Fittonia (nerve plant) is a flowering plant from the Acanthaceae family, endemic to South America’s tropical jungles. It was named after the botanists Elizabeth and Sarah May Fitton, two sisters from Ireland who discovered the species in the 1800s.
They are slow-growing evergreen perennials about 4–6 inches tall. They have striking patterned green leaves, with accented white to deep pink veins with fuzz-covered stems, and produce small white to yellow colored flowers, although the plant rarely flowers indoors. Its spreading growth makes it ideal to be grown as a groundcover. There are several different cultivars available in several different colors.
It is a colorful and striking tropical houseplant that can be placed on tabletops or cultivated in terrariums and hanging baskets. The veins on the nerve plant’s deep green leaves are brilliant pink, scarlet, or white and add a splash of color to any room.
It looks great in pots that complement the vein colors, but it also looks good in containers with opposing hues. The nerve plant is ideal for homes and businesses because it is a small plant.
Prefers bright, indirect light. Its vibrant colors will fade, losing the vein’s effervescent splashes of color and growth will slow in lower light conditions. It prefers its indoor environment to be as close as the humid shade of its tropical forest natural habitat. Direct sunlight can cause leaf burn.
The Fittonia loves water and likes to be consistently moist, but not water-logged. Water it well when the topsoil is dry. If it dries out too much, the leaves will wilt and collapse dramatically but are easily revived with a quick drink of water.
You shouldn’t allow it to get in the habit of letting this happen as repeated dry spells will ultimately damage the plant. Keeping the plant properly moist can be challenging.
Average household humidity levels are adequate, but they will thrive better in higher humidity levels. Humidity can be boosted with regular misting, placing a water-filled nearby, or growing it in a terrarium. Misting will help keep leaves looking fresh and clean as well.
A humidifier is necessary if humidity levels are consistently low. Another method to raise relative humidity levels is to keep quite a few humidity-loving plants together, producing a micro-climate in effect. Under-watering and/or low humidity will result in leaves developing crispy tips.
The Fittonia will prosper in average room temperatures ranging between 65-80°F degrees. Avoid cold breezes and direct air from heaters in winter. Temperatures below 55°F can do permanent damage to the plant.
The Fittonia is a short-rooted plant that grows well indoors with regular potting soil with a peat-moss mix. Make sure the pot has several drain holes as the Fittonias detest water-logged soil.
Regular potting soil with a peat-moss mix and a regular or shallow pot with several bottom drainage holes is ideal for the Fittonia. Repot every year in spring or summer, using fresh soil to prevent soil compression and water-logging.
The roots of the plant tend to spread in the soil and get root bound fast. Roots will begin growing out of drainage holes, giving you a sign that they need repotting. Cautiously remove old soil and insert the plant in a pot prepared with fresh soil, adding soil on top to keep the plant in place.
It can be pruned to remain small if you prefer not to keep repotting it into larger pots. Use the cuttings to grow new plants. It can grow quickly in ideal conditions, and the stems can become leggy. Pinching off the tips of stems will help keep plant growth full and bushy.
And since it rarely flowers indoors, pinch off any flower buds that pop up simply because the flowers are not that attractive when compared to the foliage.
Fittonia is usually propagated from stem cuttings or leaves. For optimal results, choose a segment of the stem with one or two growth nodes and insert it in water in a bright, humid spot, or cut off a leaf and insert it in water as well.
Cuttings can also be planted directly into the soil. This can take about two weeks to start appearing. It is best to propagate it from cuttings taken when pruning the plant, during spring or summer, or when repotting the plant.
Propagation from seeds isn’t usually successful.
It will enjoy living in a terrarium since it loves humid conditions. You can construct a terrarium by getting a glass jar or checking online for purpose-built terrariums. Layer the bottom first with gravel or pebbles and add layered soil on top. Plant the Fittonia, adding more soil around the roots and water lightly.
Or you could grow the plant in a pot along with other potted plants such as begonias, ferns, and pile a to complement the colors of the Fittonia if there’s enough space in the terrarium.
Terrariums retain humidity and recycle water extremely well, a perfect enclosed environment that the Fittonia will love and thrive in, and the best part is that you don’t have to worry about watering and humidity levels as when grown in a pot. This will make it an attractive centerpiece on a table in your living room.
Fittonia is an easy plant to care for although it can be affected by a few problems. Over-watering can make the leaves turn yellow – a pot with good drainage holes is necessary to prevent sodden soil. Root rot results from over-watering or soggy soil.
Cold temperatures or drafts can result in leaf drops. Low humidity or direct sunlight can result in the leaves becoming dry. Use a humidifier if humidity levels are low and avoid direct sunlight on the plant.
Insects that can attack the plant include fungus gnats, mealybugs and aphids. Infestations should be treated immediately with neem oil.