Nerve Plant- Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#19
Updated: Jan 1
The Nerve Plant (or Fittonia) is well known as the "drama queen" of the houseplant world. But we also know this guy for its brightly colored leaf veins. I've seen them at almost any plant shop, from a 2 inch pot size to a 6 inch pot size! Since you can find these almost anywhere, they are usually priced fairly reasonably.
Nerve Plant, Mosaic Plant, Silver Net Plant, Jewel Plant, Silver Threads, and some people call them Fittonia.
Every time I have seen these available in plant shops, the variety name is not provided. A lot of the varieties I am listing are almost identical so it is hard to tell the difference. Most varieties were found on Costa Farms' website!
White Fittonia- Daisy, Leather Leaf, Superba, Mini Superba, Mini White, Stripes Forever, Titanic, White Ann, White Brocade
Pink Fittonia- Josan, Frankie, Pink Angel, Pink Star
Red Fittonia- Black Star, Juanita, Mini Red, Purple Vein, Red Ann, Red Star, Red Vein, Ruby Red
The Nerve Plant can't handle hanging out in full sun, but loves to be in medium to bright indirect light. If you plant this guy in direct light, the leaves will burn. But if it isn't in enough light, it may become leggy. It's kind of like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears! That being said, this guy can handle being grown in florescent light too. Great for an office setting BUT I wouldn't recommend it since it needs to be watered much more frequently. Bring a Snake Plant to work instead, mine is doing great at my office!
Speaking of the Three Bears, watering this plant is a similar concept! If you overwater it, you can kill it but if you underwater it, it will droop and massively "complain," therefore referring to it as the "drama queen". The pictures to the right show my sister Lindsay's Fittonia before and after she watered it! Usually people kill this plant by underwatering it rather than overwatering, but both can still happen! If you are noticing the leave are yellowing, that means it is being overwatered. It's okay to let the Nerve Plant droop because it is a good indication that it needs attention. If you do allow it to droop make sure you place it in a space you walk by often and keep track of how many days you can go in-between watering. This will give you a good idea of when to water more consistently. In general, this plant does need more moisture, more often, than your normal houseplant usually does.
This plant also LOVES to be in a humid environment so place it by a humidifier, mist it constantly, put a tray with pebbles underneath or plant it in a terrarium-like setting. These guys are commonly found in 1-2" pots so they can fit perfectly into a terrarium. If you don't have any of those options for giving it humidity, Amazon sells spray mist bottles for a great price (see here) or you can make sure you keep you Fittonia close to your other plants. Placing plants together happens to increase the humidity a little bit!
There is never a wrong answer here (as I always say) EXCEPT for fertilizing too much! If you are using a non-organic fertilizer and you apply too much, your plant may start to burn. Always use the recommended amount or even a little less on your houseplants. Usually the browning won't happen with an organic fertilizer but it is still best to use only the recommended amount.
The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant says to feed "from spring through summer, feed monthly with a balanced houseplant food. In winter, feed every 6 weeks." I basically do as they describe in the book. I use Espoma Indoor! Houseplant Food on my houseplants approximately every 4 weeks when watering. But I will reduce fertilizing to probably every couple months in winter for all my plants.
The Fittonia can be propagated from Stem Cuttings! Cut stem at least a few inches long just before a leaf node, which is where the leaves meet the stem. Take off all leaves except for the very top ones. Some people use a rooting powder to help stimulate root growth but it isn't necessary.
You want to place your stem in a soil that will hold more moisture, such as a soil with more peat moss in its ingredients. Avoid using a well-draining soil like a cactus mix. Mist it daily and water when the soil starts to become dry. Make sure it is kept in a warm, humid environment but not in direct sunlight. There should be healthy root growth in about 2-3 weeks! You will know it's growing roots if it has new stem growth or if you gently pull on the plant and there is resistance. The resistance will be the roots hanging on for dear life!
Part of the Acanthaceae Family
Other plants in this family are Shrimp Plant, Zebra Plant, Mint, Black Eyed Susan Vine, Oyster Plant, Caricature Plant
Native Southern Tropical America
This plant typically grows 6" tall and 12" round but there are miniature versions that will stay smaller.
The Nerve Plant does flower but most people pinch it off so the plant can focus its energy on the beautiful foliage.
Regular pinching (AKA pruning or cutting back) is encouraged to keep this plant's shape. Sometimes the plant can get a bit leggy with its growth, so it's best just to cut it back right before a leaf node.
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The Nerve Plant is commonly confused with the Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)!
From a distance the leaf shape, plant size and colors are exactly the same, but when you get a closer look there is one major difference. The Nerve Plant's color is strictly from their veins versus the Polka Dot Plant has white, pink or red speckled or polka dotted (hence the name) markings with green veins. The Polka Dot plant also tends to be a bit brighter in color since the color covers most of the leaf. I actually have a pink one of these in my terrarium (pictured to the right)! The more you know, right?!
Always written with extreme plant passion!