Fittonias are an interesting genus, with only two species (Fittonia albivenis and Fittonia gigantea) and dozens of Fittonia varieties and cultivars, mostly from Fittonia albivenis.
Members of the Acanthaceae family and native to the rainforests of Peru, South America. These herbaceous perennials have become prized tropical houseplants for their colorful veins, which have earned them the nickname of nerve plant.
These tropical plant cultivars are separated into two groups based on their vein colors: the Fittonia Argyroneura Group and Fittonia Verschaffeltii Group, sometimes called Fittonia verschaffeltii (fit-TOH-neeuh ver-shaf-FELT-ee-eye).
This latter group we’ll be focusing on, which includes all the darker-veined cultivars and is a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.
The Verschaffeltii Group has many common names, including:
- Pink Angel
- Pink Nerve Plant
- Red Fittonia
- Red Nerve
- Red Net Plant
- Red Threads
Some of the more popular members of this group include:
- Fittonia ‘Black Star’
- Fittonia ‘Fortissimo’
- Fittonia ‘Juanita’
- Fittonia ‘Mini Red Vein’
- Fittonia ‘Red Anne’
- Fittonia ‘Red Star’
- Fittonia ‘Ruby Red’
Silver Fittonia Care
Size & Growth
As the Verschaffeltii Group are all cultivars of Fittonia albivenis, they tend to only grow to about 3″ to 12” inches tall and 6″ to 18” inches across.
Depending on the conditions, this growth can be slow to moderately slow, with potted specimens taking longer to reach mature size.
What sets the Verschaffeltii Group apart are the darker veined leaves, ranging from pink to red.
The undersides of these ovate leaves are sometimes burgundy to maroon or purple, while the tops tend to be dark green (but may also be a lighter green) or variegated.
Flowering and Fragrance
It’s rare to see a fittonia bloom domestically, and you might never encounter one flowering indoors.
When they do bloom, members of the Verschaffeltii Group tend to bear partially hidden 3” inch flower spikes with tiny white to off-white flowers, which may have a slightly reddish tint.
As they are unimpressive, growers are known to pinch them off, so the plant will focus its resources on the foliage instead.
Indirect Light & Temperature
Being a patron of the forest floor, direct sunlight will easily scorch Fittonia’s leaves.
Outdoors, dappled sunlight works best, but the plant can grow in the shade if you don’t mind losing some of those vibrant colors.
Indoors, bright, indirect light is preferred.
A fluorescent grow lamp will also work wonders.
It’s possible to give the plant a little direct light in the morning or evening when the sun is at its least harsh, but it should be sheltered during midday.
One thing that worries a lot of potential enthusiasts is Fittonia’s preference for high humid environment.
While it will undoubtedly thrive in 60 to 90% percent humidity, a kitchen or bathroom will usually suffice.
Augment the ambient humidity by grouping it with other plants, frequently misting, giving it a pebble tray, and/or placing it near a humidifier.
If you live in USDA hardiness zones 11 to 12, you can grow members of the Verschaffeltii Group outdoors.
While a few cultivars can handle slightly cooler temperatures, it’s usually best to grow them in a container if you live in a cooler region.
Avoid spots with direct airflow and never expose your fittonia to temperatures of 50° degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Ideally, it would help if you kept it in temperatures between 60° and 80° degrees Fahrenheit and avoiding any drops below 55° degrees Fahrenheit.
Water and Feeding
Fittonias can be chemically sensitive to water conditions and will dramatically faint if left without water for a few days.
The suddenly drooping leaves can be revived almost as soon as the plant is watered.
The fainting spells are harmless if it only happens once or twice, but repeated spells can cause permanent damage to the plant.
It’s best to use the soak-and-dry method with these plants, poking your finger into the soil to check for dryness before watering. Fittonias do not like soggy soil.
In the case of Fittonias, the soil needs to be ¼ dry before watering, meaning you shouldn’t feel any moisture until your finger has gone a quarter of the way down the side of the pot.
As a general rule, these plants will need feeding monthly, but only during spring and summer.
Go with a balanced houseplant liquid fertilizer, such as a 5-5-5 NPK, and dilute it by half.
Avoid feeding in autumn and winter months, as this is the plant’s dormant phase.
Soil & Transplanting
Being native to the floors of tropical rainforests, Fittonias love rich, loamy soil.
A good tropical mix or any peat-based potting soil will generally work well.
You may wish to amend it with perlite to ensure proper drainage and should try to maintain a slightly acidic pH of around 6.5.
You will need to repot these plants each spring, using fresh soil.
Grooming And Maintenance
Outdoor Fittonias may require more frequent pruning than potted ones.
You will want to pinch off the stem tips to control the shape and size of your plant, as well as to prevent legginess.
While not necessary, many growers who aren’t interested in the blooms will pinch off flower spikes as they develop to encourage foliage growth.
How To Propagate Green Nerve Plant
By far, the most popular (and easiest) method of propagating Fittonia is through stem cuttings, which may be grown in either soil or water.
For the more adventurous, air layering and leaf-cutting are also variable (albeit more difficult) options.
White Nerve Plant Pests or Diseases
Avoid cold temperatures or drought conditions with this plant.
Aphids, fungus gnats, mealybugs, scale, slugs and snails, and spider mites are common pests, with mealybugs being the most prevalent.
Meanwhile, leaf spots and various forms of rot are all common infections.
All Fittonia plants are considered safe and non-toxic to children and pets.
Argyroneura Group Uses
When paired with members of the Argyroneura Group, the Verschaffeltii Group makes a striking statement, either as a group of potted plants or as a ground cover.
Their trailing habit also makes them perfect for hanging baskets.