Nerve Plant Care – Growing Fittonia

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Break the green with some color as there are hundreds of cultivars of fittonia albivenis plants out there in many wonderful colors. Nerve plant care isn’t all that hard, although they can be little drama queens when thirsty.

These are small plants but have the most attractive foliage – they are perfect for filling the empty spots between your other, larger plants.

Nerve Plant Care All About Growing Fittonia

Fittonias are creeping plants that cover the ground in their native habitats, such as the rainforests of Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. These plants are under the Acanthaceae family, which houses other genera such as the Hypoestes and Aphelandras.

One of the most popular and staple varieties of Fittonia is known for its deep green foliage decorated with striking white, nerve-like venations.

These plants have become increasingly popular, especially upon new cultivars’ arrival, with various colors and leaf structures from pink with ruffles to a spotted, striking red foliage. The Fittonias are flowering plants, but when grown indoors, they rarely (almost never) flower.

Fittonias are commonly sold in pots and can be grown in terrariums where they will grow very well.

Learn more about nerve plant care, what it loves, how to keep it happy and get a basket full of Fittonias in no time!

Growing Nerve Plants

How To Care For Nerve Plant

Quick Summary

Plant name: Fittonia

Common Name: Nerve plant, Mosaic Plant

Common species and cultivars: Fittonia albivenis and cultivars such as ‘Frankie’, ‘Fortissimo’, ‘Josan’, and others.

Native to: Tropical to subtropical areas such as South America and Peru

Lighti: Prefers bright, indirect light

Care: High humidity is a must. Soil should be consistently moist. Keep away from direct sun as the leaves are fragile and easily scorch.

Common problems: Root rot, yellowing due to underwatering, common pests such as mealy bugs and spider mites, and wilting due to low humidity.

Toxicity: Considered to be non-toxic for pets and humans.

Bringing the Plant Home

We find the most difficult thing with buying a Fittonia is coming home with just one. There are so many wonderful colors and leaf patterns to choose from it’s hard to stop at just one. As these plants are usually sold in small sizes, and at affordable prices, it’s only natural to grab a few at a time.

Check the plant for any signs of disease, pests, or damage, preferably in-store already and with a closer look when you get home. Even if all looks OK it’s best to keep your new plant(s) away from others for 2 weeks in case there are any hidden pests that could potentially spread to your other plants. Keep on checking the plant.

As you bring it home, also check the soil to see if it needs watering. These should have moist soil most of the time.

Fittonia Nerve Plant Care

How much light does Nerve plant need?

As natives to rainforest ground floor, the Nerve plant is not used to direct sunlight. In the wild, these plants are covered by dense canopies and larger plants. Provide them with lots of bright indirect light, and they will thrive. They do tolerate lower light, too; however, they will lose some of the vibrant colors. If they do not get enough light they will become leggy as they stretch their stems and move the leaves towards the source of light.

This fact makes the Nerve plant highly sensitive to strong sunlight. This makes it a problem if your windows get a lot of direct afternoons sun.

A bit of morning sun will work wonders and help your plant grow well. Fittonias also react well to artificial grow lights and will still thrive well.

Although not too serious, Fittonias react negatively to too little sun. There have been reports that some variants can revert to becoming green or have paler colors if the amount of light is inadequate.

Caring for Nerve Plants

Watering needs of your Fittonia Plant

Fittonia is a thirsty plant. Proper watering is the most important thing when it comes to nerve plant care.

A good thing about the Nerve plants is that they communicate to you and tell you if they need watering. The leaves of your Fittonia, possibly with the stem, will droop if watering is overdue. Luckily, they easily bounce back once they get their fluid intake.

That being said, excessive underwatering will cause the plant to wilt and will not spring up again. This plant loves consistently moist media but will not tolerate overwatering.

We recommend watering your Fittonias when you feel the top layer of the soil dries up. Build a routine for watering this plant.

Although this plant will tell you when it’s in dire need of watering, always relying on this as an indicator will eventually stress out the plant.

Giving it more water than needed may either cause yellowing on the leaves or for them to look limp and fall off. The fine and delicate root system of Fittonias may also fall victim to root rot if given too much water. Maintain moisture in the soil but never let it be too soggy.

Tap water at room temperature is OK for watering these, but as with all plants rainwater or similar is best.

What kind of humidity and temperature for Nerve plants?

Nerve plants are always hungry for moisture and humidity. They will tolerate average room humidity, even as low as 40%, but Fittonias will thrive at higher levels.

Without adequate humidity, which is humidity between 50-70%, some leaves may dry up and fall. Their preference for high humidity makes them ideal as terrarium plants – and they certainly add the magic to those.

If you want to make your fittonia happier, you can increase local humidity around it. Investing in a humidifier is a fool-proof solution.

Alternatively, keeping the plant near a sink, in the kitchen, or near the bathroom where humidity is always significantly high is also an easy way to make your plant happy. You can also use the trusty old tray lined with pebbles filled with water to increase humidity. Place your pot of plant on top of the pebbles.

This is our favorite. Stack many plants together as this too helps with local humidity levels.

In addition to high humidity, the average warm temperature is also an important factor in keeping these happy. Do not place your plant near cold drafts, and try to maintain an average room temperature of 60 to 80°F / 18 to 27°C.

Cleaning and Pruning Nerve Plants

As we have mentioned, Fittonias are prolific growers and can sometimes grow leggy. This is the most common scenario when your plants get uneven levels of light. Solve this problem by pruning the stems (make sure to use sterilized tools).

Use these cuttings for propagation if they are tall enough. Also, pruning the tips of your plants promote growth sidewards and will make your plant grow bushier.

You can also trim any leaves that are damaged or dried. Carefully remove dried leaves as a result of excessively low humidity or mushy ones from overwatering.

Misting the plant will keep it looking fresh and dust free.

Mosaic Plant Care

How Often Should You Fertilize Nerve Plants?

Nerve plants do not need extensive fertilizing. You can go with any houseplant fertilizer and use it less frequently than recommended (half the recommended time). Different fertilizers have different frequencies of use. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions. If the fertilizer should be used weekly, use it once every two weeks for fertilizing your fittonia.

Fertilizing your plant isn’t necessarily necessary but will make your plant grow stronger and faster with more vibrant foliage.

If a weekly routine of fertilizing is too much work, use a slow-release fertilizer on your plants. Dressing the top part of your soil with worm castings is also a great way to speed up growth.

During winter and late fall, do not fertilize your Fittonias as they will go dormant, and feeding them will cause overfertilization.

Should You Repot Fittonia?

As with other plant care, nerve plant care includes repotting the plant here and there to give it fresh soil or more room to grow. Although fine, the roots of Fittonias tend to occupy the soil and pot fast. If you keep your plant happy, expect to be repotting your plants into a bigger pot every year.

When grown in a pot, the roots will start to poke out of the drainage holes when they need to be repotted.

When repotting, expect to see a bundle of roots intertwined together. If you do not have plans of making more pots out of your plant and you just want to replenish its soil and put it in a bigger pot, all you have to do is carefully dislodge some of the old soil from the cluster of roots; after which, place the whole plant in a pot prefilled with your potting medium. Fix the whole plant in place by adding more soil on top.

What Kind of Soil for Nerve Plants?

Because moisture is key to maintaining a healthy Fittonia, your soil must be able to retain moisture. A mixture of regular potting mix with garden soil, peat, sphagnum moss, organic matter, and a bit of perlite for aeration will work best.

Most stores already carry pre-mixed soils for houseplants and tropical foliage plants that are great for nerve plants.

You can also choose to add a layer of sphagnum moss on top of the soil. This also helps retaining moisture for your plant.

Propagating Nerve Plants

Fittonias are very prolific growers. Aside from growing sidewards as ground cover, the plant’s stems can grow vertically and can be cut for propagation.

There are two main ways to propagate Fittonias. Stem cuttings readily root in a moist, peat-based medium or water within a few weeks (approx. 2 weeks) of planting. Locate at least two to three nodes on the stem of the plant and use disinfected shears to cut the stem. Remove the leaves from the nodes closest to the end of the cut part. This reduces the risk of rot when the stem is planted.

Increase your chances of success in propagating through stem cuttings by dipping the stems in rooting hormone before burying it into the soil.

Propagation through stem cutting may not be easy for everyone. As such, you can also try propagation through root division. During one of your repotting sessions, carefully divide the roots of your plant and repot it into a different container. You can also choose to place all the divided plants in a larger pot but farther apart. This gives the plant room to grow.

Is your Nerve plant toxic? Safe for Cats? Dogs? Humans?

Members of the genus Fittonia are non-toxic and are safe for your pets at home.

There have been no known adverse health reactions caused by Nerve Plants. (ASPCA lists them as non-toxic too)

Even if there are no known health reactions, you should still be careful and deter children and pets from plants.

*toxicity information can change over time

Nerve Plant Common Issues and Pests

When it comes to nerve plant care, pests and diseases aren’t much of an issue. Like other moisture-loving plants, the most probable disease that may attack your Nerve plants is root rot.

This results from overwatering or poor drainage of your soil. Additionally, because the leaves of Fittonias grow relatively low and are close to the ground, they are very prone to rot when the soil is kept too wet for too long.

Because Fittonias require high humidity, they are not very prone to infestations. Despite this, Nerve plants are not immune to pests.

Watch out for mealy bugs that prefer hiding under the leaves and petioles of the plant as well as leaf scales and spider mites.

Nerve Plant Leaves Crispy?

If the leaves are crispy and have burned edges, the plant is getting too much bright direct light.

Nerve Plant Leaves Curling?

Leaves can curl for multiple reasons: direct sunlight, under-watering or extremely low humidity.

Nerve Plant Leaves Drooping

If your plant is under watered the leaves and stems will droop drastically, making the plant look almost dead. Water the plant and it should recover.

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