Looking to add some texture to your indoor garden? If so, a nerve plant should be the next addition to your plant collection. This charming, compact tropical is named for its contrasting white, pink, or red veins that pop against oval green leaves. It grows low along the floor of tropical jungles in its native habitat of South America, making it a great option for spaces with filtered light.
With its love of warmth and humidity, the nerve plant can be a bit finicky to get used to. But, with the right conditions and a few tips, you’ll have a happy, healthy houseplant in no time.
- Botanical Name: Fittonia spp.
- Common Name: Nerve plant, fittonia, mosaic plant
- Plant Type: Evergreen herbaceous perennial
- Mature Size: 6 inches tall, 12 to 18 inches wide
- Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
- Soil Type: Well-draining soil that holds moisture
- Soil pH: 6.5
- Toxicity: Non-toxic
Nerve Plant Care
Pot your nerve plant in a peat-based soil that drains well. You can make your own mix by combining equal parts potting mix, peat, humus, and coarse sand for drainage. Some growers also have good results with African violet soil. Water often enough to keep your plant’s soil evenly moist, and never let it dry out.
Feed your nerve plant with houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength every month during the spring and summer growing season. After you bring it home, it’s a good idea to let your plant acclimate to its new environment for three or four months before feeding.
Because they're compact and love humidity, nerve plants are a great option for growing in terrariums.
Best Growing Conditions for Nerve Plant
In order to thrive, your nerve plant needs warm, humid conditions reminiscent of its jungle environment. Choose a spot away from cold drafts or drying air from heat or air conditioning vents. The ideal temperature range for your plant is between 75 and 85 degrees during the day and no lower than 65 degrees at night. Because nerve plants need a high level of humidity, they often work well as a steamy, humid bathroom plant, too.
Nerve plants do well with bright, indirect light, but can also tolerate slightly lower-light conditions than many houseplants. Displaying them in a north or east-facing windowsill is a great option, or you can keep the plant a few feet from a south or west-facing window. Make sure that the plant doesn’t get any direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves.
Nerve Plant Varieties
The attractive veining on your nerve plant’s green leaves ranges from silvery white to pink to bright red, depending on cultivar. There are also several variegated cultivars that feature swatches of white, cream, or pale yellow on the leaf edges.
Fittonia verschaffeltii, or ‘Super Red’ looks more red than green with its dense veining and vivid red coloring. Fittonia argyoneura is lined with elegant white veining, while Fittonia verschaffeltii pearcei, or ‘Juanita’ features deeper green leaves with veining ranging from pink to tan. Fittonia, or ‘Purple Vein’ has large green leaves with lavender-pink veins.
How to Propagate a Nerve Plant
Nerve plants can be propagated pretty easily from stem cuttings. Propagation is easiest and quickest in spring when the plant is actively growing, but can be done any time during the warm months.
What You'll Need:
- A healthy mother plant
- Clean, sharp shears or scissors
- Small, clear glass or jar
- Examine the mother plant for a healthy stem about three inches long with several leaves.
- Use your shears to cut the stem at an angle just below a leaf node. Remove the leaves from the bottom inch of the stem. If your cutting has several leaves, you may want to remove all but the top two sets of leaves, which can help keep the cutting from wilting.
- Place your cutting in the glass and fill it with tepid water so that at least two leaf nodes are submerged.
- Place the glass in a warm place with bright, indirect light, refreshing the water if it gets cloudy. Keep an eye out for roots, which should begin growing from the stem after two weeks or so.
- When the cutting has several roots that are at least an inch long and you see new leaf growth, the cutting is ready to pot up. This can take anywhere from four to six weeks.
Common Growing Problems
Even a day of dry soil can cause your nerve plant’s leaves to wilt and get dry and crispy. A good soak will revive them, but repeated drying out will stress the plant. If this happens, pinch away any dried-out leaves and monitor the soil closely for moisture going forward. You may want to consider potting the plant in a container with an attached drip tray, as these pots tend to hold a little more water.
However, it’s still possible to overwater your nerve plant. Limp, yellowing leaves are a sign of overwatering. Allow the soil to dry out and cut back on watering if this happens to your plant.
Potting and Repotting
Like Tradescantia, a nerve plant can look bushy and full during its first year of life, but tends to become leggy and scraggly after a year or so. You can pinch back the leaf tips to encourage fuller growth, but this tactic only goes so far.
The plant can be repotted with fresh soil at the start of the growing season in spring or early summer, but if you want to retain its full look, you may want to start a new plant by rooting several cuttings and potting them up together to make a new plant.