Normally grown as a potted houseplant, nerve plant (Fittonia spp.) is a spreading evergreen perennial with delicately veined, deep-green, ovate leaves. Although the most popular vein color is silvery-white, you can also readily find varieties with veins in red, pink, white, and green. Fittonia typically grows to a height of 3 to 6 inches with a trailing spread of 30-38cm. Although the slow-growing plant rarely flowers when grown as an indoor houseplant, it does occasionally bloom with insignificant reddish or yellowish-white spikes. In the right zone, the plant is sometimes grown as a creeping ground cover in filtered sun locations.
Nerve Plant Care
As beautiful as it is, Fittonia is somewhat temperamental and tricky to grow as a houseplant. It requires very high, constant humidity, such as is found in a terrarium, and cannot tolerate stagnant conditions. Nerve plant is also sensitive to strong, direct sunlight and will quickly suffer from leaf burn.1
When grown indoors, pot a nerve plant in a peaty commercial potting mix. The plant needs to be kept constantly moist with a high level of ambient humidity provided by frequent misting or by placing the pot in a tray filled with pebbles and water.
As a tropical plant that naturally grows in the humid, bright shade of tropical forests, this plant prefers similar conditions when grown as a houseplant. It dislikes full sunlight, preferring bright, indirect sun, such as that offered by north-facing windows. You should keep a nerve plant under fluorescent lights or near diffused light coming in from a sheer curtain. You can also keep a nerve plant in the bathroom even if there's low lighting.
Fittonia grows well in standard potting soil with a peat moss base. It prefers a slightly acidic soil pH (6.5). The soil should retain some moisture but should also drain well.
Keeping the plant appropriately moist can be a challenge. Nerve plant is prone to collapse if it's allowed to dry out.2 Although it will recover quickly if thoroughly watered, repeated fainting spells will eventually take their toll on the plant. At the other extreme, Fittonia plants that are allowed to stagnate in water will develop yellowed, limp leaves.
Temperature and Humidity
Nerve plant thrives at temperatures around 70 F but will tolerate a range from the low 15 degrees to 26degrees. These plants prefer humid conditions similar to those found in rainforests. Regular misting will keep the plants from drying out. In arid climates or during the dry months of winter, using a room humidifier may be helpful. Most growers find it's easiest to grow these lovely but temperamental plants in terrariums, bottle gardens, or covered gardens where they can get the high humidity and diffuse light they love so much. They also do well in steamy bathrooms.
During its growing season, feed plants weekly with a weak dose of liquid fertilizer formulated for tropical plants. A balanced 5-5-5 fertilizer diluted to half strength is a good formulation.
Types of Nerve Plant
- 'Argyroneura': Deep-green leaves with silver-white veins
- 'Pearcei': Deep-green leaves and reddish veins
- 'Frankie': Light pink and green leaves
- 'Fortissimo': Green foliage and red and pink veins
- 'Red Star': Boasts bright and cheery pink-red veined leaves