Fixing A Wilted Fittonia Plant: What To Do For Droopy Fittonias
By: Raffaele Di Lallo, Author and founder of Ohio Tropics houseplant care blog
Fittonia, commonly called the nerveplant, is a beautiful houseplant with striking contrasting veins runningthrough the leaves. It is native to rainforests, so it is used to warm andmoist environments. It will do well in temperatures between 60-85 F. (16-29 C.),so it is well suited to indoor conditions.
One problem that people often see, however, is droopy Fittonias.If you have ever owned one, you know that a wilted Fittonia plant is a commonissue! If your Fittonia is wilting, it can be caused by a few different things.Keep reading to determine which cause you may be dealing with and how you canfix it.
Why Fittonia is Wilting
Overwateringcan cause yellowing and discolored leaves, as well as wilting. When you noticewilting Fittonia plants, check the soil with your finger. Is the soil stillwet? If so, chances are that it has stayed too wet for too long. Never let yourFittonia sit in water. Always discard excess water.
Wilting Fittonia plants can also occur if the soil is toodry, and this is one of the most common reasons for wilted, droopy lookingplants. When you notice your plant wilting, again, check the soil with yourfinger. Is it very dry? When you pick up the plant, is it light? If you’veanswered yes, then your plant has gone too dry. Water your Fittonia immediately.Thoroughly soak the soil. If the soil is very dry, you may need to water it afew times to moisten the potting media sufficiently. In a short time, yourplant will recover.
If you’ve determined that your soil moisture is correct (nottoo wet and not too dry) but your plant is still wilting, you can try mistingyour Fittonia. These plants are accustomed to having their leaves wet at thebottom of the rainforest floor, so try and mist your plants once or twice aday. You can also set your plant on top of moist pebbles in order to increasethe humidity around your plant, or get a humidifier.
Now you know exactly what to do if you see a Fittonia withwilting leaves.
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How to Care for a Red Nerve Plant
Red nerve plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii) is a low-growing, herbaceous perennial with shiny olive-green, red-veined leaves. It reaches 3 to 6 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide at maturity. This plant has few requirements, growing easily in full shade or partial sun and moist, well-draining loam. It overwinters in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10a through 11a, and performs better in humid, rather than arid, environments.
Water the soil around the plant to a depth of 4 to 6 inches when the top 1 to 2 inches of soil dries to the touch. Although this plant likes humidity during the growing season, it does not like for its foliage to remain wet for long periods of time. Water in the morning so that it has the entire day to dry.
Fertilize annually after new growth appears with a teaspoon of granular 10-10-10 fertilizer, scattering it around the base of the plant and watering it into the ground. Do not let the fertilizer touch the leaves as it can burn them. Repeat the application in midsummer.
Pinch off the tips of growing stems with your fingers to encourage branching and denser foliage. Pinch off buds as well to divert energy back into forming the more showy foliage.
Check the leaves periodically for signs of rotting and fungal infections, such as leaf spots, yellowing and wilting. Red nerve plant has few pests and diseases, except for the root rots and mosaic caused by overwatering and fungal leaf spots caused by late day watering. Pull out plants infected with root rot and mosaic, as these are fatal and will spread to other plants in the area. Clip out leaves infected with fungal leaf spot to halt the spread of that disease.
Nerve Plant (Mosaic Plant) Profile
Normally grown as a houseplant, nerve plant (Fittonia spp.) is a spreading evergreen perennial with delicately veined, deep-green leaves. Although the most popular vein color is silvery-white, you can also readily find varieties with veins in red, pink, white, and green. Nerve plant is a low-growing creeper that is a perfect fit for terrariums or bottle gardens. Fittonia typically grows to a height of 3 to 6 inches with a trailing spread of 12 to 18 inches. Although the plant rarely flowers when grown as an indoor houseplant, it does occasionally bloom with insignificant reddish or yellowish-white spikes. In USDA hardiness zone 11, nerve plant is sometimes grown as a creeping ground-cover in filtered sun locations.
As beautiful as it is, Fittonia is somewhat temperamental and tricky to grow as a houseplant. It requires very high, constant humidity, such as found in a terrarium, and cannot tolerate stagnant conditions. Nerve plant is also sensitive to strong, direct sunlight and will quickly suffer from leaf burn.
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Your plant is overwatered. Too much soil for the tiny amount of root system to be able to suck up the water before rot can happen. Does this pot have a hole at the bottom? The ceramic pot? Probably not which is where the water sits and stagnates and the soil will stay wet. Roots are rotting and your plant doesn't have enough healthy roots to uptake water thus it is 'wilting'.
I would take it out of the pot gently, get rid of that soggy soil and replace your plant in fresh potting soil. No garden soil. No compost. Potting soil should have no gimmicks such as water holding gels/sponges or even any added fertilizer. Boring plain, sterilized soil.
Get another pot. A 4" diameter that is no more than 3 or 4 inches in height. Drain hole. Lift bottom of pot off saucer with pieces of 1/4" tiles so that that pot is never sitting in water. Clay is great for pots. They even make clay pot feet in eagle or lion claws. bunnies. The tile pieces are cheaper.
Feel the heft of your pot after transplanting and after slightly watering the soil. Don't soak at this point. Water shallowly when that pot feels lighter. You'll be able to tell. Plenty of light but do not put out of doors nor in direct sunlight unless this plant is used to direct sun through the kitchen window. Right after planting keep this plant out of direct sunlight or high heat.
I'd use 3 little pots you have 3 little plants, right? and transplant now so there is no chance of too much wet, soggy soil and thus loss of more roots. Use Osmocote 14-14-14 extended release all purpose fertilizer. Wait for a week before adding fert. I rarely fertilize my indoor plants more than once per year with any fertilizer. Low light means low but not no fertilizer. Use half of the direction amount per pot (1 tsp?) If you want them all in one larger pot, get a 10" pot that is only 4" high and transplant maybe next year when your plants are healthy. Then add another teaspoon of Osmocote. This isn't my favorite fertilizer but it is bare basics for chemistry, extended release and lasts the plants up to half a year, indoors as well as outdoors. This is safe to use. Hard to mess up with Osmocote. Following the directions and making allowances for plants not able to do mass photosynthesizing, less chemistry.
Water only when those pots start feeling lighter. Stick a finger down into the soil a few inches. If you can feel moisture don't water. You don't want the soil to dry out too much. Do not put rocks or gravel below the soil to 'increase drainage' it does the exact opposite.
When you first transplant keep these plants out of direct sun and in a more cooler area to reduce transpiration. They might make it and again they might not. They have rotting roots and might be too far along.
Pot within a pot is never a good idea. Sitting water is the kiss of death for potted plants (unless you've got a semi-aquatic plant and even they don't like anaerobic conditions). When you transplant, heck you could tip that pot upside down gently holding the plant between your fingers as you hold the top of the soil and root ball. Can you smell sewer? If not then maybe the roots aren't so badly damaged. Get rid of that soggy soil and replace your plant on top of dry clean soil. Allow as much soil to drop from the root ball as possible and get rid of it. Do not get too wigged out about cleaning the roots, just allow chunks of soggy soil to drop off and then gently plant this plant in a small pot of dry, clean soil.
Soak your clay pots in warm soapy water for an hour. Rinse, then put JUST potting soil 1/3 to 1/2 full in your pot, firm! Firm is firmly pressing the soil down to get rid of large pore spaces. Not making concrete. Place your plant in a depression in the soil. Cover the roots with more potting soil, firm gently, got to have good soil/root contact but your roots are already damaged so gently. Make sure you have at least one inch of space between the surface of the firmed soil and the rim.
I would also go as far as watering with distilled water not tap water. Clay pots show when salts become a problem. They get a white coating on the rim and sides as well as the top of the soil.
If these plants do not make it, you will be able to tell very quickly, I would not use that bit of soil again. Also, the pots should be sterilized with a bit of bleach. You are ready for the next experiment?