Nerve plants are tropical, compact perennials that make perfect houseplants. These colorful evergreens are ideal for growing in terrariums or steamy bathrooms and offer a host of uses and benefits. But before you bring any plant into your home, it’s important to consider their growth expectations once they mature. In this article, we’ll run through everything you need to know about how big and fast nerve plants grow.
- How Big and Fast Do Nerve Plants Grow? – The Essentials
- About Nerve Plants
- Nerve Plant Growth Indoors vs Outdoors
- Nerve Plant Natural Growth Cycle
- How Long Does It Take a Nerve Plant to Reach Full Size?
- Factors Contributing to the Speed and Development of Nerve Plants
- Common Reasons Why Your Nerve Plant’s Growth is Slow or Stunted
- How to Make Your Nerve Plant Grow Faster
- Nerve Plant Growth FAQs
- Wrapping Up
How Big and Fast Do Nerve Plants Grow? – The Essentials
Nerve plants are extremely compact tropical houseplants that only grow up to 6 inches tall. Nerve plants spread in clumps measuring approximately 18 inches wide. Even with ideal care conditions, nerve plants grow reasonably slowly. Nerve plants can take around 3 to 5 years to reach mature size.
About Nerve Plants
Nerve Plant Family and Genus
Nerve plants belong to the Fittonia genus, which forms part of the acanthus family (Acanthaceae). These plants are also known as mosaic plants due to the patterns on their leaves.
Origins and History of Nerve Plants
Nerve plants are indigenous to the tropical rainforests of Peru and other countries in South America. The Fittonia genus was named after 19th Century botanical writers Elizabeth and Sarah Fitton.
Botanical Characteristics of Nerve Plants
Nerve plants have soft, slightly fuzzy leaves decorated with colorful veins. Nerve plants usually have pink, red, or white veins. Although nerve plants do produce tiny white flowers in the wild, they are unlikely to bloom when grown as houseplants.
Nerve Plant Growth Indoors vs Outdoors
Nerve plants tend to reach the same size whether they are grown indoors or outdoors. These plants require high humidity and warm temperatures, so they can only be grown outside in USDA Zones 11 and 12.
Nerve Plant Natural Growth Cycle
The natural growing season for nerve plants runs from spring until fall. During the winter, nerve plants will slow down and enter a dormant period of minimal growth. They must still be kept warm and humid during the winter.
How Long Does It Take a Nerve Plant to Reach Full Size?
Due to their reasonably slow growth rate, nerve plants take approximately 3 to 5 years to reach their full size. Providing the ideal care conditions helps nerve plants reach mature size as quickly as possible.
Factors Contributing to the Speed and Development of Nerve Plants
Care and Maintenance
Nerve plants do best in filtered light but can also grow in bright, indirect sunlight or partial shade. Water nerve plants whenever the top inch of soil feels dry – usually every 3 or 4 days during the summer. Nerve plants need well-draining soils that still retain moisture and should be fertilized every month or two.
For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position nerve plants for optimal care and Feng Shui benefits.
Nerve plants grow best in tropical conditions with warm temperatures and high humidity. Maintain temperatures between 60 and 80ºF (15.5 to 26.5ºC). Humidity levels should be kept between 60 and 90%. Keep nerve plants away from cold or dry drafts caused by air vents, windows, and radiators.
Common Reasons Why Your Nerve Plant’s Growth is Slow or Stunted
Wrong Temperature or Humidity
Maintaining warm temperatures and high humidity is an essential part of caring for nerve plants. If the surrounding air gets too cold or dry, nerve plants will struggle to grow. Dry, shriveled leaves or leaves that fall off are common symptoms of cold temperatures or dry air.
Another common issue for nerve plants is overwatering. Although nerve plants need moist soil, waterlogged soil causes problems like root rot. Limp, yellowing leaves can indicate that your nerve plant is suffering from overwatering.
Underwatering can also cause your nerve plant to grow more slowly. Plants use water to extract nutrients from the soil and build new tissues. Brown leaf tips and dry, crispy foliage are common symptoms of underwatering.
If your nerve plant isn’t growing in the correct soil type, it can cause many problems. Soil that doesn’t drain properly can quickly become waterlogged, causing root rot. Soil that dries out too quickly often leads to underwatering. Provide soils that retain some moisture but are still well-draining.
Diseases and Pests
Diseases and pests can really stunt the growth of your nerve plant. Common houseplant pests such as fungus gnats can suck sap from your nerve plant, reducing its ability to grow. Plant sap contains vital sugars like glucose, so sap-sucking pests should be dealt with quickly.
Incorrect Light Levels
Nerve plants do well in filtered light, bright, indirect sunlight, or partial shade. But if nerve plants are left growing in bright, direct light or full shade, they will struggle. Too much shade causes weak or stunted growth, leading to a sickly-looking plant. Too much direct sun can scorch a nerve plant’s leaves.
How to Make Your Nerve Plant Grow Faster
The Best Soil Types
Providing the correct soil type gives your nerve plant a strong foundation for growth. Nerve plants need well-draining soils that still hold some moisture and are neutral to slightly acidic (6.5 to 7.0 pH). A good soil mix for nerve plants is made from equal parts houseplant potting mix, peat moss, and sand.
The Best Light Conditions
Nerve plants can tolerate most types of light exposure but do best with filtered light. Bright, indirect light and partial shade from east or north-facing windows also work well. Nerve plants cannot tolerate bright, direct sunlight or full shade for extended periods. The most important consideration is to protect the plant from direct afternoon sunlight.
The Most Suitable Pots and Containers
Most types of pots or containers will suit nerve plants as long as they provide drainage holes. Nerve plants can also be housed in decorative pots. Try and avoid terracotta pots wherever possible, as this material is quite porous. This could lead to your nerve plant drying out too fast as water evaporates through the terracotta.
Ideal Temperature and Humidity
Because they hail from the tropical rainforest, nerve plants need high humidity levels and warm temperatures. Nerve plants require temperatures ranging from 60 to 80ºF (15.5 to 26.5ºC) and humidity levels between 60 and 90%.
Use humidifiers or pebble trays in conjunction with misting to keep humidity high. Always keep nerve plants away from cold or dry drafts caused by air vents, open windows, or radiators.
When and How to Fertilize
Nerve plants shouldn’t need fertilizing too frequently due to their reasonably slow growth rate. At most, fertilize nerve plants every 1 to 2 months with diluted liquid fertilizer. Aim for balanced fertilizers that contain plenty of nitrogen to promote foliage growth.
When and How to Repot
Due to the slow growth rate, nerve plants only need repotting once every year or two. Always repot in the spring before the growing season enters full swing. Choose a new nursery pot approximately 1 inch bigger than the previous pot.
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.
Nerve Plant Growth FAQs:
Nerve plants are relatively slow-growing tropical houseplants that will take approximately 3 to 5 years to reach their full size. Mature nerve plants usually grow up to 6 inches tall and about 18 inches wide.
Are Nerve Plants Easy to Care For?
Nerve plants have particular care requirements that can make them slightly challenging to grow. Above all else, nerve plants need warm temperatures and high humidity levels, which can be achieved using humidifiers or pebble trays.
How Do You Know If Your Nerve Plant is Happy?
Happy, healthy nerve plants will have vibrant, healthy-looking leaves and strong colors. Unhealthy nerve plants may have yellow, drooping foliage, dry or shriveled leaves, and brown tips on the leaves.
Do Nerve Plants Like Big Pots?
Nerve plants grow pretty slowly and don’t like big pots. Whenever you repot your nerve plant, increase the size of the new pot by 1 inch at a time.
Do Nerve Plants Like Grow Lights?
Nerve plants can benefit from grow lights if the surrounding conditions are too dark. Nerve plants like bright, indirect light or filtered sunlight but not full shade or bright, direct light.
Thanks to their compact size, nerve plants easily fit into your home. Nerve plants rarely exceed 6 inches high and spread for approximately 18 inches. Nerve plants grow pretty slowly, taking 3 to 5 years to reach their full size. Provide warm, humid conditions and filtered or bright, indirect light to help your nerve plant grow as quickly as possible.
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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