what do curling fittonia leaves mean?

otternymphOctober 12, 2006

Hi everyone,

I am fairly new to this forum, and just acquired a fittonia. I mist it about everyday and give it shady light--but most of the older leaves have begun to curl. They feel slightly crisp to the touch, which I think is how they felt when I first bought the plant, but now the leaves curl inwards. I've also spotted just one or two tiny "rips" in one of the bigger leaves. The stems of same leaves (or whatever you call the section that connects the leaf to the stem) are brown and slightly deteriorated.

Is my plant not getting enough water? Or is it too much? (I'm hoping there isn't a bug!) Please help!! Thank you!


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tjsangel(z5 OH)


The Fittonia is a difficult plant to care for in the home. It needs high humidity, shade but not total (like a North window) and likes to be kept moist. When I had mine I watered it when I watered the Peace lily, every 3 days. It probably needs more water. The leaves are a bit fuzzy too, they dont like misting. I kept mine on a damp tray of pebbles for humidity. If you have a cooler room to keep it in that will help too. Doesnt sound like bugs, but check for spider mites anyways (small webs w/little orange bugs). Good luck!


    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 8:05AM
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Dear Jen,

Thanks very much. What happened to your fittonia?? (Since you speak of it in the past tense.) That's so weird that it's a difficult plant to care for, because the label (Angel) made it sound like something easy to the point of stupid. So much for that!

Thanks again :-)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 3:57PM
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tjsangel(z5 OH)


They probably make it sound easy so you'll buy it! : ) I gave my Fittonia to my mom when I moved into an apartment a while ago, didnt have the light for it. Now I live in a house though full of plants. Wouldnt be without them. Did you find any bugs? Hope it works out!


    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 8:35PM
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No bugs... thank goodness! Well now--it seems I have a new problem. I came home today and found them all drooping sadly. Soft & limp, no longer crisp or curling. I simply don't know what's going on. Maybe it's too cold. It's been a cool autumn in NY, around 60 degrees. It rained today, but the fittonia, of course, is indoors.

If anyone knows what's going on, please let me know!


Thanks Jen,

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 9:50PM
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Ester, do you have your Fittonia in a pot w/drainage? Although Fittonias like moist soil, they don't like sitting is muddy soil 24/7. I let my Fittonia dry to the point of some wilt. Then it gets a good watering until water seeps out of bottom of pot.
Buying a humidfer is a good investment..not only for plants, but people, too..Our homes get so dry once the heat is turned on..Good circulating air helps, also. I run my ceiling fan on low in the winter, so heat and humidity permeates throughout the rooms..Toni

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 1:55PM
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Ester, even though Fittonia's are water lovers, I let the soil dry out just as they plant is starting to wilt.
60 degrees is adequate..Hot air will do much more damage than cool.
I do mist, and take to the sink and hose foliage, but everyone has their own ways..we do what works best.
What type of light is your Fittonia getting? Does the pot have drainage? How wet are you keeping soil?
Brown leaves are an idication of dry air and/or dry soil. I wouldn't keep the soil constinuously wet or dry. Toni

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 7:14PM
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Dear Toni, I keep the soil fairly moist, although not soaking--and actually don't water too often. I don't let the soil get bone-dry, but some soil always clings to my fingernails when I touch it. I mist everyday and keep a pebble tray. The fittonia gets good light, bright but not enough to make you blink.

So it's not wilted anymore, but back to being crisp and slightly curly. That's seems better than being totally limp!

I think I will have to get a humidifier... I just moved into this apartment and am experiencing cold weather for the first time. I woke up this morning and my throat was raspy. So! The fittonia must be suffering. I am keeping it away from the radiator.

Thank you so much for your advice and description of how you care for your fittonia. :-)


    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 5:39PM
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Ester, I dislike dry air too, so you can imagine how our plants detest it.
Of course everyone grows plants differently, but I allow my Fittonia to dry so leaves are about to wilt before watering..especially in winter.
I hope after you get your humidifer your plant resumes perfect health and leaves unfurl. They're not the easiest plants to grow, Esther, so don't feel bad about the problems you're having. Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 10:51PM
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Hello everyone !!
I am new here and do love reading your posts-I too have experienced the exact symptoms with my fittonia-- when she/he fell over and played dead I nearly died---so I ran for my jug of water with a low dose of fert. and hour later she was back and seemed happy--I do keep on eye on her more so than my other dozen or so plants--I will mist her and perhaps do the pebble/water tray--
What size pot would I use-- this was in a small pot--maybe 3-4 inch--I did plant one portion in a garden dish that needed a fill in-- then the rest is in a 4" pot
Thanks for all your great info--
I am from MA and have dryness all winter--we use 2 vaporizers- found them better for my sinus and throat--
plants do not complain either
Take care Mari

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 6:35PM
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Hi Mari..
Thankfully, you caught it on time.
Once the soil dries, Fittonia leaves wilt. If left unattended, it's good-bye plant.

Dry air and hot temps cause leaf curl, too.

Fittonias are usually bought as Accent Garden Plants, so naturally they do best outdoors. Grown as a house plant takes work.

Plastic pots are best. Clay would dry soil too fast.

Vaporizers sure help. Is your hot or cool? Hot air uses a lot of electric and has to heat before it works.
I know, I bought one, lol. We use humidifers and 2 indoor fountains..little fountains, nothing fancy or overly-expensive.

How long have you had your Fittonia? Toni

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 8:31PM
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Hi Toni
Have had the Fittonia 3 weeks or so-- and both plants are doing well--at least today--one is in a plastic pot--so unknowingly I got that right--
the other in a large ceramic bowl (type) garden that was a gift--and I added the Fittonia to it-- along with 3 or 4 different plants-seems to hold the water well yet I do check it more often-- I am leaving for NH for a week-- will have to have hubby water the Fittonia ??? Yikes he will love that !!
I did my monthly watering last couple of days--have 3 jades and most of the others can take being dry for a few days--
Thanks for your info-- it really helps--

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 9:21AM
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uh.. what does this mean? i sure hope its not bacteria infection

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 6:53AM
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oh here is the top view...

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 8:38AM
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Ester, not too sure about why the leaves curl; however, if there is any sagging the answer is that the plant needs watering. It would be nice to know about the curling leaves. Maybe the variety 'albivenis' is hardier. I did not see any curling of a plant I had in Denmark; but here in Canada there seems to be curling. And it looks like the variety here is 'verschaffeltii.' Maybe that makes the difference. Keep the soil watered but not soggy at all.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 3:13PM
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