Nerve plants (Fittonia) typically live between 3 and 5 years when grown indoors or outside. In my experience, these plants stay compact even when mature and rarely exceed 6 inches high with a spread of up to 18 inches at their maximum size. In this guide, I will take you through how long nerve plants typically live and what I do to ensure their longevity through optimal plant care.
What is the Natural Life Cycle of a Nerve Plant?
Nerve plants are native to the rainforests of Peru and other regions of South America. These plants grow on the forest floor and spread out as ground cover plants. They gradually spread by sending out young roots to form new plants. In the wild, individual nerve plants rarely live for more than a couple of years.
Nerve plants can live for approximately 3 to 5 years when grown indoors. Nerve plants stay compact throughout their lives and rarely grow higher than 6 inches tall. However, they can spread up to 18 inches wide by trailing their stems over the lip of their pot.
Nerve plants won’t live long if they receive improper care, especially regarding temperature and humidity. These plants can also be severely damaged by common nerve plant pests and diseases. Severe infestations may force you to discard the plant.
Key Factors That Contribute to Longevity
Nerve plants require bright, indirect, or filtered sunlight to thrive. Partial shade also works well, especially if you’re growing them outside. East-facing windows provide the ideal amount of sunlight. Keep nerve plants at least 3 feet away from the window to give them indirect light.
Temperature and Humidity
Like many tropical houseplants, nerve plants need warm, humid conditions. Nerve plants need temperatures ranging from 60 to 80ºF (15.5 to 26.5ºC) and humidity levels between 60 and 90%. They can also be grown outside in USDA Zones 11 and 12 in humid, tropical areas.
Indoors, provide humidity using humidifiers, pebble trays, or by regularly misting the plant. Keep these plants away from cold or dry drafts that could lower the temperature or humidity. Drafts usually come from air vents, open windows, and radiators.
Nerve plants prefer moist soil, so water them whenever the top inch of the soil feels dry. In the spring and summer, that means watering roughly every 3 to 4 days. Use lukewarm or room-temperature distilled or filtered water. These plants tend to droop when they need a drink but will perk up after receiving some water.
Nerve plants need well-draining soils that can still hold some moisture. They also need slightly acidic soils with pH levels between 6.5 and 7.0. A 1:1:1 mix of peat-free houseplant compost, orchid bark, and perlite provides the right balance of nutrition and drainage.
Nerve plants are slow-growing plants that need feeding every 2 to 4 weeks during the spring and summer. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 5-5-5 to provide plenty of nutrients. Always dilute the fertilizer to a half-strength dose according to the packet instructions.
Here’s our guide on when and how to fertilize nerve plants.
Because nerve plants grow pretty slowly, you should only need to repot them every 2 or 3 years. Repot these plants in the spring as the growing season gets underway. Only increase the pot size by an inch at a time, as nerve plants will struggle in big pots.
Here’s our guide on how to repot nerve plants.
Pests and Diseases
Nerve plants can suffer from pests such as aphids, fungus gnats, and mealybugs. These plants can also be vulnerable to diseases such as root rot or mosaic virus. Use insecticidal soap, horticultural oils, and fungicides to treat these problems.
Nerve plants are brilliantly compact houseplants that can live for approximately 2 to 5 years. The right growing conditions are crucial if you want your nerve plant to grow for several years. Nerve plants need bright, indirect light and warm, humid conditions to thrive. Water nerve plants every 3 to 4 days during the growing season and repot them every 2 or 3 years.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.