The Best Soil Bases for Nerve Plants to Thrive

Nerve plants, also known as Fittonia, are delightful, compact houseplants that are easy to grow if you provide them with a solid foundation that starts with an appropriate soil mix. These evergreen perennials work equally well in pots or terrariums, showcasing beautiful pink, red, or white veins on their leaves, and are an attractive option for east-facing windows. In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the best soil mixes for nerve plants.

The Best Soil Mix for Nerve Plants – The Essentials

Nerve plants grow best in well-draining soil that remains fairly moist. These plants also need humid conditions and slightly acidic soils with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.0. Soil bases like peat or coco coir are ideal for nerve plants, but standard houseplant compost also works well.


Why Soil Choice Matters for Nerve Plants

Why Soil Choice Matters for Nerve Plants

Getting the right soil mix for your nerve plants will help them thrive in your home. Nerve plants need indirect light, humid, warm conditions, and moist soil as they are tropical plants. Nerve plants are native to Peru and other parts of South America, where they grow on the jungle floor.

The best soil mixes for nerve plants should replicate these conditions. Nerve plants need soil that can retain moisture but still be well-draining enough to avoid becoming waterlogged. Soil gives your nerve plant enough nutrients to keep growing but must also provide good drainage and aeration around the roots.

Soil mixes also need to provide the right pH levels for your nerve plant. Fittonia plants prefer slightly acidic soils with pH levels between 6.5 and 7.0. Your nerve plant may struggle if your soil mix doesn’t provide the right pH.


What Are the Primary Components Used in Potting Soil Mixes?

What Are the Primary Components Used in Potting Soil Mixes?

Potting soil mixes usually contain various ingredients to achieve different objectives. While soil bases like houseplant compost or coco coir provide nutrients, things like perlite and vermiculite help improve drainage. Each soil mix contains a different balance of these components.

Common Soil Bases

  • Houseplant Compost – Most houseplants will be well-served by standard houseplant compost. These bases can either be peat-based or coir-based. Peat-based compost retains more moisture, but coir-based mixes provide better drainage and aeration.
  • Peat – Peat is controversial due to its environmental impact, but it is also a common compost ingredient. Peat retains lots of water and nutrients, helping to maintain moist conditions. However, it can offer poor drainage and aeration for some plants.
  • Coco Coir – Coco coir is a common peat alternative made from coconut husks. Although it’s more sustainable, it doesn’t provide as many nutrients as peat does. That said, coco coir has better drainage and aeration, so is more suitable for certain plants.
  • Sand – Sand is a common ingredient in many soil mixes because it improves aeration and drainage. However, sand lacks any discernible nutrients. Sand is an ideal soil base for succulents and other houseplants that don’t like moist soil.

Common Potting Mix Additives

  • Horticultural Grit – Horticultural grit helps improve drainage and aeration in dense soil mixes. The large pieces of grit help break up the soil, preventing compaction. Grit is also an attractive top dressing for some plants.
  • Orchid Bark – Orchid bark is a specialist ingredient used by orchid growers, but you can use it for other plants too. Orchid bark helps improve drainage while adding nutrients.
  • Organic Matter – Organic matter, usually in the form of compost, adds vital nutrients to nutrient-poor soils like coco coir and sand. It’s important not to use garden compost for houseplants as it may contain pests. Use specialized houseplant compost.
  • Perlite – Perlite is a type of volcanic glass that improves aeration and drainage. These tiny white pieces of rock also reduce the risk of soil compaction.
  • Pine Bark Fines – Pine bark fines consist of thin shavings of pine bark to add nutrients and improve drainage. As these fines break down, their nutrients are added to the soil.
  • Pumice – Pumice is another type of volcanic rock that can improve drainage and aeration and reduce the risk of compaction.
  • Rocks and Pebbles – Rocks and pebbles are often used as top dressings on the surface of the soil. This makes the pot look pretty while also deterring houseplant pests. Adding small pebbles to the soil can also improve drainage.
  • Sphagnum Moss – When sphagnum moss is added to loose soils such as sand or coco coir, it can help the soil retain more moisture and nutrients.
  • Vermiculite – Vermiculite is another type of volcanic glass that contains nutrients such as magnesium and iron. It also helps to improve soil drainage and aeration.

Typical Signs You’re Using the Wrong Soil Mix for Nerve Plants

Common Signs You're Using the Wrong Soil Mix for Nerve Plants

Drooping or Yellowing Leaves

If your nerve plant is sitting in waterlogged soil, the leaves may start drooping or turning yellow. Cut back on watering your nerve plants, or add some sand or perlite to the soil to improve drainage.

Root Rot

If these plants sit in waterlogged soil for too long, the roots may start rotting. If the roots appear brown, mushy, or smelly, they’re rotting. Remove affected roots and add some sand or perlite to improve soil drainage. Then repot the nerve plant and avoid watering until the soil dries out a bit.

Wilting Leaves

Wilting leaves are a common sign of underwatering and may be caused by soil that doesn’t retain enough moisture. If your nerve plant is growing in sandy soil, add some sphagnum moss to improve moisture retention.

The Importance of Well-Draining Potting Soil for Nerve Plants

Nerve plants love moist soil, but they hate being waterlogged. That’s why well-draining soil is so vital for nerve plants. Soil mixes that have good drainage help prevent waterlogged soil, which is usually caused by overwatering.

Waterlogged soil leads to problems like root rot, which can severely hamper the growth rate of your nerve plant. To improve soil drainage, mix in some perlite, sand, or vermiculite.

What pH Levels in the Soil Are Best Suited to Nerve Plants?

These plants prefer soil mixes that are neutral to slightly acidic. The ideal pH range for your soil mix is between 6.5 and 7.0. if you need to make your soil mix a bit more acidic, mix in some peat.


The Ultimate Nerve Plant Potting Mix Recipe

The Ultimate Nerve Plant Potting Mix Recipe

Nerve plants require a moist but well-draining soil mix that provides good aeration and plenty of nutrients. While you can buy ready-made soil mixes, you’ll get the best results by making your own. Here are two of the ultimate nerve plant potting mix recipes:

For a peat-based nerve plant soil mix that provides plenty of nutrition and drainage, combine:

  • 1 part standard houseplant potting mix
  • 1 part peat or peat moss
  • 1 part sand

If you’d prefer to use a peat-free mix, combine:

  • 1 part peat-free houseplant potting mix
  • 1 part orchid bark
  • 1 part perlite
  • Add some sphagnum moss to help retain moisture

The Best Pre-Mixed Soils for Nerve Plants

While custom soil mixes work best for nerve plants, you can also use pre-mixed soil mixes. Your nerve plant will still grow quite happily. You can also use African violet potting mixes for nerve plants because they provide good nutrients and drainage. These mixes usually contain peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.

Keep in mind whether you want to use peat-based or peat-free soil mixes, and always check the ingredients.

Here are some of the best pre-mixed soils for nerve plants:

(Editors Note: Petal Republic participates in partnership programs with Amazon and other merchants to help connect readers with relevant products and services we may recommend).

Whilst nerve plants aren’t considered toxic or poisonous to pets and humans, it’s prudent to wear a pair of protective gloves during any form of plant care as they do have tiny hairs on their stems that may cause mild irritation.


Soil Mix for Nerve Plants FAQs:

Nerve plants like soil that stays reasonably moist but is still well-draining. Nerve plants will really struggle in dry soil but could also suffer from root rot if left in waterlogged soil.

Nerve plants should be repotted once every year or two to give them enough space to keep growing. Always repot nerve plants in the spring so they can adjust to their new pot throughout the growing season.

Cactus soil isn’t recommended for nerve plants because it is designed to be very free-draining. Nerve plants need soil that can retain some moisture. If you do use cactus soil, add in plenty of peat or sphagnum moss to improve moisture retention.

As long as potting containers have drainage holes, container choice doesn’t affect the type of soil mix needed for nerve plants.


Wrapping Up

Nerve plants are colorful, compact houseplants that are suited for almost any part of your home. These tropical treasures require well-draining soils that can still hold moisture. Nerve plants also prefer neutral to slightly acidic soils with a pH range between 6.5 and 7.0. The ideal soil mix for nerve plants combines standard houseplant mix, peat moss, and sand. For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position nerve plants in the home for optimal care and feng shui benefits.


Edward Hodsdon
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Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.

Author

Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.

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