the excess to drain out of the bottom of the pot.
You can also move the plant to a brighter or warmer location, which will increase the plant’s water uptake. In the fall and winter, growth will slow, and you can reduce the frequency of watering.
Underwatering is the most common problem affecting sensitive plant care. These plants are not drought tolerant at all.
They have extensive root symptoms that require constant moisture. Symptoms of underwatering include crispy leaves, gray leaves, losing leaves, and stunted growth.
Maintain universally moist soil. Never let more than the top 1-2 inches of soil dry out.
You can use a moisture meter (this one works both indoors and outside) or a continuous drip system to ensure appropriate water levels in the soil.
Sensitive plants need nutrients for health and growth, but an overabundance of nutrients can end up being toxic to the plants.
Overfertilization leads to burns on the sensitive roots. Depending on which nutrients are at toxic levels, the plant can show various symptoms.
Do an extended watering of your soil, allowing all the excess water to drain through the bottom of the pot. This will help remove excess nutrients from the soil.
After rinsing the soil, decrease your fertilizer to a half dilution or less-frequent applications.
4. Nutrient Deficiency
Just like overfertilizing can be a problem, not fertilizing enough can also jeopardize the health of your sensitive plant.
Depending on which nutrient(s) your plant is lacking, it can show varying symptoms: stunted or irregular growth, yellowing leaves, scorched leaves, or wilted leaves.
During the growing season, apply a balanced houseplant fertilizer once a month. You can decrease the amount and/or frequency of application when growth slows down in the winter.
If your sensitive plant produces flowers, it will need a fertilizer with higher amounts of potassium (poinsettia or tomato fertilizer is recommended – Espoma makes a terrific one).
5. Incorrect Lighting
Like most houseplants, sensitive plants enjoy bright, indirect sunlight. When they receive too much direct sunlight, it can lead to scorching, dry leaves, and stunted growth.
On the other end, too little light can lead to overwatering issues and stunted growth.
Move your sensitive plant to a location with bright, indirect sunlight. Typically, a north-facing window creates the perfect environment.
Remove any leaves that have been affected by the incorrect lighting, and adjust your watering schedule (the more light your plant receives, the more water it will need).
Be aware of environmental shock if your plant’s lighting situation is changing drastically.
6. Incorrect Temperatures
Sensitive plants enjoy a tropical climate with an ideal temperature range of 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the temperature ever drops below 54℉, it can cause yellowing leaves and more problematic health concerns.
Maintain an appropriate temperature range of 60-85℉ for your sensitive plant. This means avoiding drafty locations and heating elements.
If your plant has suffered any damage due to incorrect temperatures, remove the affected leaves.
7. Incorrect Soil Mix
A common issue for sensitive plants is that the soil is too dense or holds too much moisture. Aeration allows oxygen to get to the roots and allows excess moisture to drain from the soil.
In conjunction with the proper soil mix, your sensitive plant should also have a pot with drainage holes so water does not pool in the soil.
Use a houseplant potting mix with added perlite (find it here). This mixture holds moisture but offers plenty of drainage and aeration for the roots.
Another combination that works well is two parts loam, two parts peat moss, and one part perlite (or sand).
8. Transplant Shock
Transplant shock occurs when a plant is repotted into a new container with new soil. It usually takes a couple of weeks for the plant to adjust before health improves.
Symptoms can look similar to underwatering: dry leaves, yellow leaves, and stunted growth.
When you are repotting your sensitive plant, thoroughly water the soil 24 hours ahead of time.
Do your best to avoid disrupting the roots when you are moving the plant to the new container. Leave the root ball untouched, and just add new soil around the edges.
Any houseplant can fall victim to a pest infestation. Some pests that can cause damage to sensitive plants include spider mites, aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, and more.
Overwatering can attract pests by creating a moist environment.
Maintain an appropriate water level. Underwatering can lead to a dry plant, which attracts spider mites. Most other pests can be attracted to an overly moist environment.
To treat an existing infestation, first clean the pests off using diluted soap and water. If needed, treat the plant with a mild insecticide.
Root rot, leaf spot, rust, and powdery mildew can all cause harm to a sensitive plant. These fungal and bacterial infections thrive in warm, moist environments.
Symptoms usually look like dark-colored spots on the plant, soft stems or leaves, and a foul odor.
Disease is not caused by overwatering, but it is greatly encouraged by it. Make sure that the plant has excellent drainage, and only water when the top 2 inches of soil are dry.
Remove affected leaves and stems. Use a diluted or gentle fungicide/anti-microbial treatment to treat the rest of the plant.
11. Reached the End of Natural Life Span
Sensitive plants are considered biannual plants, and they usually die within two years of life. You can collect seeds when the plants are blooming to propagate future plants.
Sensitive Plant Care: Quick Guide
Sensitive plants can be difficult to care for because they have small “Goldilocks” windows for water and lighting. Once you find the right environment and care for your plant, it will thrive.
Sensitive plants have extensive root systems and will need larger pots than most houseplants. Make sure the soil is aerated and drains quickly.
The pot should always have drainage holes to avoid overwatering.
Lighting & Temperature
Maintain a temperature of 60-85℉ at all times. Place your sensitive plant in a location where it receives bright, indirect light for most of the day.
Watering & Humidity
Keep the soil moist at all times by watering when only the top 2 inches of soil are dry. Use a pebble tray under the pot or a humidifier to maintain moderate to high humidity.
Remove any damaged or unhealthy leaves. When pruning, avoid cutting any soft or yellow tissue. Only cut dry or brown tissue to avoid further damage or infection to the plant.
Seed propagation is the easiest method. You can pollinate your sensitive plant using a damp finger or cotton swab to transfer pollen among the flowers.
When you plant the seeds, keep them in a moist, warm environment. Germination can take up to two months.
Do Sensitive Plants Close at Night?
You will see the leaves of your sensitive closing at night. This happens because photoreceptors let the plant know that it is nighttime. The leaves will open in the morning when the sunlight hits the plant.
Why Are My Sensitive Plant Leaves Falling Off?
The most common reason that a sensitive plant loses leaves is due to overwatering. Any of the other issues listed above could lead to a sensitive plant losing its leaves.
Concerning leaf loss or colors are not necessarily a death sentence for your sensitive plant. By quickly addressing the issue and maintaining excellent care, you can bring your plant back to health.