Growing and Caring for the Nerve Plant (Fittonia albivenis)

The nerve plant, also known as Fittonia albivenis, is a great plant for starter and experienced houseplant enthusiasts alike. It’s easy to grow, and looks beautiful in any collection, thanks to its white veins contrasting well against the deep green leaves.

But exactly how easy is it to take care of? Let’s take a look. 

At A Glance: What You Should Know About Fittonia Albivenis

A nerve plant is a great option for any room, as it has a low-growing, neat habit, and its leaves are the star of the show. Sometimes the leaves can have red veins instead of white, too.

It looks perfect in terrariums (see also Aquarium To Terrarium DIY Project) or containers, and isn’t that demanding when it comes to plant care.

This particular cultivar comes from Peru and the Andean rainforests of South America and is an evergreen perennial. It has a spreading growth habit, growing in width rather than height when it reaches 30cm tall.

It’s rare for the plant to flower, but you may occasionally see miniature green flowers that appear in bracts above the leaves if the conditions are right.

You may also know this plant as the mosaic plant or painted net leaf. 

While it’s possible to grow this plant outdoors, most people grow it as a houseplant. It will not survive temperatures below 50°F (or 10°C), so keep this in mind.

This is one of the easiest plants you will grow when it comes to watering. Like peace lilies, the nerve plant will droop dramatically when it is ready for more water. A good drink will see the plant standing upright again within a few hours.

How To Grow A Nerve Plant

Nerve plants need some space when grown outdoors, so space them about 6 inches apart, giving them room to spread outward. 

You don’t want to bury them too deeply either, as these plants have shallow roots.

If you’re growing nerve plants indoors, place them in a bright but indirect position for best results. 

You could also pop them under grow lights if your house doesn’t have enough natural light, and you’ll be able to tell if it doesn’t because the colors will become less vibrant. 

How To Propagate A Nerve Plant

You could sow some seeds for fittonia, but this is time-consuming and difficult. It’s much easier to take some stem cuttings off existing plants, and take more than a couple to increase your chances of success. 

Make sure to remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem, and pop them into damp seed compost. Put the container into a clear plastic bag with some holes in it to make it more humid, in a bright, warm place.

When you see new growth on the cuttings, they have rooted.

Soil Requirements

Well-draining general compost is fine for outside, but for inside, use a houseplant compost. Make sure that the soil is slightly acidic, and holds onto some moisture without getting too boggy.

How To Prune A Leggy Fittonia

Nerve plants will reach toward a light source and become stretched when there’s not enough light for them. Any stems that grow past the pot will dry out quicker than the ones in the pot, as they won’t get enough moisture.

Simply trim any leggy stems, and treat them as cuttings using the method above. Place the original plant in a brighter position, and you will have new plants in no time, and for free, too!

Repotting A Fittonia

As the roots are delicate and small, nerve plants don’t need repotting often, only when the roots start to creep out the bottom of the pot. 

It’s a good idea to wait just before the growing season to repot, and water the plant a few days before planning to disturb the roots, as this can stop transplant shock.

Select a pot that is one size larger than your nerve plant’s current container, making sure that it has adequate drainage holes. 

Be very gentle when removing the plant from the pot, tease the old soil away from the roots, and replace it with fresh compost in the new container.

Pop the plant back to where it normally lives, and remember when you watered it. You can water it very lightly to settle the roots into the new soil, or wait and keep to your normal watering routine.

Fittonia Care And Maintenance

Fittonia plants are easy to take care of with a little experience, once you understand what the plant wants. These plants can easily last for years when you get the care right for them, which depends on the surrounding environment.

Water Requirements

Fittonia loves moisture, but there is a point where it gets too much. Ideally, you need to water it when the top inch or so has dried out, but not to drench it, so it is constantly soaking.

Too much water results in yellowing leaves and root rot, while too little water means the leaves will wilt dramatically. While this is a good indicator of when the plant wants some water, it’s at the point where the plant starts to suffer.

To prevent stress, you can always pop an old shoelace or a piece of string into the soil, and put the other end into a jar of water. The water will wick up through the shoelace or string gradually, and you won’t need to worry about watering your Fittonia.

Sunlight And Position

Fittonia plants are native to the floor of rainforests, so direct sunlight will scorch the leaves. Indoors or outdoors, place it in partial shade, or bright indirect light.

Temperature Requirements

Nerve plants are not a fan of extremes, and the ideal temperature range is between 60°F and 80°F (or 16°C and 26°C). 

Keep these plants away from drafts and sources of heat, as these will dry out the atmosphere too much for the plants to cope with.

These plants also like some humidity as you might imagine. You can improve the humidity temporarily by misting the leaves or placing the pot on a pebble tray filled with water to increase the surrounding humidity for a while longer.

When To Feed A Nerve Plant

Fittonia plants don’t need a lot of fertilizer, but you can give them a boost during the growing season once a month, with a weak liquid houseplant fertilizer. 

Give it a weaker dose than the label suggests to stop the roots or leaves from burning.

Pests And Diseases To Watch Out For

A prolonged lack of humidity and the wrong care will mean pests will call your Fittonia plant home, so you want to avoid this as much as possible. 

If you see furry white splotches appearing on the join between the stem and the leaves, or the underside of the foliage, you might have mealybugs. 

You can treat any affected area with rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab, but you do need to catch it early for the plant to recover.

Overwatering results in fungus gnats, so use sticky paper to help curb them and make sure to quarantine this plant away from your other houseplants, as these villains spread quickly.

Fittonia Cultivars You Should Consider

There are many varieties of Fittonia to choose from, and you’ll see differences in the appearance of the leaves more than anything else.

Fittonia ‘Angel Snow’

‘Angel Snow’ is a beautiful variety that features bright green leaves, with white veins and white borders.

Fittonia ‘Black Star’

‘Black Star’ features deep green foliage, matched with burgundy veins.

Fittonia ‘Frankie’

If you would like more color in a Fittonia, ‘Frankie’ may be the variety for you. It has dark green leaves with large pink centers.

Final Thoughts

Fittonia plants are striking in any room, and are easy to care for once you get the basic needs right.

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