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What is Nertera?

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  • Written By: N. Phipps
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Made up of fewer than twenty species, the Nertera genus of plants is native to New Zealand and South America, with some species extending into other areas. As they share much of the same qualities, these creeping, mat-forming plants also share many common names: bead plant, pincushion plant, and coral bead plant. Their names aptly describe their appearance.

While these perennial plants have low-growing foliage with small leaves, once the tiny, white blooms fade in summer, their bright orange, bead-like berries begin to take center stage. In fact, these small berries will actually cover the Nertera plants so that they look like a pincushion. Many people include these ornamental plants with their fall or Halloween decorating, as the berries persist throughout the autumn season.

Pincushion plants are normally grown indoors, spending summers and much of fall outside. They do not tolerate extremely cold conditions and must be overwintered indoors prior to the first frost. Otherwise, they should be treated as annuals. Those living in warmer regions with mild winters, however, can successfully grow Nertera plants outdoors year-round. Young plants should have some winter protection and all should be sheltered from harsh wind.

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Outdoors, pincushion plants prefer to be situated in partial sun or light shade. In fact, too much sun will inhibit the number of berries. Those grown inside should receive bright, indirect light. Nertera plants require light, well-draining soil as well. These plants do not like to be kept too dry either; therefore, they should be kept evenly moist, but not soggy.

A water-soluble fertilizer can be used once a month during active growth, but this should be diluted. Once the plants begin to rest for winter, their watering should be cut back and all fertilizing stopped. The most commonly grown species is N. grandensis. Like other Nertera species, it can be propagated by seeds or through division. Both methods generally take place in spring.

Pincushions need a considerable amount of humidity to germinate well. Therefore, it is often recommended that seed pots or trays be covered with plastic. Piercing small holes in the plastic usually help keep the seedlings well-ventilated while maintaining moisture levels. Since Nertera have shallow root systems, plants do not require a large container, which cuts down on repotting. They should be repotted only as needed. It should be noted that the berries, while attractive, are poisonous and should be kept away from children or pets.

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