How to grow and care for Nerve Plants Indoors

Houseplant, Nerve Plant

Botanical name: Fittonia spp
Family: Acanthaceae

Fittonia commonly called Nerve plant, Net plant, Lace leaf or Snakeskin are popular houseplants for the small spaces. They are easily recognisable due to its leaves which bear a network of white, pink or red veins. The leaves are about 2 in. long, green colored and are attached to hairy stems. These plants are small, low-growing reaching a height of about 6 in. only. Fittonia have their origin in the tropical rainforests of South America, specifically Peru where the growing conditions are warm and humid. They are easy to grow under room conditions when provided with warmth and abundant moisture around the leaves. They are suitable for the bathroom, in a terrarium or bottle garden where these conditions can be made possible.

Houseplant, Nerve Plant Several varieties of Fittonia are available. Fittonia argyronuera has white veins and is more distinctive. The dwarf variety Fittonia argyronuera nana, Snakeskin plant is less demanding and is easy to grow under room conditions. It is just as attractive as its large-leaved parent but it will flourish in dry air away from direct sunlight with ocassional misting of leaves. The large-leaved Fittonia vershaffeltii has pink veins, hence the common name Painted Net Leaf among other varieties.

How to Grow Nerve Plants (Fittonia spp)

Light

Nerve Plants prefers semi-shade (partial shade). Keep it away from direct sunshine as it can lead to scorching of the leaves. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Water

Water Nerve Plants liberally during the growing season and allow the soil to slightly dry out between waterings. Reduce watering in cold weather to keep the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead in root-rot. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average to more than average warmth with a minimum 150C is ideal for Nerve Plants. Protect the plants from cold draughts as the cause leaf drop. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Nerve Plants thrive in a high humidity environment. Mist leaves frequently or set pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity. Nerve Plants can also be grown in a terrarium as a high humidity can be maintained in a terrarium.

Feeding

Feed Nerve Plants with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 4 weeks during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn. Learn more on feeding houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Nerve Plants during the growing season only when the plant has become pot-bound. Use a rich, free-draining soil and a pot one size larger. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole(s) to prevent waterlogging which can lead to root-rot.

Pruning

Pruning Nerve Plants involves regular removal of dead foliage to maintain the plant neat and tidy. To encourage a bushy, compact growth, regularly pinch of the growing tips. As the plants age, they become straggly. Cut back the stems during the growing season to rejuvenate growth. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Nerve Plants (Fittonia spp)

Nerve Plants can be propagated during the growing season from stem cuttings or by division.

Propagating Nerve Plants from stem cuttings
Take stem cuttings of about 4-5 in. length from a healthy Nerve Plant. Insert the cuttings in moist rooting soil. Place in warm shaded place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges and substantial growth has been observed. Transfer to individual pots and begin routine care. For a fuller plant plant several cuttings in one pot.

Propagating Nerve Plants by spreading the stems on the soil
Spread the Nerve Plant stems on the soil surface while still attached to the mother plant. They will root at every point they come into contact with the soil. Once rooted, sever the stems, dig them up and pot in moist soil in individual pots. Place in a shaded cool place and maintain the soil moist until well established.

Common Problems in Growing Nerve Plants (Fittonia spp)

  • Brown, shrivelled leaves
  • The cause of this is too dry air. Nerve Plants prefers a high humidity environment. To raise humidity, mist the leaves regularly or set the pot on a wet pebble tray.

  • Straggly growth
  • This is normal in Nerve Plants. As the plants age, they become straggly. Cut back the stems during the growing season to rejuvenate growth. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

  • Yellowing, wilting leaves
  • Waterlogging is the cause of yellow and wilting leaves in Nerve Plants. Ensure that the pot has adequate drainage and the soil is free-draining to avoid waterlogging. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

  • Leaf drop
  • The cause of leaf drop in Nerve Plants is too cold temperatures. Maintain more than average temperature for these plants and protect them from cold draughts. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.

  • Sudden death
  • Sudden death in Nerve Plants is due to waterlogged soil or too cold temperatures. This is an indication of Root-rot disease. Maintain average warmth and protect the plants from cold draughts and avoid waterlogging by ensuring proper drainage of both the soil and the pot.

  • Diseases
  • Common diseases in Nerve Plants are Leaf Spot disease and Leaf Viral Diseases.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Nerve Plants are Aphids, Mealy Bugs and Fungus Gnats. Isolate the affected plant and treat appropriately.

Toxicity

Nerve Plants (Fittonia spp) are non-toxic to humans and pets. The plants are safe to grow indoors.

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