Thursday, November 22, 2018

Houseplant to Collect: Fittonia

Of all the houseplants on my windowsill, I water my two Fittonia the most often. This is not surprising given that Fittonia spp. is native to the rainforests of South America where they flourish in the hot, humid environment of the jungle's understory. The foliage, which is veined in pinkish-red, white or green, give the plant its common names Nerve plant or Mosaic plant.

Fittonia does bloom, but the flowers are very unremarkable. The reason you want to grow this houseplant is its unique foliage.

How to Grow Fittonia

Fittonia grows happily in the filtered light of the rainforest. An east or north facing window that provides bright, indirect light is therefore perfect for this plant.
Too much sun can actually scorch the foliage. Even though my windowsill faces east, the summer sun can be a bit too intense for my Fittonia. When that happens, I shift their location away from the window ledge or into the shade of other large houseplants.

Keeping the soil consistently moist, is the biggest challenge this plant presents. I find I have to water my plants every three to four days. A little too dry and they droop. Really dry and a Fittonia will collapse altogether. Though they always look a little like they are on death's door at that point, I find they always recover when I water them. Although Fittonia will recover from the occasional fainting spell, allowing them to wilt repeatedly will eventually take a toll on the plant's overall health.
As well as a regular supply of water, Fittonia like humidity. That is why you'll often see dwarf varieties used in the moist environment of a closed terrarium. In my own experience, I find that keeping the soil consistently moist seems to suffice, but if the air in your home is really dry, you can mist the foliage of your Fittonia with tepid water.

A peat-based potting mix (like the ones typically used for African Violets) will help keep the soil of your Fittonia moist, but not soggy.

A tropical plant like this one is never happy sitting on a cold windowsill. Try to keep the room temperature at least 65-70 degrees F. (18-21 degrees C.)

During the spring and summer feed your plant every other week with a liquid fertilizer formulated for tropical plants (following the package directions).

The leaves have a smooth finish, but the stems are covered in fine hairs.

Ongoing Care 
Fittonia can become leggy over time. Pinching back their growth will encourage a bushier plant. Flowers waste the plant's resources, so it's also a good idea to pinch off any flower spikes that will weaken the all-important show of leaves.

Spring is a great time to propagate cuttings. To make new plants, take a 2-inch stem cutting and root it in some moist potting mix. You'll know that roots have sprouted when you see signs of growth (typically in 2-3 weeks).

Pests & Problems
The foliage will warn you if the plant is unhappy with any of its growing conditions. Leaf drop is a sign that the temperature is too cold for its liking. Yellow leaves usually indicate overwatering. Dry, brown leaves are a sign there is not enough light and humidity.
Mealybugs, fungus gnats and aphids can all be potential problems. If you discover an issue with any of these pests, isolate the affected plant/s and treat the problem.

If you get the watering right, I think you'll find that Fittonia is pretty easy to grow. This plant is sure to make an attractive addition to your houseplant collection.

Bookmark this post with a PIN.


  1. Myra was just saying she was looking to get some more house plants. The Fittonia does indeed have unique foliage. However I suspect our rooms fall below 65f during the night in Winter.

    1. I would still tell Myra to give Fittonia a try, Alistair. If the house is comfortable for you at night it probably would work for the Fittonia as well.


I love to hear from you. Thanks for leaving a comment.