Growing Nerve Plants at Home

For home gardens, plant lovers should look for the Fittonia nerve plant, also called the mosaic plant or painted net leaf, especially in tropical conditions. Growing nerve plants is relatively easy and also low maintenance and can be bought online at popular plant nurseries like Root Bridges.

Red Fittonia plant, or Fittonia argyroneura, from the Acanthaceae (Acanthus) family, is a tropically found plant with striking leaves of pink and green, white and green, or green and red. Fittonia nerve houseplant species such as F. argyroneura have silver white veins or F. pearcei which have carmine pink-veined beauty. Named for its 19th century discoverers, the botanists Elizabeth and Sarah May Fitton, the Fittonia nerve plant does indeed flower with insignificant reddish to white spikes and tend to blend in with the remainder of the foliage. The blooms of the nerve plant are rarely seen when it is grown indoors as a houseplant. Hailing from Peru and other areas of the South American rain forest, this colourful houseplant craves high humidity but not too much irrigation. This little beauty does well in terrariums, hanging baskets, dish gardens or even as a ground cover in the right climate. Its foliage has oval-shaped leaves on rooting mat forming stems. Nerve plant is a low-growing creeper that is a perfect fit for glass bowl terrariums or bottle gardens.

Common Names

Nerve plant, mosaic plant, painted net leaf

Botanical Name

Fittonia spp; named for its discoverers, botanists Elizabeth and Sarah May Fitton

Plant Type

Evergreen herbaceous perennial

Mature Size

3 to 6 inches in height, with a spread of 12 to 18 inches

Sun Exposure

Filtered indirect sun or part shade; avoid direct sun

Soil Type

Moist but well-draining soil

Soil pH

Prefers slightly acidic soil (6.5), but will tolerate alkaline soils

Bloom Time

Sporadically; usually July to August

Flower Colour

Varies depending on species; usually yellowish-white or reddish; flowers are insignificant

Hardiness Zones

Zone 11; grown as a houseplant in all climates

Native Area

Tropical rainforests of South America, principally Peru

Temperature tolerance

Around 70 degrees F. A range from the low 60s to low 80s.

 

Two main species of Fittonias are F Gigantea and F Verschaffeltti. Gigantea, which can reach 24 inches and has purple stems with dark green leaves and crimson veins. Verschaffeltti is a creeper that does best in dishes or hanging baskets. This is the "typical" Fittonia with several varieties, including 'Argyroneura' (silver-white veins) and 'Pearcei' (reddish veins). The 'Minima' and 'Argyroneura' varieties are well suited to terrarium culture.

Ideal conditions & tips to grow nerve plant

Growing nerve plants should be placed in a warm area, avoiding drafts that are too cold or hot, which will shock the plant, like rainforest conditions.

Fittonia nerve plant can tolerate bright light as well as shade but will truly flourish with bright but indirect light of 1-2 hours daily. Low light exposure will cause these plants to revert to green, losing the veins vibrant splashes of colour. It dislikes full sunlight, preferring bright, indirect sun, such as that offered by north-facing windows. It will also thrive under fluorescent lights.

As a tropical indoor plant that naturally grows in the humid conditions, Fittonia like well-drained moist soil, but not too wet. Water moderately every alternate day and let growing nerve plants dry out between watering. Use room temperature water on the plant to avoid shock. Fittonia is prone to collapse if it's allowed to dry out. In arid climates or during the dry months of winter, using a room humidifier may be helpful. Terrariums or bottle gardens are naturally moist environments well suited to the plant. Although it will recover quickly if thoroughly watered, repeated fainting spells will eventually take their toll on the plant. A high level of ambient humidity provided by frequent misting or by growing it in a tray filled with pebbles and water suits Fittonia. 

During its growing season, feed plants weekly with a weak dose of liquid fertilizer or a yearly dose of general-purpose fertilizer formulated for tropical plants. A balanced 5-5-5 fertilizer diluted to half strength is a good formulation. Feed as recommended for tropical houseplants per the instructions of your fertilizer brand.

Fittonia grows well in standard potting soil with a peat-moss base. Any conventional potting soil mix and standard houseplant pot with bottom drainage holes will work for Fittonia. Repot Fittonia annually in spring or early summer, around the same time you repot the rest of your tropical houseplants. Always use fresh potting soil when you repot to prevent soil compaction and waterlogging.

Fittonia propagates readily from leaf-tip cuttings in late spring or early summer, at the same time you repot the plant. Make sure to include at least two growing nodes on the cutting to obtain the best results. Once you've potted up the cutting in a peat-based soil mix, you can expect roots to sprout within 2 to 3 weeks.

The trailing nature of the plant can lead to a straggly appearance. Prune the tips of the nerve plant to create a bushier plant. Fittonia grows quickly in the right conditions, and if the stems grow leggy, pinching off the tips will keep the growth full and bushy. Because the flowers are insignificant and boring, pinching off the buds (pruning) will also help keep the foliage full.

Common problems with nerve plant

Overwatering can lead to root rot hence it should be avoided. Xanthomonas leaf spot, which causes necropsy of the veins, and mosaic virus may also affect the plant. Pests may include aphids, mealybugs and thrips.

Yellow leaves can result from too much water. Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent soggy soil.

Leaf drop is usually the result of cold temperatures or drafts. Try to mimic the tropical conditions where this species naturally grows. 

Dry, shrivelled leaves usually indicate that the plants are not receiving enough humidity or are receiving too much direct sun.

Insect problems include fungus gnats, mealy bugs, or aphids. Infestations should be treated immediately and keep affected plants isolated to prevent the bugs from spreading to other indoor plants.

As beautiful as it is, Fittonia is somewhat temperamental and tricky to grow as a houseplant. It requires very high, constant humidity, such as found in a terrarium and cannot tolerate stagnant conditions. Nerve plant is also sensitive to strong, direct sunlight and will quickly suffer from leaf burn. We hope that these tips have shed some light on how to maintain your Fittonias.

Mudita Khanna (mudita.khanna@gmail.com) has contributed to this article.

 


1 comment

  • My order is 4130.. I have been trying to contact you from last 3 days.. no one is there to assist me.. plzz revert back in mail . i want information about my order..

    Reshmi Paul

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published