Nerve plants (Fittonia spp.) make excellent compact houseplants offering some incredible benefits and can even be positioned to bolster feng shui. To keep your nerve plants in tip-top shape, you’ll want to consider fertilizing regularly during the growing season each year. This guide will run through everything you need to know about when and how to fertilize nerve plants at home, including seasonal considerations and the best fertilizers to use.
- When and How to Fertilize Nerve Plants – The Essentials
- The Role of Fertilizers in Plant Health and Development
- Signs That Your Nerve Plant Is Lacking Nutrients
- When and How to Fertilize Nerve Plants
- The Best Fertilizer For Nerve Plants
- How to Apply Fertilizer
- Key Considerations to Be Aware Of
- Fertilizing Nerve Plants FAQs:
- Wrapping Up
When and How to Fertilize Nerve Plants – The Essentials
Feed nerve plants once every 2 to 4 weeks during the spring and summer. These plants only grow to approximately 6 inches tall but can spread up to 18 inches wide. Nerve plants aren’t heavy feeders, so too much fertilizer can be detrimental. Avoid feeding during the winter while the plant is dormant.
The Role of Fertilizers in Plant Health and Development
Like many organisms, plants cannot grow properly without adequate nutrition. Plants require nutrients to help fuel photosynthesis and other processes, such as protecting against pests and diseases and flowering. Plants need four main types of nutrients; structural macronutrients, primary macronutrients, secondary macronutrients, and micronutrients.
Structural macronutrients include carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O). These nutrients are crucial to the process of photosynthesis through which plants produce glucose. The glucose is then used to manufacture cellulose, which forms the basis of new plant tissue.
Plants also require primary macronutrients like nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) for various processes. Nitrogen produces chlorophyll and drives the growth of foliage. Phosphorus is crucial for the development of flowers, while potassium helps plants absorb and circulate water and other nutrients.
Secondary macronutrients include calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S) and fulfill various functions. Micronutrients consist of minerals such as copper (Cu), iron (Fe), and manganese (Mn).
Different Types of Fertilizers
Fertilizers are usually divided between organic and synthetic fertilizers, which work differently. Both organic and synthetic fertilizers are sold as liquid fertilizers or slow-release granules.
Organic fertilizers need to be broken down by bacteria in the soil before a plant can absorb the nutrients. Synthetic fertilizers can be instantly absorbed by plants, which means they work faster. However, synthetic fertilizers aren’t as environmentally friendly as organic fertilizers.
All fertilizers have an NPK ratio that demonstrates how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium the fertilizer contains. Different plants require different amounts of these primary macronutrients. NPK ratios help you provide the correct nutrition for your plants.
By using different amounts of these nutrients, you can influence how a plant grows. If you want a plant to produce lots of bushy foliage, use a high-nitrogen fertilizer. If you want to encourage gorgeous flowers, choose a high-phosphorus fertilizer.
Signs That Your Nerve Plant Is Lacking Nutrients
If the leaves of your nerve plant are turning yellow, it may be because the plant isn’t getting enough nutrients. Check the soil to see if it is too dry or too wet. If the soil is moist, the yellowing leaves are likely caused by a nutrient deficiency.
Weak or Stunted Growth
If your nerve plant doesn’t get enough nutrients, it will struggle to produce strong, healthy growth. The plant needs fertilizing if new leaves are smaller than usual or the stems appear leggy. Weak or stunted growth happens when plants can’t produce enough cellulose to construct strong new tissues.
When and How to Fertilize Nerve Plants
Fertilize nerve plants every 2 to 4 weeks during the active growing season, which runs from spring to summer. This helps your nerve plant produce plenty of healthy, colorful leaves with vibrant veins of pink, red, or white. Nerve plants will naturally go dormant during the winter, so don’t fertilize them during the colder months.
Nerve plants need well-draining soils that are slightly acidic. While the soil provides plenty of nutrition for a while, these nutrients need to be topped up with fertilizer.
Depending on growing conditions (including temperature, light, and water), nerve plants can live for approximately 2 to 5 years with the right nutrition. Even with plenty of fertilizer, nerve plants only grow to about 6 inches tall. However, nerve plants can spread up to 18 inches wide if given enough nutrients.
If you provide fertilizer too regularly, you could over-feed your nerve plant. Keeping to a regular schedule provides the plant with time to use up excess nutrients. Over time, fertilizing too much leaves chemicals and salts in the soil, which can harm the plant.
The Best Fertilizer For Nerve Plants
Because nerve plants aren’t heavy feeders, they don’t have any specific fertilizer requirements. A balanced liquid fertilizer works best for these plants. Aim for fertilizers with an NPK ratio of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 if you fertilize less regularly.
Nerve plants rarely flower indoors, so phosphorus isn’t too much of a concern for these plants. Fertilizers that are higher in nitrogen could be beneficial, but too much nitrogen can cause discoloration. Potassium is also helpful to help your nerve plant circulate nutrients and water.
Always dilute fertilizers according to the instructions on the bottle. This protects your nerve plant from the strong chemicals or salts in the fertilizer. Dilute liquid fertilizers to half-strength to avoid damaging your nerve plant.
Fertilizers that are suitable for your nerve plant include:
- Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food
- Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food Spikes
- The Grow Co Organic Indoor Plant Food
- Bonide Houseplant Liquid Plant Food
- Triple 10 All-Purpose Liquid Fertilizer
How to Apply Fertilizer
Applying fertilizers correctly helps you avoid damaging your nerve plant. Whenever you apply fertilizer, you must dilute it to protect your plant. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide for applying liquid fertilizers:
- Lightly water the soil around your nerve plant before applying fertilizer. This allows the soil to absorb the fertilizer, so it doesn’t burn the plant.
- Choose a liquid fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10.
- Measure out the recommended dose into a watering can according to the packet instructions.
- Dilute the fertilizer using the recommended amount of distilled or filtered water. Try and achieve a ½ strength dose.
- Apply the diluted fertilizer to the soil around the base of your nerve plant. Try and avoid getting any on the leaves, as the chemicals within the fertilizer could burn the foliage.
Key Considerations to Be Aware Of
Chemical and Salt Buildups
Over time, the chemicals and salts within fertilizers can accumulate within the soil around your nerve plant. If you spot white patches on the surface of the soil, there’s a deposit of chemicals or salts. If these deposits remain in the soil, your nerve plant could become burnt or damaged.
Regularly flushing the soil with water removes chemical and salt buildups. Use distilled or filtered water to flush the soil until excess water starts coming out of the drainage holes. Flush the soil every couple of months.
Over-fertilizing your nerve plant can cause just as many problems as not feeding it enough. Fertilizers contain strong chemicals and salts that could burn the plant misapplied. Maintain a regular fertilizing schedule with diluted fertilizer during the spring and summer to avoid over-feeding your nerve plant.
Watering Before Applying Fertilizer
A good way to protect your nerve plant against harsh fertilizers is to lightly water the soil first. If you apply fertilizer to dry soil, you could burn the roots of your nerve plant. But if the soil is slightly moist, the fertilizer will be less likely to damage your nerve plant. For optimal nerve plant care, it’s also prudent to repot these plants every 2 to 3 years.
Fertilizing Nerve Plants FAQs:
When Should I Fertilize My Nerve Plant?
Fertilize nerve plants every 2 to 4 weeks during the growing season.
What is the Best Fertilizer for Nerve Plants?
A balanced liquid fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 5-5-5 is perfect for nerve plants.
Is Miracle-Gro Good for Nerve Plants?
Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food is ideal for nerve plants.
Are Used Coffee Grounds Good for Nerve Plants?
Although nerve plants like slightly acidic soil coffee grounds aren’t strictly necessary.
Nerve plants are fantastic additions to any houseplant collection, especially in terrariums, and can live for years with proper care. Feed nerve plants every 2 to 4 weeks during the growing season with a diluted liquid fertilizer. Use balanced fertilizers with an NPK ratio of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10. Don’t feed nerve plants during the winter, as they will naturally go dormant before growing again in the spring.
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.