How to Plant, Grow, and Care for a Toothache Plant

Use these tips to enjoy the unique flowers and edible leaves of toothache plant in your garden.

close up of a toothache plant

Jay Wilde

Toothache plant is a small, frost-sensitive perennial that gets its common name from being used as a fast-acting oral numbing agent. In addition to its medicinal uses, the plant’s edible leaves can be used somewhat like spinach in recipes, where they'll cause a tingling sensation somewhat like hot peppers. A relative of daisies and sunflowers, these plants are generally grown as annuals in most of the United States but can be grown as a perennial in southern climates. If you’re looking to add something unique and useful to your garden, toothache plant won't disappoint. 

Toothache Plant Overview

Genus Name Acmella oleracea, synonym Spilanthes oleracea
Common Name Toothache Plant
Additional Common Names Eyeball Plant, Paracress
Plant Type Herb, Perennial
Light Sun
Height 12 to 15 Inches
Width 12 to 20 Inches
Flower Color Orange, Red, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Zones 10, 11, 9
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings

Where to Plant Toothache Plant

Toothache plants require full sun (8+ hours per day) and loamy, organically enriched soils to thrive. They can be planted in pots or in the ground.

How and When to Plant Toothache Plant

Sow toothache plant seeds outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. You can also start seeds indoors 6 weeks before your area's last frost date, then transplant them outdoors. For best performance, add an organic granular fertilizer to the soil at planting time. 

Care Tips for Toothache Plant


Toothache plants prefer full sun to part shade. Too much shade will cause plants to become leggy and stop producing flowers. 

Soil and Water

These plants prefer loamy, well-drained soils with plenty of organic matter like compost mixed in. Keep plants consistently watered, but avoid soggy soil, which can cause root rot.

Temperature and Humidity

Coming from the tropics, these plants thrive in warm temperatures and high humidity. Frost will damage or kill toothache plant; provide protection from freezing temperatures to keep plants going in fall.


Feed with a well-balanced organic fertilizer once a week while plants are young. As flower buds begin to appear, switch to a bloom-boosting mix high in phosphorus to encourage continued blooming throughout the growing season.


As flowers begin to age, deadhead plants regularly to extend their blooming period. These low-growing plants otherwise don't require any additional pruning. 

Pests and Problems

While toothache plants aren’t usually bothered by deer and rabbits, these creatures may still nibble on leaves and flowers. Pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites can be remedied by spraying them off the plants with water. For stubborn infestations, an application of organic pesticide such as neem oil can get pests under control, although this treatment isn't recommended If you intend to consume your plant.

How to Propagate Toothache Plant

Toothache plants can be propagated by both seeds and cuttings. 


  1. Prepare a seed-starting potting mix by thoroughly wetting the medium and placing it into seed trays.
  2. Sprinkle a few toothache plant seeds onto the soil surface of each cell. Toothache plant seeds require light for proper germination.
  3. Place a clear plastic lid or wrap over trays to maintain humidity, then move seed trays to a warming pad. Mist regularly to keep the soil moist at all times.
  4. Trays should be kept in bright, indirect light or under artificial lighting.
  5. Seedlings should begin to germinate within 1 to 2 weeks after planting.
  6. After the danger of frost has passed, transplant seedlings to the garden or in pots.


  1. Using a pair of sharp, disinfected shears, make 6-inch cuttings from the mother plant and remove all but the top pair of leaves.
  2. Dip base of each cutting about 1 inch into powdered rooting hormone and gently shake off any excess.
  3. Place cuttings into individual pots, about 3 inches deep in moist potting soil, being careful not to wipe off the rooting powder.
  4. Place cuttings in a warm, humid location with bright indirect light or under a grow light.
  5. After a third set of leaves have been produced or you notice roots have begun to come out of the bottom of the containers, transplant cuttings into larger containers.

Types of Toothache Plants

There are a few varieties of toothache plants available including an all yellow form called ‘Lemon Drops’ and a strongly bicolor cultivar named ‘Bullseye’. 

Companion Plants for Toothache Plants

Due to their smaller stature, toothache plants can be used as an edging plant or in front of slightly larger, full sun plants such as coneflowers (Echinacea spp.), Shasta daisies (Lecuanthemum x superbum), or smaller grasses such as blue fescue (Festuca glauca).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are any parts of toothache plants poisonous?

    No, toothache plants are not poisonous but may be somewhat unsettling for those who are not prepared for the tingling and numbing effect caused by spilanthol, the chemical that produces the numbing.

  • I think I have a toothache plant, how do I know?

    Unless you are positive about your plant’s identity, you should not try using your plants medicinally. Always use caution when using medicinal plants.

  • Will my plants reseed?

    In warmer climates with longer growing seasons, some plants will reseed on their own. However, seedlings may not grow true to type and appear different in color, form, or potency from their parent plants.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles