How to Care for Nerve Plants

The colorfully veined plant

Written by Sofiya Serdyukova

Fittonia is a low-growing evergreen perennial creeper that belongs to the Acanthaceae family. Belgian botanist Eugène Coemans named this genus after Elizabeth and Sarah Mary Fitton, two Irish sisters who wrote and magnificently illustrated Conversations on Botany. The specific name albivenis means white veins, which can be found on most Fittonia plants. Some Fittonia varieties have bright pink or red veins. The notable white veins form a delicate network on lush green ovate leaves. To understand how to care for fittonia, or nerve plants it’s important to understand its native environment. These exotic plants are native to the rainforests of South America, where they grow at the forest floor level, in moist and warm atmospheres. They can also be grown as houseplants in temperate regions. Large-leaved types are difficult to grow under ordinary room conditions, as they require a moist and warm environment. It’s advised to grow them in a terrarium or bottle garden. Dwarf-leaved varieties are quite easy to grow in room conditions. They flourish in dry conditions away from direct sunlight. In the winter it should be occasionally misted.

These plants are mostly famous for their leaves, but do nerve plants flower? Actually, they do! They bloom with small reddish or yellowish-white flowers, but rarely do so indoors, when they are grown as a houseplant.

Botanical Name:Fittonia albivenis
Common Name(s):Nerve Plant, Mosaic Plant, Silver Fittonia, Silver Netleaf, Silver Netplant
Plant TypeEvergreen perennial 
Place of Origin:South America
Sun Exposure: Indirect Bright Sun/Filtered Sun 
Watering Schedule:Every 3-5 days
Seasonality: Spring and summer
Bloom Time: Summer
Toxicity:Safe for cats and dogs

NERVE PLANT LIGHT REQUIREMENTS:

In its natural habitat, the Angel Nerve Plant grows at the forest floor level, protected from direct sunlight by a thick canopy. Understanding its natural habitat allows us to better understand the fittonia’s light requirements. They do well in indirect, filtered, or dappled sunlight from a window, as well as fluorescent lighting. When grown as groundcovers, they need partial to full shade to flourish. 

NERVE PLANT WATER REQUIREMENTS:

Water liberally from spring to autumn using tepid water. It’s important to have a steady watering schedule. In the growing season, you should water your Nerve Plant every 3-4 days. If allowed to dry out, your Nerve Plant can collapse completely. Although it will recover if watered thoroughly, repeated dryness can take a toll on the plant. During the winter watering should be less frequent as cold and wet conditions are always lethal. Water every couple weeks in the cold season.

NERVE PLANT TEMPERATURE REQUIREMENTS:

Nerve plant prefer temperatures around 70℉ , but will tolerate a range from low 60s to low 80s. 

NERVE PLANT HUMIDITY REQUIREMENTS:

Moist air is vital for these plants, as they are native to humid rainforests. It’s a good idea to keep your Nerve Plant in a room with 50% or more humidity. You can increase humidity levels by surrounding the pot with damp peat and misting the leaves frequently. YOu can also place the pot on top of a tray filled with pebbles and water. 

NERVE PLANT SOIL:

Rainforest soils are usually well draining and poor in nutrients, with a thin layer of topsoil made up of decaying matter. To recreate these native conditions, use a potting mixture that is rich in organic matter, can hold water and provide good drainage. A peat-based potting mix with some coarse sand is recommended. Make sure to use a container with a drainage hole that will prevent your plants from sitting in water.

NERVE PLANT FERTILIZER:

Use small amounts of fertilizer every few months, but avoid it during the winter. Liquid fertilizers should be diluted by half. It’s important to use balanced fertilizer and to water the plant before feeding to flush the soil out and avoid the mineral salts buildup.

NERVE PLANT REPOTTING:

You should repot your Nerve Plant annually in spring or early summer. This is when they grow actively and need space to spread out. Make sure to use a pot with bottom drainage and fresh soil.

NERVE PLANT PROPAGATION:

Creeping stems that usually root in surrounding soil can be cut and repotted in spring or early summer, at the same time you repot the plant. Planting seeds isn’t as effective. When cutting, use clean and sharp garden shears and make sure to include at least two growing nodes. Remove all the bottom leaves from the cutting and plant your cutting in fresh soil. You can also dip the bottom of the stem in a rooting hormone before planting to increase chances of success. With a little bit of patience and determination, even a beginner plant-enthusiast can learn how to propagate nerve plant! 

NERVE PLANT COMMON PROBLEMS:

Like many other plants, Nerve Plants can suffer from pests and disease. Here are the main issues that occur and what you can do to stop them!

01. Overwatering - Overwatering can cause yellowing and wilting leaves. It’s important not to confuse the symptoms of overwatering and underwatering, as both of these conditions cause leaves to wilt. Overwatered plants tend to cause yellow foliage, whereas dryness causes shriveling and browning of leaves. If most of the roots are brown and mushy, you can try to save your plant. Remove all the compost around the roots by holding the soil under the tap. Lay the plant on a table and cut all of the rotten roots with a sharp knife, as well as any damaged stems or leaves. Repot using a new pot and fresh soil mixture. Water with carbendazim solution and keep in a well-lit spot, away from direct sunlight. Do not water again until fresh growth appears. Make sure not to overwater it going forward.

02. Too Much Sunlight - Too much sunlight causes their leaves to shrivel and causes sunburn. Remove the damaged leaves and move your pot into a more shaded place.

03. Dry Air - 
Hot, dry, air with central heating will cause brown leaves. Remove the damaged leaves and be more consistent with misting. You might want to put it into a terrarium going forward.

NERVE PLANT TOXICITY 

Even though you have probably already fallen in love with these beautiful yet tender plants, you might ask: are nerve plants toxic to cats or dogs? Good news! They are considered non-toxic to animals and humans.

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