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.
A Fittonia (Nerve Plant) grows well in bright and medium indirect light. It will survive and grow slowly in lower light but vibrant colors in the leave may fade.
Try to keep the soil of a Fittonia barely moist but never soggy. During the winter, water less and keep the soil drier.
Feed a Fittonia (Nerve Plant) only when it is actively growing and producing new leaves. Use a balanced fertilizer diluted to 1/4 the recommended strength.
A Fittonia plant prefers warm temperatures between 70°F-80°F (21°C-26° C) and does not do well in temperatures below 60°F (15°C).
Fittonia plants require prefer high humidity but still grow well in our homes.
If growing conditions are ideal, during the warmer months, a mature Fittonia plant may flower. The small, insignificant, tubular, yellowish/white flowers grow atop 3″ flower spikes. The brightly colored leaves of the plant are more spectacular than the flowers.
Fungus gnats, aphids, and mealy bugs can be a problem for a Fittonia plant. Read more about these plant pests and how to identify and treat them in the Glossary of the website.
Leaf spot, Mosaic viruses, and root rot due to overwatering are the main plant diseases that can affect a Fittonia plant..
The best soil for a Fittonia plant is a peat moss based potting soil that retains moisture but still drains quickly.
Re-pot a Fittonia plant annually, with fresh soil, once the roots have filled the existing container. Use the next size pot and nothing larger, and be sure there are drip holes in the bottom of the pot so excess water can escape. If the pot is too large, the soil stays wet too long, and the roots of the plant develop root rot.
Prune the leaf tips of a Fittonia (Nerve Plant) frequently to keep the plant full and prevent it from becoming leggy.
A Fittonia (Nerve Plant) is easily propagated using leaf tip cuttings during the late spring. Read more about propagation techniques in the Glossary of the website.
Poisonous Plant Info
A Fittonia (Nerve plant, Mosaic plant) is a non-poisonous plant and safe to have around small children, dogs, cats, and other pets.
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.