Fittonia albivenis: The Nerve Plant
I instantly fell in love with the white-veined variety of fittonia, as soon as I saw it online. (“Albivenis” means “white veins”, even though the veins aren’t always white!)
Fittonia are well known as drama queens — if they go too long without water, they “faint” and lay flat across the dirt. Don’t worry, though! If you give them a drink, they’ll come back to life pretty much immediately.
Because of this, and their love for humidity, it makes a perfect bathroom or kitchen plant — like all plants, it needs some light, but it doesn’t need much light, so even if your bathroom or kitchen aren’t super well-lit, your fittonia will love you for the extra humidity. (I mist mine regularly anyway, though, and they never faint on me!)
And the best part? They come in pink, too.
You definitely want to make sure that the soil is nice and fertile, and a high peat content will be helpful to retain moisture well.
Fittonia has small, lush leaves that are dark green with striking white or pink veins, and small fuzzy hairs along its stems. It does have white to red flowers, but they’re pretty small and insignificant, and rarely seen when grown as a houseplant.
The really interesting thing about Fittonia, though, is something most people who own one wouldn’t ever suspect: it’s medicinal! Three tribes of the Ecuadorian Amazon use it as a headache treatment, and can be brewed into a tea to cure toothaches… but another tribe used to use it as a hallucinogen while making Ayahuasca, a traditional spiritual medicine that is often described as a spiritual awakening or rebirth. You can’t just eat fittonia leaves to hallucinate, though — they need to be part of a mixture, because of the chemical interactions.
This isn’t usually considered an easy plant to take care of — it’s a bit more finicky than your standard houseplant, and needs more care (and water) than most — but it’s well worth it! This is a wonderful little plant, and it makes a colourful addition to every collection.
- Family: Acanthaceae (Ah-can-THASS-see-ay)
- Genus: Fittonia (Fit-TONE-ee-uh; named after the Fitton sisters)
- Species: Albivenis (Al-bee-VEN-ees; meaning “white veins”)
- Lighting: Anywhere from partial shade to indirect bright light
- Humidity: Very high.
- Watering: Let the top of the soil dry out before watering. Err on the side of underwatering — it will let you know if it’s thirsty!
- Size: Small, this is a groundcover creeping plant.
- Pets: Non-toxic to cats and dogs
- Pests: Not particularly prone to pests!
- Propagation: Cuttings or division. Seeds have a low germination rate.
- Soil: Peat-based substrate.