Nerve plants (Fittonia) are beautiful, colorful, and compact houseplants that are rewarding to look after. These plants love warm, humid conditions and work well in bathrooms and even terrariums. But, like all houseplants, nerve plants need the right amount of water to truly thrive. In this article, we’ll run through everything you need to know about when and how to water nerve plants at home.
- When and How to Water Nerve Plants (Fittonia) – The Essentials
- About Nerve Plants
- The Role of Water in Plant Health and Development
- How Do You Know When a Nerve Plant Needs Watering?
- How to Water Nerve Plants
- Signs That You Might Be Overwatering Your Nerve Plant
- Signs That You Might Be Underwatering Your Nerve Plant
- What to Do In Between Watering Cycles
- Watering Nerve Plants FAQs
- Wrapping Up
When and How to Water Nerve Plants (Fittonia) – The Essentials
Nerve plants thrive best with consistently moist soil. During the summer, water them every 3 or 4 days or whenever the top inch of soil feels dry. Water less frequently during the winter. For optimal care, always use lukewarm water. Provide well-draining soil that still holds some moisture, and ensure you are using pots with drainage holes.
About Nerve Plants
Nerve plants are a group of evergreen perennials that form the Fittonia genus, which belongs to the acanthus family (Acanthaceae). These striking plants are indigenous to the tropical rainforests of Peru and other parts of South America. The genus is named after Elizabeth and Sarah Fitton, who were leading botanical writers during the 19th Century.
Nerve plants are famed for their colorfully pink, red, or white-veined leaves. In the wild, nerve plants produce small white flowers but usually won’t bloom when grown indoors. Fittonia plants have a spreading habit, and each plant can spread for up to 18 inches. Nerve plants are wonderfully compact and rarely exceed 6 inches high.
The Role of Water in Plant Health and Development
Water is crucial to plant health and development, forming approximately 95% of a plant’s mass in some cases. During photosynthesis, plants manufacture glucose by mixing water with carbon dioxide and energy from the sun. Glucose is used as fuel to produce cellulose, which is the primary building block of plant tissue.
Plants extend their roots deep into the soil to absorb water. This also allows plants to take in crucial nutrients from the soil, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients are important for the growth of foliage and flowers and the production of chlorophyll for photosynthesis.
Water is also extremely pivotal for the germination of new seeds. Without enough moisture, seeds will fail to germinate, and new plants won’t be able to grow.
How Do You Know When a Nerve Plant Needs Watering?
There are several ways to check whether your nerve plant needs watering. Every day or so, check whether the soil feels dry using the finger test. Simply dip your finger into the top inch of the soil.
If the soil feels moist, leave the nerve plant for another day. If the soil feels dry, water the plant using lukewarm water. You can also use a moisture meter to perform the same check.
Nerve plants may also tell you when they need watering through visual cues. If the leaves of your nerve plant start to droop, the plant is getting too dry. However, try not to rely on this method, as allowing your nerve plant to dry out repeatedly can cause severe damage.
Environmental Factors That May Impact Watering Cycles
The growing environment for your nerve plant can impact how often you need to water it. Nerve plants thrive in warm, humid conditions. If the humidity level is low enough, nerve plants will dry out more quickly. This means you will need to water more frequently or increase the humidity to help the plant retain moisture.
Although nerve plants need fairly well-draining soils, the growing medium still needs to retain some moisture. If the soil drains too freely, you’ll need to water your nerve plant more often. Use a mix of standard houseplant potting mix and coco coir or sphagnum moss to retain enough moisture.
Light levels can also influence how often a nerve plant needs watering. Nerve plants prefer bright, indirect light or partial shade. If a nerve plant is left in direct sunlight, it may dry out too quickly. Placing the nerve plant in a shady area helps conserve moisture and humidity, reducing how often you need to water.
Drafts can also cause your nerve plant to dry out too quickly. Nerve plants need a stable environment with high humidity and warm temperatures. Cold or dry drafts from air vents, radiators, and windows can severely impact humidity. Keep your nerve plant away from drafty areas to help maintain high humidity levels.
Seasonal Factors That May Impact Watering Cycles
The time of year can also impact how often you need to water nerve plants. Spring and summer is the primary growing season for nerve plants. During the growing season, water nerve plants every 3 or 4 days or whenever the top inch of soil feels dry.
If your home gets hotter than expected during the summer, you may have to water your nerve plants more frequently. Consequently, if conditions are milder, you may not have to water quite so often.
During the winter, nerve plants will enter a period of dormancy. At this time of year, reduce watering to once or twice a week. Maintain high humidity and warm temperatures throughout the winter to help your nerve plants weather the cold season.
How to Water Nerve Plants
Before you water your nerve plant, check that the top inch of the soil feels dry. This helps prevent problems caused by overwatering. You can also use a moisture meter to check how dry the soil is.
Always use lukewarm or room-temperature water whenever you water your nerve plant. These tropical beauties are highly sensitive to cold temperatures, including the temperature of their water. If nerve plants are given cold water, they may go into severe shock.
Using a watering can slowly soak the soil around the nerve plant. Aim the water at the soil rather than letting it splash onto the leaves to reduce the risk of disease. Stop watering when the excess water starts dripping out of the drainage holes.
How Much Water Does a Nerve Plant Need?
Nerve plants need approximately half an inch to an inch of water during each watering. A good rule of thumb to follow is to water whenever the top inch of soil feels dry. Then give the plant some water until the excess liquid starts dripping out of the drainage holes.
Signs That You Might Be Overwatering Your Nerve Plant
Although nerve plants need consistently moist soil, they are still susceptible to overwatering. This is usually caused when the soil doesn’t drain well enough. The main symptoms of overwatering are:
- Limp foliage
- Yellowing leaves
- Root rot
Signs That You Might Be Underwatering Your Nerve Plant
Because of their frequent need for water, it can be easy to accidentally underwater a nerve plant. This may cause the plant to flop dramatically until it’s rehydrated. The main symptoms of underwatering include:
- Brown leaf tips
- Drooping or flopping leaves or stems
- Dry, cracked, or hydrophobic soil
What to Do In Between Watering Cycles
Maintaining high humidity in between watering a nerve plant helps the plant get the right amount of moisture. To maintain high humidity, mist the nerve plant regularly or use a humidifier or pebble tray. It’s also a good idea to periodically check the nerve plant for signs of overwatering or underwatering.
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.
It’s also prudent to consider repotting your nerve plants every 2 to 3 years to replenish the soil base and fertilize monthly in the spring and summer and keep an eye out for common nerve plant pests and diseases.
Watering Nerve Plants FAQs:
A humidity tray can help maintain high humidity around a nerve plant. Humidifiers or regular misting also work.
Should You Mist a Nerve Plant?
Misting a nerve plant can help maintain high humidity, but you can also use humidifiers or pebble trays.
How Often Do Nerve Plants Need Water?
During the summer, nerve plants usually need watering every 3 or 4 days. During the winter, reduce this to once or twice a week.
Can You Overwater a Nerve Plant?
Nerve plants can suffer from overwatering. Limp, yellowing leaves, and signs of root rot are major symptoms of overwatering.
What Type of Water is Best For Nerve Plants?
Use lukewarm or room-temperature water that’s been distilled or filtered. Try not to use tap water on nerve plants.
Nerve plants can truly thrive indoors when given the right amount of water. Nerve plants require consistently moist soil, so water them 3 or 4 times a week during spring and summer. Cut back watering to once or twice per week during the winter dormancy period. Always use lukewarm or room-temperature water that’s been filtered or distilled. For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position nerve plants in the home for optimal care and feng shui benefits.
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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