Biophytum sensitivum (Little Tree Plant)

Little Tree Plant / Sensitive Plant

Biophytum sensitivum

Biophytum sensitivum is a gorgeous little miniature palm-like plant species that’s perfect for small containers and those looking to create a tropical jungle feel. Native to wetland areas of India and Southeast Asia, it’s commonly found in riparian areas near streams and waterfalls, and so you can expect this moisture loving plant to thrive under terrarium conditions.

With delicate branches radiating out from a central crown and a single woody stem, it’s truly like a little palm tree. The name “sensitivum” comes from the way that the leaves fold downwards in response to touch and at night for protection. Truly, a lovely little feature plant for a terrarium!

At a Glance

Where to Buy Biophytum sensitivum

See the links below to purchase from reputable terrarium plant shops and marketplaces (may include affiliate links). 

Terrarium Plant Guide

Biophytum sensitivum Care & Growth

Lighting

Naturally found in shaded areas, Biophytum sensitivum does not require a great deal of light to thrive. Bright, indirect light is best, but it’ll handle medium light just fine too. Definitely keep out of direct sunlight to protect the delicate leaves.

Watering

As a plant species native to wetlands and riparian areas, Biophytum sensitivum loves to be consistently wet. Probably more so than most other terrarium plants, so try to pair it with the more moisture loving plants so you can provide a wet enough environment for it.

Substrate

Biophytum sensitivum needs a substrate with excellent water retention in order to mimic its natural wetland environment. Substrate mixes containing lots of sphagnum moss or coco coir can help to retain maximum moisture around their roots.

Temperature & Humidity

This tropical species needs a consistently high temperature and humidity to grow. Ideally, keep above 15°C and 50% humidity to keep this plant happy, as you can expect it to take a sudden turn for the worse if caught in a cold or dry draft.

Growth

Being a true miniature plant, there’s not a great deal of growth to be had with Biophytum sensitivum. At their mature height, they won’t grow above a few inches tall, but they will bloom periodically through the year with yellow, pink and cream coloured flowers.

It’s an annual plant, so in the wild they typically wouldn’t last longer than a year, but it a terrarium they’ll last plenty longer than that (especially if you remove the flowers early when you see them). They’re most likely to die just after releasing their seeds, so conveniently it supplies you with new replacements at just the right time!

Propagation

Biophytum sensitivum is one of the few terrarium plants where harvesting and germinating seeds is the easiest practice. You only need the one plant for reproduction, and you’ll see the seed pod open up in a star-like shape before they’re released. Seeds can be easily germinated in moist soil, but it’s probably best to collect them all and plant yourself so you can control the spread of new plants.

Varieties & Similar Plants

The Biophytum genus has over 50 different species, a few of which are suitable for terrariums, including Biophytum sp. ‘Lime’ and Biophytum sp. ‘Ecuador’. The common name “Sensitive Plant” is also often associated with Mimosa pudica which also folds up in response to touch.

Common Problems

As you’d expect from a plant with ‘sensitivum’ in the name, this plant is particularly delicate so handle as carefully as possible when planting. If the plant stops reacting to touch or starts dropping leaves, it’s an early sign that it’s stressed.