Total Nerve Plant Guide

18 Mar 2022

The nerve plant is a fantastic addition to any home. Its vibrant veins and foliage instantly catches your attention. The only issue is that it’s slightly finicky and demanding, but we’re here to help you.

Our care guide will explore its key characteristics, care requirements, as well as how to grow it and revive a dying one.

Main Features

The nerve plant is also commonly known as the fittonia, mosaic plant, painted net leaf, and net plant. It gets these names due to its vibrant appearance. The green leaves have bold red, white, or pink veins that resemble a net.

The fittonia species belongs to the Acanthaceae family, which is also known as the Acanthus family. It’s native to tropical rainforests in South America. This is what makes it a tricky houseplant to care for, as it requires a humid environment that replicates its native region.

It is an evergreen, herbaceous perennial. So, you’ll be gifted with its stunning foliage year-round as long as it’s grown in optimal conditions. We’ll explain how you can create the perfect environment later on.

Fun fact: The nerve plant was first discovered in the 19th century by Elizabeth and Sarah May Fitton. The species’ name is derived from their surname.


There are many variations of the fittonia, and each type produces different-sized leaves with an array of colored veins.

Let’s take a look at the five most common types below:

  • Fittonia ‘angel snow’: It has small, silver-green leaves with bright, white veins.
  • Fittonia ‘daisy’: This type grows large, gray-green leaves that have white veins too.
  • Fittonia ‘leather leaf’: This variation’s foliage is white-green and has creamy-white veins.
  • Fittonia ‘pink star’: It sprouts small, waxy green leaves that are decorated with pink veins.
  • Fittonia ‘red star’: This houseplant’s leaves are red and have bright, pinky-red veins.

How Big Does It Get?

Typically, a mature nerve plant will grow to be 3 to 6 inches (7.6 – 15.2cm) tall, and it’ll produce a spread between 12 to 18 inches (30.5 – 45.7cm).

How Fast Does It Grow?

It is a relatively slow-growing houseplant. In optimal conditions, it will only grow between 3 to 4 inches (7.6 – 10cm) a year.

How Long Does It Live?

The average fittonia will survive for 3 to 5 years. Its lifespan is dependent on the care it receives and the environment in which it’s grown.

Is It Toxic to Cats and Dogs?

Here’s some great news! The fittonia species is non-toxic. This means that it won’t cause any harm to you or your pets if either of you comes into contact with it.

Nerve Plant Care

In this section, we’ll be placing a specific focus on watering, maintaining, and creating the best environment for your houseplant. You can use this information to formulate the optimal care regime.


The fittonia thrives in a moist environment and the soil should never dry out. Just like the Cyclamen, this plant can be watered once the top inch (2.5cm) of the soil is dry. Underwatering the houseplant will lead to an array of health issues, so it’s important to establish a proper watering schedule.

The plant can be watered once every 3 to 4 days during the spring and summertime. When it is cooler during winter and autumn, then you can water it once a week.

You may need to adjust the number of times you water it according to the climate. The warmer it is, the more water the plant needs, and the cooler it is, the less water it needs.


It is important to create a good drainage system as the plant is watered often. So, without proper drainage then it may become waterlogged or infected by a variety of fungal diseases.

The container must have a few drainage holes so that the excess water can drip out. This will prevent the plant from sitting in soggy conditions, which is also vital for many other houseplants such as the string of hearts plant.

The type of soil will also impact drainage greatly. You could even add coarse sand to the potting mixture to make it well-draining and airy.

When and How to Prune It

The houseplant can be pruned during the spring or summertime. It is only necessary to trim it if you wish to maintain its size or remove leggy and unhealthy growth.

Check out the following steps:

  1. Use a pair of sterilized shears and snip off the stems right down to the base of the plant.
  2. You can also pinch off the leaves right below the leaf node to encourage fuller growth.
  3. You could also save these stems or leaves and propagate them later on.
  4. Water the plant well and put it back in its original position.

When and How to Repot It

The fittonia only needs to be transplanted once every 1 to 2 years in spring or early summertime. It’s a good idea to repot it as the plant will require fresh and loose soil, and this will also avoid the houseplant from becoming pot-bound.

When choosing a new container for the plant, you should aim to go up by one size. If the new pot is too deep or wide then the plant can become waterlogged.

Take a look at the following guide we’ve put together:

  1. Remove the plant out of the pot by either sliding it out or lifting it up.
  2. Take out the new container and fill it with a peaty-soil. You can then plant the fittonia at the same depth that it was in its previous pot.
  3. Water it well to encourage its roots to settle, and then place it back under bright light.

Environment Conditions

Light Requirements

The houseplant does best when kept under bright, indirect sunshine. It cannot tolerate full sunlight and this will scorch its beautiful leaves.

The plant can withstand partial shade, however, low-lit areas will cause the veins to lose their vibrant color.

To ensure healthy growth, it needs to soak under bright light for at least six hours a day. A great way to achieve this is by positioning the plant near a sunny windowsill.

Best Soil

Just like the Schefflera, the nerve plant thrives in soil with a pH of 6.5. Additionally, the potting mixture should be peat-based, quick-draining, and rich.

An African Violet potting mixture is also a great option as it allows for excellent drainage while also retaining some moisture. You should make sure that the soil contains enough organic matter like compost.

Top tip: For the perfect soil you can mix together 1 part potting mix, 1 part peat moss, 1 part humus, and 1 part coarse sand.


It should only be fed once a month during its active growing seasons; spring and summer. It’s best to make use of a well-balanced, liquid, and water-soluble fertilizer. Furthermore, you’ll want to dilute it to half its strength.

A great fertilizer that will encourage growth without causing a fertilizer overdose is one with a ratio of 5-5-5.

Pot Size and Type

The fittonia can be planted in a plastic pot with drainage holes, which is also preferred by the Mandevilla genus. This will allow for adequate drainage and it won’t dry out the soil too quickly. This is vital as the houseplant needs to be grown in moist conditions.

The ideal pot size is one that’s 2 inches (5cm) wider than the rootball’s diameter. This allows for new root growth and ensures that it won’t become rootbound quickly.

You can also grow it in a hanging pot too. Another great alternative is a terrarium as this creates a humid environment similar to that of tropical rainforests.

Temperature Tolerance

It will prosper when grown in consistent temperatures that range from 65 to 70°F (18.3 – 21.1°C). It can also cope with temperatures as high as 85°F (29.4°C).

Keep in mind that the temperature should never drop below 60°F (15.5°C) as this will cause the houseplant to become stressed.

Humidity Level

The nerve plant will flourish in a humidity level between 50 to 60 percent. You can create optimal conditions by misting the foliage, using an electric humidifier, and placing a bowl of room temperature water next to the houseplant.

Another way to ensure that the air surrounding the plant is moist is by using a pebble tray. All you have to do is fill a tray with some tepid water and pebbles. You will then put the pot on top of the pebbles and as the water evaporates it’ll create humid surroundings.

Outdoors vs. Indoors

The fittonia can be grown outdoors if you reside in USDA hardiness zones 11 to 12. The only issue is that you’ll need to replicate its natural environment. This will require some effort and time but it’s worth it as the nerve plant will grow larger and faster.

It does best outdoors during the summertime, and as it gets cooler in winter then the plant must be placed back inside. The plant must still be positioned in a humid area, and you may even need to spritz its leaves if the air is too dry.

Additionally, it will need to be watered more often and it should still only receive indirect sunlight. The harsh sun rays will burn its leaves and may also cause it to die.

Finally, as the plant will produce more growth then it will require more nutrients. This means that it’ll need to be fertilized well too.


Typically, it is very rare for the fittonia to bloom indoors. It will flower once a year during the summertime when grown outdoors.

It produces fairly insignificant, small white-yellow or red spikes. Many gardeners actually remove these blooms so that energy can be directed to supporting new foliage growth.

You can encourage the nerve plant to flower by replicating its native environment. The plant mustn’t be positioned under full sun, and it must be placed in a humid area. You can also mist its leaves to increase humidity levels. Finally, you’ll also need to feed it regularly during its active growing seasons.

How to Grow It

You can multiply your fittonia collection by propagating it or planting its seeds. Each of these methods should be carried out in late spring or early summer.


The nerve plant can be propagated in either soil or water. The number one thing to remember before you begin propagation is that your tools must be sterilized.

Propagating in Soil

You can propagate a fittonia by dividing its rootball, or by planting a stem or leaf cutting. The soil you use should be peat-based and quick-draining. This will enhance the chances of successful propagation.

Propagation by Division

Root division will require you to slice the rootball in half, and then plant these sections in their own containers.

Here’s a guide to successfully divide the roots:

  1. Slide the plant out of its container and gently shake off the potting soil attached to the roots.
  2. Use a sharp knife and slice through the rootball, and then carefully pull the sections apart.
  3. Fill a new pot with soil and plant the division.
  4. Water it well and place it in a sunny area.
  5. In 2 to 4 weeks the roots will establish themselves and you can treat it as you would an adult plant.
How to Grow It from Leaf Cuttings in Soil

This is one of the most common ways to propagate a fittonia. It involves snipping off a single leaf cutting which is then planted in a potting mixture.

The steps are listed below:

  1. Use a sharp pair of scissors or shears and cut off a leaf with two nodes still attached to it.
  2. Prepare a new pot with moist peaty-soil and plant the leaf tip.
  3. Mist it well and put it by a bright windowsill.
  4. In around 2 to 3 weeks the leaf will produce tiny roots, and then you can care for as you did its mother plant.
Growing from Stem Cuttings in Soil

Another way to propagate a nerve plant is by rooting a stem cutting in soil. This is also a simple process and we’ll explain exactly how to do it below.

  1. Snip off a stem that is 3 to 4 inches (7.6 – 10cm) long and remove the leaves attached to the bottom inch (2.5cm) of the cutting.
  2. Dip the cut area in rooting hormone to speed up root growth.
  3. Fill a pot with soil and plant the stem cutting.
  4. Now you will need to water it well and place it under filtered sunshine.
  5. In about a month’s time, the cutting will root itself, and then it should be cared for normally.

How to Propagate It in Water

You can also propagate a stem and leaf cutting in water. If you decide to propagate it in water then always make sure to replace the water before it becomes murky.

Leaf Cuttings in Water

A healthy leaf-tip cutting can be placed in a small glass jar before you plant it in soil. It’s an easy process and it’s always fun to watch the tiny roots grow.

Follow the steps listed here:

  1. Cut off a healthy leaf with two nodes attached to it.
  2. Take out a small jar and fill it with distilled water.
  3. Place the cutting in the jar so that the cut end is submerged in the water.
  4. The leaf cutting must then be located in a bright area.
  5. You’ll notice tiny roots beginning to grow in 4 to 6 weeks’ time.
  6. Once these roots have grown 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) long then the cutting should be repotted in some soil.
Stem Cuttings in Water

A healthy and lush stem cutting can also be propagated in water. All you’ll need to do is grow it in tepid water before planting it in soil.

Check out the process below:

  1. Snip off a stem cutting that is between 3 to 4 inches (7.6 – 10cm) long and remove the leaves attached to the lower half of the stem.
  2. Use a glass jar and fill it with room temperature water.
  3. Place the stem inside the water and keep an eye out for root growth.
  4. Keep the cutting in a warm and bright area.
  5. After 6 weeks the cutting should have produced long enough roots, and then it can be repotted in soil.

How to Plant Its Seeds

This is not a very reliable or effective way to increase your fittonia collection. If you still wish to attempt this method then you’ll need to be prepared that germination isn’t always successful.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Fill a shallow tray with moist peat moss.
  2. Scatter the seeds across the moss and mist them.
  3. Take out a plastic bag and cover the tray. This will lock in the warmth and humidity.
  4. Position the seeds under bright, filtered sunshine and monitor them for new growth.
  5. In 2 to 3 months you may see new growth begin to emerge, and then you can remove the plastic bag.
  6. Once they have grown 2 to 3 leaves, you can transplant them into their own containers.

How to Revive It

The fittonia demands precise care and environmental conditions. This means that it can often become diseased when it isn’t looked after well. We’ll be touching on the four most common issues the houseplant faces as well as how to fix the problem at hand.


The leaves and stems may begin to look limp and droopy when the nerve plant is underwatered, the temperature is too high, or if the air is too dry.

Underwatering is a common issue when it comes to this houseplant. You must water the plant more often during the warmer months. The best way to rectify this problem is by thoroughly watering it as soon as possible.

During the summertime, the temperature may become too high for the plant. Simply, find a new and cooler home for it.

It loves a humid environment, and when the air is dry then your plant can’t maintain its stunning foliage. You will need to mist its foliage or place a bowl of lukewarm water next to it.


Wilting foliage occurs when the houseplant is kept in a dry environment. This may be caused by a lack of water or a lack of humidity.

Going forward you must ensure that the soil is consistently moist and that the air surrounding your plant is humid too. You can do this by watering it more frequently and misting its leaves with tepid water.

Curly Leaves

Curly leaves are caused by improper watering, extreme temperatures, and low humidity levels.

You rectify each of these issues easily. When the soil is too moist or too dry then you’ll need to tweak your watering schedule. If the potting mix is too wet then allow it time to dry out before watering it again. When the soil is too dry then you must give it a deep watering.

Temperatures that are either too low or too high can cause your plant to become stressed. You’ll need to maintain a consistent temperature within the optimal range.

A lack of humidity will require you to mist its leaves or place a humidifier close to the plant. It’s best to maintain a moist environment as the plant thrives in tropical regions.

Crispy Leaf Tips

The leaf tips will begin to brown or become crispy when the plant is underwatered or grown in a dry environment.

You will need to deeply water your houseplant immediately. It will then recover after a few days and its foliage will appear lush again.

When the air is too dry then the plant cannot maintain its healthy leaves. The best way to increase humidity levels is by spritzing its leaves several times a week.

Wrapping It Up

If you’re new to the world of houseplants then caring for the fittonia may seem like a daunting task. Once you have nailed down its environmental and care requirements then it isn’t too tough to grow.

The most important care aspect is the humidity level. It’s imperative that the air surrounding your houseplant is humid. Additionally, you’ll also need to ensure that it is watered properly and kept in a moist environment.

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