Trying to decide which houseplant to pick up on your next trip to the greenhouse? This care-guide might convince you to pick up a nerve plant. Or, if you already have a nerve plant and just want to make sure you’re taking care of it well, this guide will help you identify problems and change your care strategy to make sure your nerve plant is thriving.
If you are worried that you don’t have a green thumb or the best luck when it comes to caring for plants, don’t worry! Nerve plants are fairly easy to care for. In fact, my first house plant that wasn’t a succulent was a nerve plant. I was incredibly nervous about killing it.
However, after two years of some trial and error, my nerve plant is still alive and continually showing new sprouts. With these care tips, yours can too!
Nerve plants are stunning houseplants that can easily adapt to any home.
Nerve plants, also called Fittonia Albivenis, are leafy plants distinguished by their colorful veins. There are several species of nerve plant, and the veins can range in color from a silver/white to pink or red.
Fittonia are native to the rainforests of South America. Because they are a tropical plant, they don’t do well outdoors in temperate climates, but they can usually thrive indoors with the right care.
Some common species of nerve plant are:
- Angel snow nerve plant
- Daisy nerve plant
- Frankie nerve plant
- Juanita nerve plant
- Pink star nerve plant
- Titanic nerve plant
Nerve plants can have white, green, or bright pink veins.
Elements of Care
With any species of houseplant, there are several elements of care that you need to think about in order to have a healthy, beautiful plant. From the choice of container to the location in your home, there are many things to consider. I’ve broken it down into a few main elements of care you need to consider when caring for your nerve plant.
It’s important to find the right balance of light and shadow in order for your plant to glow.
Nerve plants are a low-light plant. In the wild, they line the rainforest floors and are shaded by the surrounding trees. Because of this, they do well with filtered sunlight. You can place them near a window with a sheer curtain or just keep them out of direct sunlight.
One of the reasons nerve plants make such a good houseplant is that they can get the light they need from fluorescent lights. This means they can also be a good choice of plant for an office and can survive in rooms with fewer windows.
The important thing is to make sure they are getting some light without being hit by constant direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves.
The balance of light, shadow, and temperature control lead to a healthy nerve plant.
Light is an important element of plant care, but so is heat. Being a tropical plant, nerve plants do want some warmth. During the winter, it’s important not to keep them near windows or areas where cold drafts might hit it.
Even during the summer months, you want to avoid placing your nerve plant in direct contact with airflow from the air conditioning.
Instead, place your nerve plant somewhere where it can be warmed by indirect sunlight. The good news is, nerve plants don’t need very specific temperatures. They will probably be fine in your house with climate control keeping the plant safe from extreme temperature fluctuations.
Keep in mind the natural habitat of a plant, and recreate it when you can.
Nerve plants are considered a great terrarium plant. They do well with other plants and thrive in moist environments. In a terrarium, you can add some additional humidity for your nerve plant.
Even if your plant is just sitting in a pot on the coffee table, you can provide additional humidity by misting the leaves with a spray bottle. This allows the plant to get atmospheric moisture like it would in the rainforest.
We’ll talk about watering more in depth later, but keeping the soil moist at all times will also help your plant retain some moisture. Make sure that it is kept in a well ventilated area but not next to a drying appliance like a dehumidifier, fan, or air conditioning unit.
Nerve plants can grow in various colors. With enough water, the intricate veins will shine.
Water is one of the most important elements of plant care. If you’re new to indoor plants, it can also be one of the hardest. How much water does the plant need? How do you know if you’re under or overwatering? When should you water?
For a nerve plant, the basic guide is simple. Just keep the soil moist but not soggy.
The exact amount you need to water your nerve plant will vary based on factors like the size and type of container, the type of soil, the amount of light your plant is getting, the humidity in your home, the size of the plant, and more.
I have a small nerve plant that sits on my coffee table, and I tend to water it two or three times a week. I make sure the soil has drained and isn’t soaking before watering again. In addition to these waterings, I mist it a couple times a week since my apartment is fairly dry.
Elements like light, water, and soil combine to create the perfect environment for a nerve plant.
Another of the all-important elements of plant care is soil. Some soils dry quickly while others are meant to retain moisture. For nerve plants, you want something in between. You don’t want the roots to soak in damp soil, as that can lead to root rot.
However, you do want the soil to retain some moisture rather than drying out completely between waterings.
It’s a good idea to use a soil that’s heavy on organic material and has some peat or sand to encourage drainage. Nerve plants aren’t especially picky, though, and many soil mixtures labeled for houseplants will work. Just check to see how quickly or slowly the soil is drying out, and adjust accordingly.
One thing to note is that nerve plants should be kept in a pot with a good drainage system. Because they need a fair amount of water, a pot that doesn’t drain will hold too much water and cause root rot.
Nerve plants are one of the few plants whose leaves are often considered more attractive than their flowers.
Nerve plants should be pruned for optimal growth. Pruning is a way to encourage growth in certain directions and focus the plant’s energy on healthy leaf growing rather than just upward growth.
I didn’t prune my first nerve plant, so it ended up as a very tall stem with only a few leaves. To avoid this, you can trim back some of the stalks, which will encourage leaves to grow further down and lead to a denser plant.
Many people also cut off nerve plant flowers. The flowers are often thought to be underwhelming compared to the beauty of the leaves, so many gardeners cut off the flower in order to save more energy for the leaves.
If your nerve plant is growing well, you can use cuttings to propagate. Just cut off a stem of the nerve plant and plant it in damp soil. Water regularly and you should start to see growth in no time.
Nerve plants can survive a lot, but it takes a bit of attention and love to make sure they thrive.
If you’re at all like me, the thought of fertilizer might seem intimidating. Things like pruning and fertilizing seem like the work of a real gardener, and I thought houseplants would be easy!
However, fertilizer doesn’t need to be intimidating, and it is worth the effort. Because nerve plants are a low-light, indoor plant, they don’t need a lot of fertilizer. In fact, just one or two times a year can make enough of a difference!
If you’re using a liquid fertilizer, make sure to dilute it with water before applying. With other fertilizers you also want to go lighter. Only use fertilizer during the spring and summer months.
If you do want to fertilize more often, that’s okay. Just make sure to give your plant some time between each feeding.
A healthy nerve plant should have plenty of bright, intricate leaves.
Common Nerve Plant Problems
This guide should help you care for your nerve plant with no problems. However, as you learn how much to water your plant or how much sun to give it, you’ll also need to learn to recognize problem signs. Here are some common problems that may appear, along with their cause and fix.
The leaves are turning brown and crispy.
Brown, dried out leaves are often a sign that your nerve plant has gotten too much direct sunlight, and the leaves are sunburned.
You may notice a few brown spots on one or two leaves, or you may realize that all the leaves on the plant are starting to look crispy and brittle. Either way, a good place to start is by moving your plant further from the light.
Wait about a week and check to see if it’s looking better. While a severe burn may never recover, the new growth should look healthy and green.
The plant is losing leaves.
If you notice that the leaves of your nerve plant are falling off, it could be a sign that your plant isn’t getting enough light.
When plants don’t get the nutrients they need from sunlight, they will try to conserve energy and nutrients by dropping old leaves and focusing on new growth instead.
When nerve plants do this, it results in a long stalk with few leaves and is much less attractive. Fix this by bringing your plant a little closer to the window or to a grow light.
The stems are drooping.
Nerve plants are sometimes accused of “fainting.” When a nerve plant doesn’t get enough water, the entire plant will begin to droop.
I remember coming back from a vacation and finding that all the stems of my nerve plant had bent over the edge of the pot. I was sure I had killed it.
Luckily, nerve plants can recover from their fainting spells. Within hours of giving some water to my plant, I could see the stems strengthening and straightening back up.
Unless you know for sure that the plant isn’t underwatered, chances are a drooping plant does need a big drink. If this is the case, you’ll see the plant perk back up within a day. If it isn’t, your plant could be overwatered, which I’ll explain below.
Leaves are yellow and wilting.
Overwatering is a difficult problem to catch for many plants, and nerve plants are no exception. Overwatering can cause the leaves to turn yellow and to fall.
The reason nerve plants can be difficult is because both under and overwatering can lead to drooping. The difference is that in an underwatered plant, the stems will droop. In a plant that is overwatered, you’re more likely to just see the leaves drooping.
One way to check is to dig into the soil and see if it is wet. If the soil is damp or soggy, your plant is probably overwatered. Root rot can be hard to fix, but you can start by repotting your nerve plant with fresh, dry dirt and reassessing your watering schedule.
Cailey Johanna Thiessen lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Though born in Colorado, she spent most of her formative years in Morelos and Oaxaca, Mexico. She attended college in Vermont, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing and a minor in Foreign Languages from Champlain College. She writes about pest control, travel, gardening, and more. Though currently living in an apartment, she loves caring for her large selection of houseplants and is looking forward to owning her own garden. She’s an avid cook and interested in finding easy and enjoyable ways to be healthier and happier. She’s passionate about writing and creating and seeing finished projects come to life.