How to Care for the Fittonia
Characterized by its striking patterned leaves, the Fittonia, or the Nerve Plant, is a compact plant that requires a bit of attention, but is still quite easy to care for. Originating from Peru in South America, their natural habitats are tropical rainforests where they grow as ground cover underneath the trees. These slow growing plants reach up to a height of three to six inches, and occasionally produce red or yellow-white spikes—albeit rarely when raised indoors. Due to their high humidity requirements, most gardeners keep them in terrariums or covered gardens.
The most common Fittonia is the Argyroneura, which has deep green leaves with silvery white veins. There are other varieties in different color ways as well: the Pearcei with deep green leaves and reddish veins, the Frankie with light pink and green leaves, and the Red Star with bright pink and red veined leaves.
To propagate, simply cut the stem at the node, put it in soil, and keep it in a warm, bright space. Fittonia are non-toxic and pet-friendly, so you need not worry about having them around small children and animals.
Often described as temperamental, the Fittonia requires high humidity conditions in order to fully thrive. Because of its nature as ground cover in the wild, it doesn’t take well to bright, direct sunlight as it is prone to leaf burn. It prefers bright, indirect sun, and may even tolerate fluorescent lighting for as long as there is some form of diffusion such as a sheer curtain.
These plants do best in temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but will tolerate a range from around 60 degrees to somewhere around the low 80s. Fittonia require regular misting, though, so make sure to keep them in a humid spot that can meet this need. A good place is a steamy bathroom, but ensure lighting conditions are optimum as well.
Watering can be tricky as the Fittonia can wilt when it dries out. Use filtered water to hydrate when the top 50% of the soil is dry. When the stems get leggy, simply prune the tips to keep it lush. Pinching off the flowers, which do not add much in terms of attractiveness, will also help as blooming takes energy from the plant.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
Why is my Fittonia's leaves drooping?
You are likely in possession of a thirsty plant. Underwatering your Fittonia will result in droopy, crispy leaves that will eventually fall off. Keep a consistent watering schedule and water when the top 50% of the soil is dry. It should perk up in no time.
Why are my plant’s leaves turning yellow?
You may be overwatering your plant. Fittonia may like moist soil, but sogginess will cause root rot. Stick to your regular watering schedule, but always make sure any excess water drains from the pot after.