By Jennifer Poindexter
With a name like “toothache plant,” I bet you can guess what this plant is good for? This herb is used as a traditional home remedy and thought to act as a pain reliever for minor aches and pains such as a toothache. The power is found in the flowers.
When chewing on the flowers for a prolonged amount of time, it can make the inside of your mouth go numb to help temporarily relieve pain from mouth sores or tooth issues.
Leaves of this herb can also be used in salads or cooked as part of a dish. The toothache plant (spilanthes acmella) is versatile and could become a cherished part of your garden.
Here’s what you should know to grow it:
Growing Conditions for the Toothache Plant
When I hear of a plant that supplies so much to the gardener, I automatically wonder how much the gardener must provide to receive such benefits.
The great news is the toothache plant doesn’t require much to grow successfully. In most cases, this herb will be an annual. It originates from a tropical climate. Therefore, if you live in planting zones nine through eleven, it should grow as a perennial.
For everyone else, you’ll need to plant the herb every year. If the herb is being grown as an annual, pick a location with full to partial sun that has well-draining soil.
As an annual, toothache plants can be grown inground, in containers, or even in window boxes.
If you’re able to grow the toothache plant as a perennial, it still needs adequate sunlight and soil that’s well-draining.
However, be purposeful when choosing a grow space. It should be grown in a perennial bed or another safe location where it will be left undisturbed during its dormant stage.
It’s important to give the plant room whether it’s grown as an annual or perennial. It only grows to approximately twelve inches in height, but it will sprawl out and consume two feet around it.
A large enough plot, window box, or other container will serve this plant well as it reaches its full potential.
How to Plant the Toothache Plant
The toothache plant is another low-maintenance herb. Many gardeners find it amazing how much this herb can offer when needing so little in return.
To start growing this herb, you have two choices. You can direct sow the seeds or start the seeds indoors to transplant later.
If you choose to start your seeds indoors, do so six weeks before the last frost date. Fill the grow trays with quality soil, and place two seeds per cell in the trays. Don’t cover the seeds with soil until after germination because they need light to sprout.
Placing two seeds per cell is an insurance policy. In case some of the seeds fail to germinate, you’ll have extras to take their place. Care for the plants accordingly as they grow.
All seedlings need warmth and water until they become hardy enough to withstand the elements. Toothache plant seeds need to reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. Placing the tray in a warm location or on a grow mat should help improve the germination rate.
Be sure to harden the plants off before transplanting them into their garden space.
You’ll know it’s time to transplant when all threat of frost is over, and the seedlings have two leaves per plant.
Place the plants approximately one foot apart in the garden to give adequate grow space as they mature.
You can also direct sow the seeds. Wait until the soil in your garden bed is warmer and workable. All threat of frost must be gone as well.
Place the seeds one inch apart in the designated rows in your grow space. Once the seeds have sprouted, thin them to where there’s one foot of space between each plant.
These planting methods can help you begin growing toothache plant in your yard or herb garden. Choose the method that works best for your situation and launch a new gardening adventure.
Caring for the Toothache Plant
The toothache plant is about as low maintenance as they come. In other words, it’s a gardener’s dream plant.
Begin caring for your toothache plants with providing the most basic need: water. It’s important to make sure your toothache plants are not overwatered or planted where the soil doesn’t drain properly.
If the plant becomes soggy, it could cause root rot. A great way to avoid overwatering is to practice the deep watering method.
Deep watering is a process where the plants are watered heavily a few times per week. This will ensure the roots receive proper moisture.
However, it also gives the plants time to soak in the water before applying more. By using this watering method, you ensure the plants aren’t over or underwatered.
When in doubt, use the knuckle test. Stick your index finger into the soil next to the plant. If the soil is damp at your first knuckle, the plant isn’t in need of water. If the soil is dry, it’s time for another watering session.
The next step in caring for the toothache plant is to keep the weeds under control. You can do this by hand picking them or by placing mulch around the plants.
Mulch will help discourage weed growth while also retaining necessary moisture. Weed-barrier, newspaper, grass-clippings, and straw are other forms of protection against weeds in the garden.
The last important step in caring for this herb is to avoid fertilizer. The toothache plant doesn’t need it. Try adding compost around the base of the herb at the time of planting to make sure it has a boost of nutrients.
If growing the toothache plant as a perennial, add fresh compost to the base of the plant each spring. This will replenish any nutrients the herb may have previously used.
These are the few tasks you must perform to keep your toothache plant healthy and thriving.
Garden Pests and Diseases for the Toothache Plant
As if the toothache plant wasn’t a dream come true already, you’ll be pleased to know there are no diseases you should be mindful of when growing this herb.
The only pest which may make an appearance around your toothache plant is a slug. Slugs usually come out around dusk and will leave holes in the foliage of your plant.
You may see proof of slugs on your plant without seeing the pest itself. Slugs leave a slimy trail behind that marks their travels.
If you see them or proof of their nibbling, you have a couple of options to get rid of this problem. You can hang around your plant at dusk. When the slugs appear, begin hand picking them.
However, if you aren’t big on touching bugs, you can also sprinkle any brand of coffee grounds or diatomaceous earth around the base of the plant.
Slugs don’t like the caffeine found in coffee, and the diatomaceous earth creates a sharp terrain for the pests to crawl over.
This is the only potential threat most gardeners have found when raising toothache plants. By keeping a watchful eye and preparing to deal with the intruders, your plants should lead healthy lives in your garden.
How to Harvest the Toothache Plant
The toothache plant is ready for harvest once it reaches three inches in height. You can continue to harvest it throughout the grow season.
Both the flowers and leaves of the toothache plant are good for harvest. As discussed earlier, the flowers are frequently used because of their ability to fight fungal infections, viruses, and bacteria. The leaves are commonly used for culinary purposes.
When harvesting the leaves in small portions, you have two options. You can use scissors to easily snip them from the plant, or you can use your index finger and thumb to gently pluck them.
If you’d like to harvest the flowers or a larger quantity of the leaves, cut the plant back to half its size. You can harvest in bulk two times per grow season.
Once the harvested portions of the plant are indoors, use scissors to remove the leaves and flowers from the stems.
Both the leaves and flowers can be used fresh. If you’d like to store them for longer-term use, dehydrate both portions of the plant. Store them in air-tight containers until they’re ready for use.
Harvesting the toothache plant isn’t complicated. These steps can help you get the most use out of your herbs.
Raising the toothache plant is a great way to provide natural flavors to your food and have herbal medicines on hand when needed.
This plant requires little care and a small amount of effort to harvest. Gardeners can get an amazing return on their investment when choosing the toothache plant for their grow space.