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What is a Mosaic Plant?

By Anna Harrison
Updated May 16, 2024
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A mosaic plant, or Fittonia albivenis, is a tender, creeping perennial often grown as a houseplant. It gets its name from its multicolored leaves which have white, pink or bright red contrasting veins. The leaves are small and oval shaped and grow on trailing, fuzzy stems which produce tiny white flowers on an irregular basis. Native to the rainforests of Peru, these tropical plants will not survive temperatures below 60° Fahrenheit (16° Celsius). The mosaic plant has numerous cultivars and is known by several other names including nerve plant, painted-net leaf, and silver-net leaf.

These ornamental plants are not a good choice for beginners because they can be difficult to grow and require some special treatment. They require more frequent watering than most houseplants and will die if allowed to dry out. They should not be kept in standing water, however, as this will cause root rot. Mosaic plants should be planted shallowly in rich soil with a high humus or peat content. They should be placed away from direct sunlight because this can cause the leaves to grow smaller and turn brown.

Since they are tropical plants, mosaic plants should be kept in an area with high humidity. A greenhouse environment is perfect for them, but a terrarium or bottle garden will work as well. If grown in a regular house setting, these plants need to be misted frequently, and the room should be kept consistently warm. Either the bathroom or kitchen is usually the best choice for mosaic plants; these rooms tend to be the most humid. A humidifier may be beneficial to the mosaic plant as well.

Mosaic plants can be propagated from cuttings and rooting hormone is not required. The cuttings should be about 5 inches (12.5 m) long and have three or four leaves. They will grow when planted directly in potting soil and kept well watered. They can also be planted in the pot with the original plant to increase its bushiness. While these perennial plants can be started from seed, the seedlings may be slower growing than those started from cuttings.

In areas where the mosaic plant can be grown outdoors, it will often spread and form a mat-like root system. This makes it a good choice for a ground cover in shady locations. It is also a good option for planting in sloping gardens and will help to prevent soil erosion in areas with heavy rainfall. The plants are nontoxic to animals, thus making them suitable for homes with pets.

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Discussion Comments
By LisaLou — On Jun 06, 2012

I have never had very good luck growing tropical, ornamental plants indoors for very long. They always look so lush and colorful in the store and I am so excited to bring them home.

They seem to do well for a few months, but after that they always die off. I have never figured out what I am doing wrong.

One of the first ornamental plants I tried to grow was a mosaic plant, and it did no better than the others. I have decided these plants do better in their natural environment, and quit trying to grow them in a container inside the house.

By sunshined — On Jun 06, 2012

I have never planted mosaic plants outdoors, but they thrive in my terrarium. When I got my first terrarium, someone suggested these plants would do well in that kind of environment.

I am sure they love the moist, humid air that is inside the terrarium. Since then, I think every time I have made a new terrarium, I have included at least one mosaic plant.

There are several different kinds you can get, and each of them have their own unique markings. I enjoy plants that are so carefree and easy to take care of as long as you give them what they need to thrive.

By golf07 — On Jun 05, 2012

@andee - I have also grown mosaic plants outside in containers. One year I tried an experiment and brought a couple of them indoors for the winter.

I didn't know what to expect, but I was hoping to keep them alive until the following spring. I kept them in my bathroom, where it stays humid and warm much of the time.

I was pleasantly surprised that my experiment worked and planted them outside again when the weather was warm enough. I think the variations in the leaves of the mosaic plant make it very interesting and beautiful at the same time.

By andee — On Jun 05, 2012

I live in Zone 7, so it is too cold to grow this plant outside year round. I like to add pink and green mosaic plants to my flower containers on my front porch.

This is a shaded area, and the pink and green shades of this plant go well with impatiens and coleus. The first time I planted them, I didn't realize they would spread out as much as they did. They got bigger than I thought they would and took up a lot of space in the pot.

Since then I will plant no more than two per pot, depending on how big my container is. They hold their color all season long and are very easy to take care of. It can be hard to find colorful shade plants, so I look for these in the garden center every spring.

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