Plant Profile: Fittonia Nerve Plant

Photo by Karen M. Gibson

Fittonia, or Nerve Plant, is one of my favorite foliage plants. Foliage plants can sometimes blend into the background, but Nerve plants have striking leaf patterns that catch your eye.

Nerve plants are also called mosaic plants or painted net leaf plants. Its deep-green leaves have colorful veins of white, pink, or red, bringing to mind human nerves.

A native groundcover of South America rainforest, the nerve plant will spread and eventually trail from a pot. If you want something more compact, pinch the stem leaves regularly. Any flowers that form will be small spikes – it’s best to pinch those off to let the plant send its energy into the vibrant leaves.

Fittonia Care tips:

  • Bright, indirect light – Helps retain the vibrant color of the leaf veins. If in a low light setting, the leaves will revert to a solid green.
  • Well-drained moist soil – Allow the soil to slightly dry between waterings.
  • High humidity – Mist your fittonia, or place the pot on a tray of water with pebbles to add moisture around it.
  • Fertilize – Spring and summer are a nerve plants growing season, so that is the best time to fertilize with a liquid fertilizer designed for tropical plants.
  • Repot – A nerve plant has shallow roots, so keep in a small pot and repot once every couple of years as needed to refresh the soil
  • Growth Size – 3-6 inches height, 12-18 inches width.
  • Propagation – Stem or leaf cuttings. Place cuttings in water in a bright (not direct sun) area. In 2-6 weeks you should see roots forming.

Nerve plants make an excellent open-terrarium plant where the humidity level and lighting can be controlled. My nerve plant does best in my bathroom window. It’s a southern exposure, which normally would be too hot, but the window has a solar screen on it that deflects the strong sun.

Nerve Plant Potential Issues

Do not overwater as the nerve plant is prone to root rot. Yellowing leaves means too much water!

You’ll know if you underwater a nerve plant – it will wilt, or “faint,” which can be quite alarming to see. It will revive quickly when you water it, although best not to test this too many times for the health of the plant.

It also will not tolerate direct sunlight – its leaves turn brown and shrivel quickly. Brown leaves can also indicate too low humidity.

Leaf drop indicates your nerve plant has experienced too cold a temperature or draft.

With multiple types and cultivars of Nerve plants to be found, surely your home deserves at least one of these striking foliage plants.

June 2021
Karen M Gibson

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