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Foliage Plant
of the Month

 

fittonia

 

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BOTANICAL NAME

Fittonia spp.  (fi-TOE-nee-a)

 

COMMON NAMES

Nerve plant, Mosaic plant, Silver net plant, Lace leaf, Painted net leaf, Snakeskin plant  

 

DESCRIPTION

Fittonias are evergreen, creeping perennials that are grown primarily as houseplants. An average size is 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide. They are notable for their intricately veined, egg-shaped leaves, which grow opposite one another. The olive green leaves feature veins colored white to pink to bright red. Both larger varieties, with leaves approximately 2 to 4 inches long, and smaller varieties, with leaves approximately 1 inch long, are available.

 

DECORATIVE LIFE

With proper care, individual plants can live several years. Stem cuttings allow plants to last perpetually (see “Repotting”).  

 

AVAILABILITY

Fittonia plants are available year-round.

 

 

in-store and consumer care

LIGHT Low light levels are fine for Fittonias, and the shadowless light of a north window is optimal.

 

WATER The soil should be kept moist at all times, and watering should be done with lukewarm, soft water.

 

TEMPERATURE Warm temperatures are needed for Fittonias to flourish. Night temperatures between 65 F and 70 F and day temperatures between 75 F and 85 F are ideal.

 

HUMIDITY Fittonias must be kept in a humid environment, such as in a terrarium or on a tray filled with pebbles and water. Fittonias also can be grouped with other humidity-loving plants such as small ferns and prayer plants (Maranta leuconeura). Fittonias also can be misted occasionally

 

FERTILIZER Feed plants with a balanced houseplant fertilizer, diluted by half, every two weeks. Wait three or four months before feeding newly purchased or potted plants.

 

PROPOGATION Fittonias can be propagated from stem cuttings.

 

PRUNING Pinch back Fittonias’ stems to keep the plants compact. Small flower spikes may appear occasionally but should be pinched off.

 

REPOTTING Take stem cuttings and start new plants, in any season, to replace aging or straggly Fittonia plants. Creeping stems also will root in surrounding compost and can be removed and potted.

 

challenges

PESTS Fittonias are generally pest-free. The moist soil may encourage fungus gnats, small white gnats that hover over the soil. Repotting in fresh soil is one remedy.

 

LEAF CONCERNS Yellowed, wilting leaves are a sign of overwatering. Shrivelled leaves are a sign that the air is too dry or the plant is getting too much light. A collapsed plant signals it isn’t getting enough water and generally will perk back up with watering if it hasn’t been dry for more than a few hours.

 

   

 

fun facts

WHAT'S IN A NAME The Fittonia plant is named for Irish sisters Elizabeth and Sarah Fitton, who wrote Conversations on Botany in 1817. Its common names, including the most-often-used nerve plant, refer to the leaves’ intricate veined appearance.

 

FAMILY Fittonia plants are members of the Acanthaceae (Acanthus) family. Common relatives include Aphelandras (zebra plants), Crossandras (firecracker flowers), black-eyed Susans (Thunbergias) and shrimp plants (Justicias).

 

HOME SWEET HOME The plants are native to Peru and its rainforests. sfr  

 

Some information provided by:

Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson

The Chain of Life Network®, www.chainoflifenetwork.org

The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, by Barbara Pleasant

Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses Inc., www.exoticangel.com

The House Plant Encyclopedia, by Ingrid Jantra and Ursula Krüger

The House Plant Expert, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon

 

Reach “Foliage Plant of the Month” writer Amy Bauer at abauer@superfloralretailing.com or (800) 355-8086.

 

Photos courtesy of Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses Inc.

 
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Super Floral Retailing  Copyright 2003
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.