When nerve plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii) is placed in the ideal location and given proper care, it’s new growth becomes so vine-like that regular pinching is required to keep it bushy and full. In this post, I’ll show you how to fix leggy nerve plant in just 3 easy steps!
- Step #1 – Pinch back the leggy growth.
- Step #2 – Remove any flower spikes that appear.
- Step #3 – Provide enough bright, filtered light (from an east- or west-facing window), or grow the plant under artificial plant lights.
These three steps are all you need to fix your leggy nerve plant. Now, let’s take a closer look at exactly how to pinch and prune your fittonia.
Pinch Back Leggy Growth
If a branch on your nerve plant becomes leggy and scraggly, pinch back stems to within 3 inches (8 cm) or more of the base of the plant. You can use your fingers to literally “pinch” it back, or use a clean, sterile pair of pruning shears or scissors. This will encourage bushy growth.
I keep a dedicated pair of pruning shears just for my houseplants. This is my favorite pair that I bought from Amazon, but you can easily buy them at any garden center. You can also use scissors, but make sure to clean them thoroughly with alcohol before and after using.
When pruning your nerve plant, make the cut 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) above a leaf node or branch junction (the place where the leaf meets the stem). Prune back fittonia any time of year, but never snip off more than 1/3 of the stem. Pinch and prune as needed to maintain a full bushy shape.
Remove Flower Spikes
Nerve plant rarely flowers indoors, and the blooms aren’t showy if they do appear. If you’re growing the plant in high light or under artificial light, it’s possible you’ll get flower spikes. They detract from the attractive foliage and can make the plant appear leggy.
Pinch or snip off flower spikes with pruning shears as soon as they appear (if they do). The spikes are typically small, but they weaken the show of the leaves.
Provide Enough Light
Unlike many other houseplants, nerve plant can become leggy even if it has adequate bright light. But it can also produce leggy growth in low light conditions. Make sure your plant has enough bright filtered light (like from an east- or west-facing window).
Nerve plant also grows very well under artificial plant lights for 10 to 14 hours a day. If you suspect lighting is causing your leggy growth – or contributing to it – consider growing under lights. I’ve recently been using this light from Amazon and my indoor plants LOVE it.
Keep in mind, even under artificial lights you might still get vine-like growth from your fittonia. Follow the steps above for pinching it back and removing flower spikes to keep it bushy. Nerve plant is a bit of a diva and needs some coddling to keep it attractive.
How to Fix Leggy Nerve Plant
A leggy nerve plant is easy to fix. You just need to pinch or prune back the leggy stems to promote a bushier shape. If limbs start to grow out faster than the rest of the plant, just snip them off (above the leaf node). You can prune any time of year as needed.
In addition, always snip off the flower spikes if you get them. Not all plants will produce flowers, especially if they don’t have high light levels. But when you see them, it’s no big deal to just snip them off to keep the plant from looking scraggly.
And finally, make sure you provide enough bright, filtered light for your nerve plant. The ideal location for fittonia is in an east- or west-facing window. Alternatively, this plant does very well when grown under artificial light.
Here are some commonly asked questions related to “how to fix leggy nerve plant” that you might find helpful (plus my answers to them).
How Do You Prune Leggy Fittonia?
Prune a leggy fittonia by pinching or snipping off stems about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) above a leaf node – the place where the leaf meets stem. Do not remove more than 1/3 of the stem and never prune back to less than 3 inches (8 cm) above the soil.
Use a sterile pair of pruning shears or scissors if you like. But you can also just literally “pinch” the stems off with your fingers. Prune any time of year, as needed, but be very careful not to over-prune the plant or you risk killing it.
How Do You Make a Nerve Plant Bushy?
You make a nerve plant bushy with regular pinching and pruning. This prevents leggy growth and encourages bushier growth. When you see a specific stem growing much farther than the rest of the plant, snip it back using the instructions above.
Why is My Nerve Plant Getting Leggy?
Nerve plant is unique in that its vine-like growth habit can create leggy growth even when it’s being cared for properly and getting enough light. It requires care to keep it looking full and attractive. However, low light can also cause it to become leggy.
For the best results, make sure you provide enough bright light, prune and pinch stems back when necessary, and remove flower stalks when they appear. Moderate indirect light from an east- or west-facing window is best (or grow under artificial lights).