Nerve Plant Care Guide & FAQ

Nerve Plant

Nerve plants, which are also known as Fittonias, are a popular choice of decorative house plant and come in several different varieties.

They are fairly unique and striking in their appearance, which is why they remain a popular indoor plant for households.

It can seem daunting to know how to take care of these tropical plants properly, but in reality, it is fairly easy to get the hang of. In this article, we will go through everything you need to know to take proper care of these plants. 

General Information

Indigenous to the tropical regions of South America, Nerve plants have a rather exotic appearance, which is part of their appeal, and it is easy to picture them nestled in a jungle.

Their popularity is easy to understand; not only is the Nerve Plant attractive and able to blend well into most environments, but it is relatively easy to care for, hearty, generally healthy, and non-toxic, making it a safe choice for homes with pets and small children. Nerve plants have unique, oval-shaped leaves that can be delicately veined in a variety of different colors.

They are attractive in an understated way, and though they do bloom, their flowers frequently go unnoticed due to their small size and spiky, irregular shape. As part of the Acanthaceae or Acanthus family of plants, one of the most striking features of the Nerve Plant is its lush foliage, which typically has a rich green base tone that accentuates the ribbons of other colors.

The low maintenance level of the Nerve Plant makes it a good choice for amateur or beginner botany enthusiasts or those who are not inclined to dedicate an excessive amount of time or effort to the care and maintenance of their plants. 

Varieties of Nerve Plant

There are quite a few varieties of Fittonia Plant (Nerve Plant), which means you have plenty of choices. You have a range of sizes, patterns, and colors to choose from. Below, we will go into some of the best and most common varieties of the Nerve Plant.

One popular variety of Nerve Plant is known as the Black Mosaic. It has striking foliage the has a revealing dark green color. There are also fewer red veins in this plant in comparison to other varieties.

Another common variety of this plant known as the Frankie Nerve Plant. It has distinctive pink leaves that have green edges.

If you want a plant with bold white veins, then you should consider the White Anne.

If, however, you are more interested in large leaves and bold red veins, then you should consider the Juanita variety.

White Brocade is similar to this variety, apart from the fact that it has white veins instead of red.

If you are looking for a smaller version of the plant, then you can consider the Mini White Nerve variety. You should have a look for yourself and talk with a reputable gardening store.

They will be able to advise you on which variety would be most suitable for your specific requirements. The steps to providing care and the optimum conditions will be very similar for all varieties of the Fittonia (Nerve) Plant. 

Light Requirements

Nerve Plants appreciate bright, filtered, or oblique light, which means they should not be left in full or direct sunlight for long periods of time.

In their natural environment, they grow close to the ground and are surrounded by dense vegetation and other foliage, which serves as an effective filter for the strong sub-equatorial sunlight. However, you should also be careful about giving them excessive direct light since this can lead to scorched leaves. 

Temperature Requirements

They thrive in warm, temperate environments, between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit (16-26 degrees Celsius), and can suffer from shock if exposed to extremes of temperature even briefly. For this reason, it is best not to place your Nerve Plant beneath a heating or air conditioning vent or keep it outside of a climate-controlled environment.

This sensitivity to rapid changes in temperature also means that the Nerve Plant should be irrigated with room temperature water to avoid shocking the root system. One clear sign of the temperature is too cold for the plant is if it starts to drop leaves. You will know if it is too hot if it starts to dry out. Overall, you should maintain a consistent temperature and avoid any drastic changes since this can be harmful to the Nerve plant. 

Humidity Requirements

Because the Nerve Plant is native to tropical climates, it thrives in high humidity. The humidity is one of the most important care aspects for the Nerve plant. However, that does not mean you have to keep your home feeling like a greenhouse inside.

A good way to mimic a high-humidity environment is to use a mister or spray bottle to spritz your Nerve Plant, making sure to dampen not just the soil but the leaves as well. A fine mist once or twice daily is usually sufficient; you don’t want to soak the leaves or weigh them down or create muddy soil, as doing so can lead to root rot or other issues. Ideally, the soil should be moist, never dry, but not sodden.

The top inch or so of soil or the most superficial 20 percent should feel damp to the touch, but should not yield liquid water if pressed. Make sure your nerve plant is in a pot with adequate drainage, so that excess water can drain freely instead of settling amongst the roots.

If you do not provide the humidity levels required, then the leaves can quickly start to wither and wilt. If this happens repeatedly, it can eventually lead to long-term damage. Therefore, it is important to deal with any humidity issues as soon as possible by applying mist. 

Best Potting Soil

Your choice of potting medium or soil should be rich, so look for something that is finely grained and dark in color, and should have a neutral PH. It should also be rich in organic matter, and be able to provide good drainage. Nerve Plants have fewer specific requirements when it comes to the soil they grow in than many other houseplants, and a soil that is good for indoor ferns or temperate ground cover will likely work well for your plant.

Soil intended for succulents or dirt that has not been enriched with minerals is not ideal and should be avoided, as should anything with a sandy consistency or peat.  The container you choose for your Nerve Plant should have a drainage hole, and you should never allow your plant to sit in standing water. You can repot the Nerve Plant every year or two. The shallow root features of the plants mean that they do well in small pots.

Fertilization

As far as fertilization, your Nerve Plant will require this much less frequently than many other plants as well. Most Nerve Plant enthusiasts say that fertilizing once monthly or even bi-monthly is adequate, and there are those who say that they only do so every three months and have still had good results with their plants.

When adding fertilizer, do so in moderation, adding a thin layer to the topsoil and allowing the nutrients to filter down for absorption when the plant is watered. Do not disturb the root system when fertilizing. Avoid fertilizers with acidic organic ingredients. If you use liquid fertilizer, it should be diluted in half. It is crucial to water between feedings since this allows any build-up to be flushed away. 

Watering

You need to provide a consistent supply of water to the roots of a Nerve Plant. However, overwatering can lead to root rot. The best way to find the correct balance is by judging the dryness of the soil. This is a far more accurate way to judge if the plant needs watering.

Once the top of the soil is dry, you can use tepid water to thoroughly wet the potting mixture. You should always allow the water to drain completely. One sign of overwatering is the appearance of yellowing leaves. Overwatering can cause over logged soil, and if this happens, then you must repot the plant.  

How to Keep Your Nerve Plant Healthy

While Nerve Plants are one of the healthier, heartier choices of houseplant, they are still susceptible to certain insects and diseases. They also have a few specific requirements regarding the pot or receptacle into which they are to be placed.

Nerve Plants grow outward more than upward, and their root system expands laterally as well, so to comfortably accommodate their growth, you should move them to a slightly larger and more voluminous pot every one to two years, completely replacing your potting medium each time you do so.

Failing to upgrade your plant’s pot can stunt growth and restrict the roots, resulting in poor water and nutrient absorption and increased risk of root rot. An enormous pot is not necessary, and the increase in size and volume should not be more than 10-20 %, so you won’t have to worry about running out of room or ending up with a pot too large to fit comfortably in your home.

The manner in which the Nerve Plant grows means that it will “trail” or develop long extensions of the main plant that, if not pruned, can give it a wild, overgrown appearance. If you have chosen to keep your Nerve Plant in a hanging planter, you will notice these vine-likee extensions can overflow the rim of the pot and trail downwards.

Some people enjoy the way these trailing growths can add to their plant’s exotic appearance, but they can also grow long enough to be unsightly and get in the way. It will not hurt your plant to prune it, providing you do so correctly.

It is important to use clean, sharp shears and to be sure to clean them after every use. When pruning, the cut should be quick and clean. Avoid pulling or sawing actions as these can be stressful or damaging to the plant. Do not prune too aggressively. 

Propagation

You can also propagate Nerve Plants fairly easily. You can take off stem cuttings with at least two nodes attached. These can then be placed into a moist potting mix. They should be kept in a warm, humid place. Also, the soil should be kept fairly moist. You can expect the plant to start rooting within three weeks. Usually, the optimal time for propagating tends to be in the spring season. 

Diseases

There are very few diseases to which the Nerve Plant is vulnerable. Xanthomonas, more commonly known as “leaf spot,” is one of the more serious afflictions that your Nerve Plant can develop. Xanthomonas can be easily treated with an antifungal designed specifically for house plants that you can purchase at most retail gardening stores.

If left untreated, Xanthomonas can be extremely detrimental to your plant and detract from its beauty. Be certain to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when treating your Nerve Plant with an over the counter antifungal.

A viral disease that commonly Nerve Plants is Mosaic Disease. Over the counter, treatments are available for this but are not always effective. Viral diseases are typically more serious and more difficult to get rid of, as viruses are extremely resistant and easily mutate.

The symptoms of the Mosaic Virus can vary due to the variety of viral strains that exist and are dependent upon each individual plant and which strain of virus it has contracted. The most common symptoms include discolored leaves, especially leaves displaying an unhealthy yellowish or bile colored tinge, spotting, curling, and shedding.

If your Nerve Plant is manifesting these symptoms, a common recourse is to use a product called Diatomaceous Earth. While the active ingredients in the product are not marketed as antiviral, they create a hostile environment for the virus and impede its growth and reproduction. You should also change your potting medium and pot if you suspect your Nerve Plant is infected and replace your pruning shears. 

Insects

Very few insects trouble the Nerve Plant, and those that do are more of a nuisance than a serious threat, although if let go they can become one. Thrips and Aphids are the two most common pests related to the Nerve Plant. Both are small and can be difficult to see, easily concealing themselves between or beneath the leaves of the plant.

Check your Nerve Plants foliage to make sure you are not incubating an infestation. Examine both the tops and the undersides of the leaves and do so with relative frequency. There are over the counter insecticides and pesticides available that can successfully combat both species of insect as well as sprays that serve to make your plant less appealing to pests.

Use caution when applying repellents or insecticides. Follow manufacturer’s instructions, wear gloves and protect your eyes, and be careful not to overdose your plant on the active chemical ingredient, which can be toxic and lead to poor growth or even the death of your Nerve Plant.

Odds are, if you maintain a clean, temperate environment and provide adequate humidity and irrigation for your Nerve Plant, it will thrive, creating a nice addition to almost any home and providing you with your own personal piece of nature indoors.

Toxicity  

You will be pleased to learn that the Nerve Plant is completely non-toxic. This means it is safe to grow in a location around pets and young children. There is absolutely no safety hazard in ingesting the plant. 

Nerve Plant Care Summary

We know that it can be difficult to take in all of the care information for the Nerve Plant. Therefore, we will go through a summary to recap the most important care points. You should memorize these tips when growing your Nerve Plant to ensure that you provide the best care and conditions possible. 

  • Nerve Plants require a fair amount of indirect light
  • You should aim to maintain wet soil rather than soggy soil
  • Use a well-draining potting mix
  • The ideal temperature is 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Use diluted fertilizer every one or two months
  • Maintain high-humidity conditions
  • Use regular pruning to encourage stable growth
  • Repot every 1-2 years
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Closing Thoughts

You will now have everything you need to know about growing and caring for the Nerve Plant. This dazzling plant always provides a touch of magic to any indoor place. They are popular to use in hanging baskets and container gardens.

Many households and interior spaces can benefit greatly with the addition of a Nerve Plant. They are generally easy to care for; however, you will now have a better idea on how to fulfill some of the specific requirements. We wish you all the best in your journey to caring for a Nerve Plant. 

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