Nerve Plant Care: Mastering When and How to Repot

Nerve plants (Fittonia spp.) are compact, colorful houseplants with vibrant red, pink, or white veins on their leaves. These small tropical plants are ideal for terrariums and even have some surprising benefits. But even these slow-growing plants need to be repotted now and then for optimal growth and nutrient-renewal. In this article, I’ll run through when and how I repot my nerve plants at home.

How to Repot Nerve Plants

Key Takeaways

Nerve plants need repotting every 2 or 3 years to accommodate new growth and replenish the soil base. Repot your nerve plant in the spring, which starts the active growing season. Provide some fresh, well-draining soil, and use a pot about an inch bigger than the previous container.

Why Repotting Your Nerve Plant Might Be Necessary

A close shot of vibrant green and white tinged leaves of a fittonia plant
I typically look to repot my nerve plants every 2 to 3 years

Although nerve plants are slow-growing houseplants, they may need repotting for various reasons. As a nerve plant grows, it will naturally require a slightly bigger container every 2 or 3 years. Repotting the plant in a larger pot with fresh soil helps it continue to grow.

These plants rarely grow taller than 6 inches but can spread up to 18 inches wide. In my experience, they prefer not to become root-bound, so repotting is vital to keep the plant happy. If roots start protruding from the drainage holes of the nursery pot, you need to repot the nerve plant.

If your plant is suffering from overwatering or waterlogged soil, repotting the plant is the easiest solution. Nerve plants require well-draining soil to prevent problems like root rot. If the soil is waterlogged, you’ll need to repot the plant in fresh soil with added drainage. Always remove any brown, mushy, or smelly roots before placing the plant in fresh soil.

Repotting is also helpful if a plant is suffering from underwatering, especially if it’s root-bound. Some soils can drain too quickly, even for nerve plants, which means the plant needs watering more frequently. Repotting into new soil that retains more moisture can solve the problem.

A lack of nutrients is another common reason for repotting. Over time, plants will absorb the nutrients within the surrounding soil. Although regular fertilizing temporarily tops up these nutrients, repotting the plant into fresh soil is more of a long-term solution.

If your nerve plant is suffering from diseases or pests, repotting the plant into fresh soil may solve the problem. Diseases like root rot and pests like fungus gnats can infest the soil around your nerve plant. Getting rid of the affected soil by repotting the plant may help to recover from diseases and pests.

How Often Do Nerve Plants Need Repotting?

A collection of colorful potted nerve plants sitting on a wooden table
Nerve plants grow pretty slowly but still need extra space for the roots to develop periodically

I find that nerve plants are relatively slow-growing houseplants and won’t need repotting too regularly. In most cases, they should be repotted every 2 or 3 years. Repotting too often can cause their growth rate to slow down even more than usual.

Best Times of Year to Repot

If you need to repot your plant, it’s always best to do so during the spring. This is when the nerve plant comes out of its winter dormancy and begins to grow again. Repotting the plant at this time takes advantage of this natural rhythm of growth.

If you need to repot your plant due to waterlogged soil, diseases, or pests, it’s best to repot as soon as you can. However, try and avoid repotting during the winter wherever possible. If a nerve plant is repotted in winter, it will struggle to grow properly as it’s supposed to be dormant.

The Best Soil Mix to Use

A young, recently potted green nerve plant in a circular planter with fresh potting soil
Nerve plants thrive in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil bases

When it’s time to repot, providing the right kind of soil is essential. By providing a suitable soil base, your plant will grow healthily and happily until it naturally needs to be repotted again.

Nerve plants require a well-draining soil mix that still retains some moisture. This helps protect against both overwatering and underwatering. They also require slightly acidic soils with a pH range between 6.5 and 7.0.

The ideal soil mix is a 1:1:1 mix of houseplant compost, peat or peat moss, and horticultural sand. For a peat-free mix, use a 1:1:1 blend of peat-free houseplant compost or coco coir, orchid bark, and perlite. You can also add some sphagnum moss if the soil mix doesn’t retain enough moisture.

What Tools Will I Need?

A collection of houseplant gardening tools and empty plant pot for repotting a nerve plant
Repotting can be a little messy, so it’s prudent to prep ahead of time

Repotting is fairly straightforward, but there are a few tools that can make it even easier:

  • Newspaper to cover the work surface
  • Small trowel to help remove the plant
  • Clean secateurs or scissors to trim tangled or rotted roots
  • Container of fresh potting mix
  • Watering can filled with lukewarm distilled or filtered water

Size & Types of Potting Vessel Considerations

Nerve plants have relatively shallow roots, meaning they don’t need deep pots. Choose a new pot no more than an inch bigger than the previous container. Always place your plant in a clean nursery pot with drainage holes.

If you want to use a decorative pot, be aware that terracotta pots are porous and may dry out too quickly. Ceramic or plastic decorative pots are ideal in my eperience.

How to Repot Your Nerve Plant

A young green nerve plant in it's nursery pot alongside houseplant tools ready to be repotted into a decorative container
Repotting is relatively straightforward, just be careful not to damage the plant’s roots

Here’s my step-by-step guide to repotting:

  1. Check that the nerve plant needs repotting by looking for roots protruding from the drainage holes. Drooping leaves or increased water requirements may indicate that the plant needs repotting.
  2. Water your nerve plant 2 or 3 days before repotting it.
  3. When it’s time to repot the plant, give it another light watering to make the soil easier to handle.
  4. Add a layer of fresh soil to the new nursery pot until it’s about half full.
  5. Gently ease the plant out of its old pot and shake off most of the old soil. Trim off any straggly or rotting roots.
  6. Place the plant into its new pot, fill it with fresh soil, and gently firm it down.
  7. Lightly water to help it adjust to its new pot.

Whilst nerve plants aren’t considered toxic to humans and pets, they do have tiny hairs on their stems that may cause mild irritation, so it’s prudent to wear protective gloves throughout the repotting process.

Post-Repotting Care

Two fittonia plants potted in white pots alongside a blue watering can sitting on a white windowsill
Repotting can stress plants, so allow them to settle for a few weeks afterwards

Even if you repot carefully and correctly, it’ll still take a little time for it to recover. The plant may appear slightly droopy or limp for a little while after repotting. You can speed up recovery by placing your nerve plant in an ideal spot.

I always aim for somewhere with bright, indirect, or filtered light. Provide warm, humid conditions with temperatures between 60 and 80ºF and humidity levels between 60 and 90%. Use humidifiers or pebble trays to achieve this.

As the fresh soil contains nutrients, you won’t need to fertilize your nerve plant immediately after repotting. Wait for approximately a month or two before you start fertilizing again.

With due care, your nerve plants should thrive for years to come

Repotting FAQs:

Should you water immediately after repotting?

Give your plant a light watering immediately after repotting to help the plant recover. Then, water as normal.

Do Nerve plants like big pots?

Nerve plants don’t like big pots, so only increase the pot size by an inch whenever you repot.

Why is my plant limp after repotting?

Nerve plants may be limp or droopy while they recover from being moved to a new pot.

Should I mist my plant after repotting?

Lightly mist your nerve plant after repotting to maintain high humidity. This helps your nerve plant to recover.

Should I fertilize after repotting?

Avoid fertilizing for at least a month after repotting.

Wrapping Up

Due to their slow growth rate, nerve plants normally need repotting every 2 or 3 years. Repot during the spring whenever possible, as this is the natural start of the active growing season. Try to avoid repotting nerve plants during winter. Whenever you repot a nerve plant, only increase the pot size by an inch at a time.

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