How to Grow Nettle Plants
Often confused as a type of moss, a Nettle plant is a mat-forming tropical perennial with myriad tiny leaves. What makes Nettle plants special is its dense, delicate mat of fine round or bean-shaped leaves on short, fleshy stems. Nettle plants are easy to grow for beginners, but they require regular attention to look their best.
It thrives in lower-light conditions and is commonly used in terrariums and mixed containers. In warmer climates, it's grown outdoors as an evergreen ground cover or filler plant for rock gardens. In colder zones, if planted outdoors, it's an annual that dies out as the winter season starts. This fast-growing plant is easy to grow from potted nursery plants in the spring. Although, it is an invasive plant in warmer, tropical climates.
Nettle Plant Care
Nettle plants have a vigorous growth habit. It grows best outdoors in moist, well-drained soil in a partial to full shade spot. Despite its reputation for aggressive growth, Nettle plants do not respond well to harsh sunlight or dry conditions. But in rich, well-drained, moist soil, the plant sends out runners and spreads throughout the area. This plant remains evergreen in warm climates (USDA Zones 10-11), but will die back in zone 9, reappearing in spring. It is not perennial in colder zones. As a potted plant, Nettle plants grow easily in a standard potting mix.
Outdoors, Nettle plants have almost no serious pest or disease problems. Indoors, it may be affected by some of the same pests that affect many houseplants—aphids, mites, and mealybugs.
Nettle plants plants dislike intense direct sunlight, which may scorch leaves. They look their best in bright, filtered light. Nettle plants plants can thrive under artificial lights indoors. Outdoors, place it in a shadier location.
A rich soil amended with humus, compost, or manure is sufficient for Nettle plants. It will also help to regulate the moisture level for plants. Commercial potting soil is suitable for growing Nettle plants as a houseplant or in a container garden.
Nettle plants are thirsty plants that never like to dry out. If you allow your plants to dry out, you'll notice a dramatic wilting. Water as soon as you notice wilting, and within a day, they should recover. Nettle houseplants will require slightly less water in the winter months. It's fine for the soil's surface to be dry, but the soil around the roots should be moist. However, do not let the roots sit in water, which can promote root rot. Make sure the soil stays moist but drains well.
Temperature and Humidity
As an outdoor specimen, Nettle plant grows best in a climate that remains between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the ambient temperature, the more attention the gardener must pay to light and humidity. Nettle plants can tolerate a light frost, but freezing temperatures that sometimes occur in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 9, may kill the plant's top growth. The plant can regenerate after the transitional climate warms up again.
Nettle plants appreciate high humidity with at least 75 percent humidty. These plants are ideal for a steamy bathroom or kitchen. If you live in a drier environment, these plants will appreciate life in a humid terrarium.
A balanced plant fertilizer will keep the foliage of Nettle plants bright green and dense. Give the plant liquid fertilizer through spring and summer every two weeks. The liquid form is easier to apply than spike inserts or granular fertilizer when no bare soil is visible.
The green color is dominant across all varieties. If you have a variety that comes in a different color, such as a golden or variegated type, prune the green stems to prevent the cultivar from reverting to solid green.
Although it isn't necessary to trim Nettle plants, pruning will improve its appearance, encouraging new growth. If you grow Nettle plants as a companion plant to another houseplant, give it a trim to keep it in bounds. Pruning is prudent in small terrariums. Nettle plants can quickly overrun other miniature plants in a confined space.
Nettle plant propagates easily, especially in its growing season, usually during the spring and summer. Wherever stems touch the soil, they will form roots. Plants can spread without limit. If you want to keep the plant within its bounds but don't want to kill the overgrowth, move it to a container. These plants are seldom propagated by seed. Nettle plants are best propagated via division and cuttings. Here's how to do it:
To propagate via division:
- To divide your plant, you will need a trowel, new growing container, or growing area for your divided plant.
- Separate a section of stems with soil and roots using a small trowel. Don't worry about damaging the plant; it will regenerate quickly.
- Replant the division in moist, well-draining potting soil.
To propagate via stem cutting:
- You'll need scissors or pruning snips, a potting container, fresh moistened potting mix, and, optionally, some rooting hormone.
- Cut healthy stems that are at least 2 inches long. Remove the base leaves and keep only the leaves at the top of the stem.
- Make holes in the potting medium with your finger and plant the cuttings in the holes. For better results, dip the cut ends in water with the rooting hormone before burying the cut tip in the hole.
- Cover the cuttings with plastic wrap or a clear plastic or glass dome. After 3 to 4 weeks, the stems should be well-rooted.
Common Problems With Nettle Plants
Nettle Plants are an easy plant to grow and care for—once you understand their needs. Your biggest considerations with this plant are making sure the plant gets sufficient water and humidity.
Wilting occurs because the plant's leaves are not getting enough water. Pot-bound plants are more susceptible to drying out. You'll notice continued wilting in plants that need to be repotted. Divide the plant and transplant the division in a new pot.
Plants growing in full sun may develop brown, scorched leaves. Move the plant to a shadier location or give it some cover if it's in-ground.
Blackening Leaves and Foul-Smelling Soil
Root rot can kill a plant if not caught in time. Overwatering causes this deadly disease. If you notice a few blackening leaves and a foul smell, the soil is likely soggy, too. However, all may not be lost; you still might be able to rescue the plant. Unearth the root ball and repot it in a better draining soil, amended with perlite. Prune off the blackened leaves. Cut off any rotten or blackened root sections. Look for fungus gnats or aphids on your plant, too. They often infest plants that are weakened by root rot. If you notice pests, apply an insecticide soap or neem oil to remove the insects and keep them away.