A Fittonia is native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, especially Columbia and Peru. It gets its nicknames, Nerve Plant or Mosaic Plant because of the distinct, veined appearance of its beautiful, ornamental leaves. It is a member of the Acanthaceae family and a close relative of the Zebra plant (Aphelandra). A Fittonia can be grown outside as a perennial, evergreen, ground cover in areas where the temperature stays above 40°F (4.4°C) even during the winter, and the dwarf varieties are perfect for terrariums. Nerve plants look beautiful and do exceptionally well, showing off their colorful vines, when placed in a hanging basket or decorative container in a brightly lit area of your home.
Fittonia (Nerve Plant) Description
A Fittonia (Nerve Plant), is a small, compact, low-growing plant usually about 6”- 8” tall and 12”- 18” wide. This is a creeping plant with 2” thin, oval, leaves that have distinctive white, pink, red, or silver veins; the leaves are attached to fuzzy stems. Fittonia plants are usually divided into two groups based on the color of the veins in their leaves; white-veined fittonia belong to the Argyroneura Group while red or pink-veined fittonia belong to the Verschaffeltii Group. During the summer, if growing conditions are excellent, a mature plant may send out 3” flower spikes topped with bracts of small, tubular, yellowish/white flowers during the summer. The brightly colored leaves of the plant are more spectacular than the insignificant flowers.
Fittonia verschaffeltii (“Painted Net Leaf”) has larger leaves than the common fittoni and pink veins
Fittonia Pearcei has green leaves with bright red veins
Fittonia argyroneura (Silver Net Leaf) has green leaves white veins
Fittonia argyroneura “Nana” (Snakeskin Plant) has small 1” leaves with white veins
Fittonia “Black Star” has dark green leaves and dark, reddish purple veins
Fittonia “Fortissimo” is one of the larger varieties; the green leaves have pinkish-red veins.
Fittonia ‘Frankie’ is a unique variety with leaves that are more pink than green
Quick Care Tips for a Fittonia
Avoid cold drafts and overly wet soil in winter.
Minimum temperature 60°F (15C).
The brightly colored veins in the leaves fade in lower light.
Dilute plant food to 1/4 the recommended strength
Prune aggressively to keep a Fittonia full and bushy.
Constant pruning is very important to keep Fittonia houseplants looking good. Cut back existing stems to about 8″ above the soil line. This encourages the plant to branch out all along the stems. Once new growth appears, continue to pinch back growing tips once stems get about 6′-8″ in length. Move your Fittonia to a bright, humid, location. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Fertilize every two weeks with a basic houseplant food at 1/2 the recommended strength once new growth appears, never fertilize if the plant isn’t growing.
Leaves fall a Fittonia or Nerve Plant when it is over-watered. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering. Move the plant to a warmer, brighter location so the soil in the pot can dry out faster.
The “black things” flying and crawling are Fungus Gnats. Fungus Gnats thrive in a moist humid environment so reduce the moisture in the soil, keep the leaves dry (no misting), and move the plant to a warmer brighter location. Place yellow sticky insect cards in the soil to trap the gnats. Keep replacing the sticky cards until no gnats appear on them.