Fittonia Plant Care: Learn How To Grow Nerve Plants

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The Fittonia argyoneura plant, also known as the nerve or mosaic plant, is a lovely tropical houseplant growing in the USDA hardiness zone 11.

Fittonia does well in terrariums, hanging baskets, and on desks and tabletops.

fittonia plants enjoy the bright light of a windowsillPin
Fiittonia nerve plant growing in the windowsill | duskbabe-depositPhotos

This pretty, colorful nerve plant grows wild as a ground cover in the tropical rainforests of Peru.

These plants hail from South America (mostly Peru). Their botanical name honors Sarah May and Elizabeth Fittonia, well-known botanical authors during the 1800s.

Other common names include:

  • Painted Leaf Plant
  • Snakeskin Plant
  • Silver Nerve
  • Painted Net Leaf

It belongs to the Acanthaceae family with popular Relatives, including the Zebra plant, Shrimp plant, and Mexican Petunia (Ruellia).

In this article, we describe the many varieties of Fittonia and share advice for keeping this plant successfully in your home or office. Read on to learn more.

Fittonia Quick Care Facts

  • Botanical Name: Fittonia albivenis
  • Common Name(s): Nerve plant, Mosaic plant, Painted Leaf Plant
  • Snakeskin Plant, Silver Nerve, Painted Net Leaf
  • Synonyms: Fittonia verschaffeltii
  • Pronunciation: Fit-to-ni-a al-bi-ve-nis
  • Family & Origin: Acanthaceae family, native to South America, Peru
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: 11
  • Size: Grows up to 6 inches tall and wide
  • Flowering: Produces insignificant white or yellow scentless flowers
  • Light: Prefers bright, indirect light
  • Humidity: 60% – 70% humidity levels
  • Temperature: Thrives in temperatures between 65° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Soil: Moist, well-draining soil
  • Water: Keep soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged
  • Fertilizer: Feed with general-purpose fertilizer for houseplants once every two or three months
  • Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to aphids, snails, slugs, mealybugs, and root rotm leaf spots,
  • Propagation: Propagate through stem cuttings
  • Plant Uses: Used as a decorative indoor plant, groundcover, air purifier, and for its medicinal properties in traditional medicine.

Why Is The Fittonia Plant So Popular?

Fittonia is a remarkably pretty plant with its dark green leaves and decorative veining. The veins in the leaves come in a number of colors, including white, silver, pink, red, and purple.

In addition to being colorful, Fittonia is a small (though enthusiastically spreading) plant that does quite well in low lighting.

These qualities make the nerve plant the perfect choice for brightening up various small nooks and crannies around your home or office.

Nerve plants do not typically grow more than 6″ inches high but tend to spread.

The leaves are 2″ to 4″ inches long and may be either oval or elliptic. The mosaic plant is typically olive green with bright, colorful veining. Leaves grow in pairs on opposite sides of rambling, mat-forming, freely rooting stems.

Fittonia produces long, reddish, or white bract spikes bearing small, insignificant white or yellow scentless flowers in the best conditions. This is a rare occurrence for houseplants.

Red Fittonia mosaic plantPin
Red vein Fittonia Plant

How To Grow Nerve Plants?

Remember that these plants naturally grow on the jungle floor in the tropics of South America, so they like low lighting.

Even so, you can keep your Nerve Plant in a window with bright indirect light if you filter the sunlight with a sheer curtain.

Bright light encourages brighter colors, but direct sunlight will sear the leaves.

Nerve plants also do well in low or medium-light or fluorescent lighting.

Temperatures ranging from 65° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Don’t allow the temperature to drop below 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

When watering, you must strike a happy medium between dry and soggy potting soil. If Fittonia dries out, it collapses.

Like all plants, the nerve plant will suffer from root rot if you keep the soil too wet. Too much water and poor drainage will also cause yellowed leaves.

Check frequently, and only water when the surface of the potting soil begins to dry out.

Try to keep an evenly moist soil. Always water with room temperature water to avoid shocking the roots.

Nerve plants like high (60% – 70%) humidity levels. Dry air causes leaves to wilt. Regular misting can help, or keep your Fittonia in a terrarium setting for constant high humidity.

To maintain constant high humidity, you may wish to keep your Fittonia Nerve Plant in a terrarium.

Alternately, a naturally humid setting such as a bathroom or kitchen could work.

Other ways to boost humidity include setting your plant on a tray of wet pebbles and/or setting up a room humidifier.

If you plan to be away for a few days, drape a clear plastic bag or plastic wrap over your plants to help them retain moisture and humidity while you are gone.

Be sure to set up some sort of framework to prevent the plastic from lying directly against the leaves.

The Fittonia plant likes the same sort of soil as African violets. Purchase or create a light peat or coco coir-based mixture, rich in organic matter and retains moisture well.

You can keep your Nerve Plant Fittonia well-fed with a general-purpose fertilizer for houseplants.

To encourage growth, fertilize as often as once a month, but once every two or three months is recommended.

Be sure to feed your plant a minimum of two times yearly.

Nerve Plant Care: Common Problems & Pests

Because nerve plant Fittonia has very specific environmental requirements, quite a few things can go wrong. Watch out for

#1 – Leaves turning brown and withering around the edges: This may be caused by dry air or dry soil. Check the soil to be sure it is slightly damp, and take steps to increase humidity.

Learn Why Your Fittonia Leaves are Curling

#2 – Withered Leaves: If too much salt builds up in the soil, leaves will wither.

Reduce the amount of sodium in the soil by drenching the plant with water and allowing the water to run through the soil until it is completely clear.

When your plant recovers, repot it into fresh soil and/or simply make new plants using tip and stem cuttings.

#3 – Patches of dark gray mildew on leaves: If conditions are too dry, mildew spots will appear.

Trim off the affected leaves, and try covering your plant with a clear plastic bag or plastic wrap (as described above) to boost and create a humid environment.

#4 – Leaves turning yellow: This is a sign of overwatering. Always use a pot with ample drainage holes in the bottom.

Be sure to use a loose, well-draining, moist soil mix. Pay close attention to your watering schedule. Don’t overdo it!

#5 – Leaves Dropping: If the room temperature is too cold or if the plant is exposed to intermittent cold drafts, leaf drops can occur.

Remember to keep the temperature warm and constant. Don’t place your plant too close to a door or a window that allows cold drafts to enter.

#6 – Leaves Shriveling: This can happen because the air is too dry or because the plant is getting too much sun. Remember to keep humidity high and direct sunlight low for Fittonia.

#7 – Aphids: As with most houseplants, aphids (and mealybugs) can be a problem for nerve plant Fittonia.

Avoid introducing aphids to your houseplant collection by carefully examining every new plant you bring in.

Look for the insects themselves and for the sooty mold and honeydew that accompany them.

Keep new plants isolated for a few weeks to be sure they are pest-free. If you do find aphids on your plants, try washing the plant with a strong stream of water.

This may be all that’s needed to knock aphids off for good.

Snails & Slugs: If you keep your mosaic Plant outdoors in the summer, you may also have problems with snails and slugs.

The cool, damp, dark environment provided by the leaves is perfect for these gastropods, and they enjoy eating Fittonia plants.

If you begin to notice holes in the plant’s leaves, suspect snails or slugs.

The best way to get rid of them is to simply pick them off and dispose of them.

fittonia dead from lack of waterPin
Dying Fittonia nerve plant | Mitand73-DepositPhotos

Nerve Plant Propagation

It’s actually pretty hard not to propagate Fittonia once you‘ve set up a conducive environment.

The rambling plant grows readily from tip cuttings and rooted stem pieces. It is also easy to start stems from one pot to another.

These ground-covering plants love to travel and spread along with the soil, and they put down new roots everywhere they go.

When you see that a stem is sprouting roots, you can cut it off and give it its own pot.

Alternately, put fresh soil in a pot and set it alongside the “parent plant.”

Direct the rooting stem into the fresh potting soil and let it take hold. Once it’s established, snip the connection between the parent and the new plant.

If you want to take cuttings, you can trim off 2-4″ tip cuttings or trim longer stem cuttings into 2-4″ sections.

Be sure that each section has a couple of growth nodes. Plant them in a fresh, moist fittonia soil mix at an angle or horizontally.

Keep your cuttings in a warm setting (75° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit), and drape a piece of perforated plastic over them to keep humidity levels high.

When the stems are set down roots, you can remove the plastic.

How Many Types Of Fittonia Are There?

Once you have established the perfect growing environment for Fittonia, you will naturally want to branch out and collect some of the many different types.

There are variations with white, red, pink, purple, and even silvery veins (aka argyroneura or silver nerve plant).

There are also small-leaved varieties known as Nana cultivars. These compact plants are very popular and easy to grow.

Veining patterns also vary from one type of Fittonia to another. For example, some varieties feature a very dramatic fishbone pattern.

Here are some of the more popular and unusual Fittonia cultivars available today:

  • Red Anne – a great terrarium plant. This small plant has green leaves variegated in shades of deep reddish/pink (red-veined nerve plant).
  • Leather-Leaf – loves dimly lit settings. This striking plant has large white leaves with veins in a brighter shade of white.
  • Josan – a festive medium-sized plant with bright green leaves and sharply contrasting red veins.
  • White Anne – very pale green/white leaves, does well in small spaces with low lighting.
  • Mini Superba – very large leaves with pink veins, yet maintains a compact growth habit.
  • Purple Vein – large-leaved plant. Deep green leaves, and the veins are purple.
  • White Brocade – large green leaves with bold white veins. It does very well in low light.
  • Pink Angel – very compact growth habit. Its leaves are bright pink and very small.
  • Angel Snow – a small, pretty plant with dark green leaves and bright, white veins.
  • Forest Flame – a compact plant with small green leaves and brilliant red veins.
  • Stripes Forever – very small, dark leaves abundantly striped with white veins.
  • Mini White – a very small plant with miniature green leaves and white veins.
  • Fortissimo – a large plant with bright green leaves and reddish/pink veins.
  • Titanic – small variety with dark leaves of green and bold white veins.
  • Red Star – very small green leaves striped with deep reddish/pink.
  • Pink Vein – big, wavy leaves and its veins are deep reddish pink.
  • Red Vein – a large plant with big leaves veined in reddish/pink.
  • Black Star – very dark leaves with deep reddish/purple veins.
  • Juanita – very large, with dark green leaves and bright red veins.
  • Mini Red Vein – very small leaves with dark red/pink veins.
  • Pink Star – very small, wavy leaves with broad, pink veins.
  • Superba – very large leaves and bright white veins.
  • Ruby Red Plant – deep green leaves and dark red veins.
  • Argyroneura – small green leaves and silvery veins.
  • Daisy – big greenish/gray leaves with white veins.
  • Frankie – deep green leaves tinged with pink.

Companion Planting

Once you have a good tropical environment set up for your Fittonia, you can add even more interest to your collection with attractive tropicals that bring out the best in your Fittonia.

Plant them together in flower windows, terrariums, or large indoor planters.

3 Fittonia Buying Tips

#1 – When you are just starting out, you may find you have better luck with smaller-leaved varieties.

#2 – Springtime is the best time to start out with Fittonia. Purchase small plants or start cuttings early in the spring. Establish them in broad, shallow pots for overwintering.

#3 – Remember that Fittonia may not be clearly identified. Be on the lookout for it under its other common names (Fittonia Nerve Plant, Mosaic Plant, Painted Leaf Plant, Snakeskin Plant, Silver Nerve, Painted Net Leaf).

Enjoy Fittonia All Year Round

These tropical plants have no “down” time. When you provide them with the right setting, these north-facing window plants grow and prosper all year round.

Setting up a tropical retreat in your home allows you to collect these pretty plants and enjoy a lush, green, living, growing space throughout the year.

Remember to maintain a consistent, warm temperature and a highly humid environment in your plant space.

Keep your plants fresh and healthy by trimming off any damaged leaves.

Depending on how you have potted your plants, you can train them to ramble along or spill over the sides of hanging baskets.

If you want a more compact appearance on some plants, pinch them back regularly to encourage branching and a more compact growth habit.

In the springtime, evaluate your plants to see which ones need repotting. Because these plants have shallow roots, you may not need to repot every spring.

Plant in large, shallow pots or as a “ground cover” around taller plants in large pots. Keep it as a specimen plant in a terrarium, or take advantage of the plant’s rambling ways by keeping it in a hanging basket.

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