Telegraph plant for sale

Telegraph Plant Care: Growing A Dancing Telegraph Plant Indoors

If you’re looking for something unusual to grow inside the home, you may want to consider growing a telegraph plant. What is a telegraph plant? Read on to learn more about this odd and interesting plant.

Telegraph Plant Info

What is a telegraph plant? Also known as the dancing plant, the telegraph plant (Codariocalyx motorius – formerly Desmodium gyrans) is a fascinating tropical plant that dances as the leaves move up and down in bright light. Telegraph plant also responds to warmth, high frequency sound waves or touch. During the night, the leaves droop downwards.

Telegraph plant is native to Asia. This low-maintenance, problem-free member of the pea family is usually grown indoors, surviving outdoors only in the warmest climates. Telegraph plant is a vigorous grower that reaches heights of 2 to 4 feet at maturity.

Why Does a Telegraph Plant Move?

The plant’s hinged leaves move to reposition themselves where they receive more warmth and light. Some botanists believe the movements are caused by special cells that cause the leaves to move when water molecules swell or shrink. Charles Darwin studied the plants for many years. He believed the movements were the plant’s way of shaking water droplets from the leaves after a heavy rainfall.

How to Grow Telegraph Houseplants

Growing a dancing telegraph plant isn’t difficult, but patience is needed because the plant can be slow to germinate. Plant seeds indoors any time. Fill pots or seed trays with a compost-rich potting mix, such as orchid mix. Add a small amount of sand to improve drainage, then wet the mixture so it is evenly moist but not saturated.

Soak the seeds in warm water for one to two days to soften the outer shell, and then plant them about 3/8 inch deep and cover the container with clear plastic. Place the container in a dimly lit, warm location where temperatures are between 75 and 80 F. or 23 to 26 C.

Seeds usually sprout in about 30 days, but germination can take as long as 90 days to occur or as quickly as 10 days. Remove the plastic and move the tray to bright light when the seeds germinate.

Water as needed to keep the potting mix consistently moist, but never soggy. When the seedlings are well-established, move them to 5-inch pots.

Telegraph Plant Care

Water telegraph plant when the top inch of soil feels slightly dry. Allow the pot to drain thoroughly and never let it stand in water.

Feed the plant monthly throughout spring and summer using fish emulsion or a balanced houseplant fertilizer. Withhold fertilizer after the plant drops its leaves and enters winter dormancy.

Codariocalyx motorius (Desmodium gyrans), seeds of Telegraph- or Dancing plant

Codariocalyx motorius (Desmodium gyrans), seeds of Telegraph- or dancing plant

Codariocalyx motorius belongs to the family of the Fabaceae, the leguminous plants. The plant is native to Asia and India. It is also known as telegraph plant or dancing plant. In former times the plant had the scientific name Desmodium gyrans but nowadays it is known as Codarocalyx motorius in the systematic. Already Charles Darwin described the plant in detail in 1880.
C. motorius is a perennial shrub that reaches a height of about 120 cm.
The leaves of the telegraph plant are pinnate. The leaflets at the side are much smaller than the leaflet at the end. The leaflets at the side get only 1 to 2 cm long and 3,5 to 4 mm wide whereas the leaflet at the end gets 7 cm long and 1 cm wide. In the night the leaves point all downwards. During daytime they stand normally horizontal at the shoot. The sleeping position of the leaves is not due to temperature or other factors from outside. It is just the circadian rhythmic of the plant. Another feature of the plant is that the leaves can move. This movement is visible without any technical help. That is why the plant is called dancing plant. Until today one does not know why the leaves move. One has observed that the leaves move when they are exposed to music with a high frequency or when the temperature changes. One suggests that the leaves move because the plant wants to use as much sunlight as possible for photosynthesis. What one surely knows is that the movement is due to a pressure change in the end of the petiole. The leaf needs 3 minutes for one turning. The statement that the plants communicate via the movement as one said in former times is surely not right.
The flowers are zygomorphic, hermaphrodite and purple in color. The telegraph plant does mostly not bloom in the first year. The flowers stand together in inflorescences. The fruit is like it is typical for a Fabaceae, a legume.
In Europe it is used as an ornamental plant because of its dancing skills.


The seeds of C. motorius should be put 72 h into warm water before planting. After that they can be put onto the substrate. One should only cover the seeds slightly with substrate and place it sunny. When the substrate is kept moist at a temperature of about 20 to 25 °C, germination occurs after just one week. The telegraph plant is not winter hardy.

Codariocalyx Motorius, Telegraph Plant Seed, Dancing Plant Tiaowu Cao

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Codariocalyx Motorius < 跳舞草 Tiao Wu Cao >
Common Name: Telegraph Plant, Dancing Plant, Semaphore Plant
Family: Fabaceae
Binomial name: Codariocalyx Motorius

Codariocalyx motorius (though often placed in Desmodium), known as the telegraph plant, dancing plant, or semaphore plant, is a tropical Asian shrub, one of a few plants capable of rapid movement; others include Mimosa pudica and the venus flytrap. It can even be found on the Society Islands, a remote chain of islands in the South Pacific. It produces small, purple flowers. This plant has small, lateral leaflets which move at speeds rapid enough to be perceivable with the naked eye. This is possibly a strategy to maximise light by tracking the sun. Each leaf is equipped with a hinge that permits it to be moved to receive more sunlight, but the weight of these leaves means the plant must expend a lot of energy in moving it. To optimise its movement, each large leaf has two small leaflets at its base. These move constantly along an elliptical path, sampling the intensity of sunlight, and directing the large leaf to the area of most intensity. Another hypothesis has been offered that the rapid movements are intended to deter potential predators.

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Inventory Last Updated: Feb 02, 2020

Codariocalyx Species, Semaphore Plant, Telegraph Plant





Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Light Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


Unknown – Tell us


USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us


Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Color:

Medium Purple

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Fall/Early Winter

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Unknown – Tell us

Propagation Methods:

From herbaceous stem cuttings

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Scarify seed before sowing

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

La Habra, California

San Leandro, California

Fountain, Florida

Merritt Island, Florida

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