Rabbits foot fern care

Rabbit’s Foot Fern Care: Information On Growing A Rabbit’s Foot Fern Houseplant

The rabbit’s foot fern plant gets its name from the furry rhizomes that grow on top of the soil and resemble a rabbit’s foot. The rhizomes often grow over the side of the pot, adding an extra dimension to the plant. Functional as well as decorative, the rhizomes absorb moisture and nutrients as they crawl across the moist soil.

Growing a rabbit’s foot fern houseplant in a hanging basket shows off the furry rhizomes to their best advantage. The rhizomes can grow quite long and over time they take on a spider-like appearance. Never bury the rhizomes under the soil however, as this encourages rot.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern Care

As with any houseplant, care of rabbit’s foot fern includes providing adequate light, proper moisture and temperature, and regular fertilization. Even with the best of care, you may occasionally lose some of the older fronds. This is normal and not an indication that you have done anything wrong.

Rabbit’s foot ferns like bright but indirect sunlight, such as that found near a window with an eastern exposure.

During the day they like temperatures between 70 and 75 F. (21-24 C.), and slightly cooler temperatures at night.

Water the plants lightly but often to keep the surface of the soil lightly moist. Daily misting helps keep the surface rhizomes from drying out. Every two weeks, your rabbit’s foot fern care should also include watering the plant with a liquid houseplant fertilizer mixed at half strength.

Rabbit’s foot ferns need repotting about every two years, and the best time to repot is in spring. Mix regular potting soil half-and-half with sand to create an ideal medium for rabbit’s foot ferns. This is an excellent time to divide large plants.

Special Needs for Rabbit’s Foot Fern Plant

Known botanically as Davallia fejeensis ferns, rabbit’s foot ferns have light, airy foliage compared to their cousins, the deer’s foot ferns (D. canariensis) and the squirrel’s foot ferns (D. trichomanoides). Light foliage doesn’t hold moisture as well as thick foliage, so the plants need frequent misting and an occasional shower to keep them from drying out.

A rabbit’s foot fern plant is very sensitive to chemicals. Avoid using leaf shine products and insecticides on the plant. A gentle shower keeps the fronds looking clean and fresh and also removes many of the insects that feed on the foliage. Tobacco smoke, scented candles and most forms of air pollution also harm the plant.

Though it may need a little more maintenance than other plants in the home, growing a rabbit’s foot fern houseplant is a great way to enjoy this unusual, furry-footed oddity.

Rabbit Foot Fern

Botanical Name: Davallia fejeensis

Although most types of ferns require high humidity, Rabbit Foot Fern is much easier to please as indoor ferns. House plants will thrive with indirect light and average room temperatures.

Elegant, lacy fronds create a lush mound of evergreen foliage. The main attraction of this plant, however, are the furry rhizomes that hang over the side of the container. These light-brown, creeping rhizomes are covered with hairs that look like a rabbit’s foot.

It’s a good idea to put the plant in a hanging basket because they can grow up to 2 ft (60 cm) long. And because you want to show them off, don’t you?

Those furry rhizomes are more than eye-catching — they take up moisture. Mist them every day — or as needed — with tepid water to prevent them from drying out.

Winter care: Cut back on watering during the winter months, when growth slows. Put rabbit foot fern in a cooler spot for the winter, but don’t expose it to temperatures below 55°F/13°C. Keep it away from heat vents and drafts.

This Pacific island native tends to lose some of its leaflets in winter. This is normal, and don’t worry…this vigorous plant will replace them. Raising the humidity can help.

Repot in spring only when it gets crowded in its pot. Rabbit’s foot fern has a shallow root system, so move it to a shallow pot only 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wider. Keep the furry rhizomes on the soil surface because if you bury them, they’ll easily rot. This is a good time to divide the plant, if you want.

You may find this fern in garden centers and nurseries in spring and summer. You can also buy rabbit’s foot fern online.

Rabbit Foot Fern Care Tips

Origin: Fiji

Height: 18 in (46 cm)

Light: Moderate to bright light. Keep it out of direct sun, which will scorch its leaflets. Fluorescent grow lights work well, too.

Water: Spring through fall, keep the soil moist, but not soggy. In winter, allow top 1 in (2.5 cm) of soil to dry out between waterings.

Humidity: Moderate humidity. Hot, dry air will cause frond tips to turn brown. Trim off brown leaf tips and raise humidity around it. Use a room humidifier or place pot on a tray of wet pebbles. This fern also loves to be misted.

Temperature: Average room temperatures 60-75°F/16-24°C spring through fall. In winter, keep it on the cool side with a minimum of 55°F/13°C.

Soil: Any good potting mix that drains well.

Fertilizer: Feed monthly spring through fall with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation: Division. In spring and summer, divide rhizomes, each with roots and stems attached. Pot in moist potting mix. The rhizomes hold a lot of water, so be careful not to overwater or they’ll rot.

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Davallia fejeensis is a fern species belonging to the family Davalliaceae and native to the Fiji islands.

The tropical forests provide the ideal habitat for the fern growth.

Just like all other member species of its genus, the plant is epiphytic.

This means it grows on the surface of the soil of other plants and sometimes within the crevices of rocks and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, water, and other debris accumulating around it.

However, it is widely grown as a houseplant.

The plant gets its common name from the yellowish-brown furry rhizomes (fleshy roots) resembling rabbit’s feet but is sometimes called Squirrel’s Foot fern.

Size & Growth

The plant grows up to 1’ – 3’ feet and features wiry stalks and thin, upright fronds comprising lacy leaflets.

However, the fuzzy rhizomes growing above the soil surface are its most distinctive feature of this species.

When planted in a pot, the rhizomes of Davallia fejeensis creep over the pot and crawl over the moist soil to absorb moisture and nutrients.

Since the rhizomes hang alongside the pot and can grow up to 2’ feet, experts suggest to plant it in hanging baskets.

Flowering and Fragrance

Since davallia fejeensis is a fern, it does not produce any flowers.

Light & Temperature

Rabbit foot fern grows best in bright indirect light; excessive exposure to bright light may burn its leaves.

Hang the plant basket near an east-facing window receiving indirect light, during spring and summer whereas a north-facing window is an ideal place during the winter season, in the northern hemisphere.

Avoid direct sunlight.

From 60° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (16° C – 24° C) is the ideal temperature range for davallia fejeensis.

The plant may need more frequent watering when the temperature rises above 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C) and less watering when it falls below 60° degrees Fahrenheit (16° C).

When the temperature drops lower than the ideal range, check the soil before watering; it should be dry to touch.

It can grow outdoors in warm climates USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11.

Watering and Feeding

Although davallia fejeensis appears to be more resilient than other ferns, it requires the same level of moisture in the soil as most ferns.

Since the root system of this plant is small, they cannot penetrate deep inside the soil to absorb water and nutrients.

Therefore, keep the soil moist all the time, so the plant can fulfill its water needs from the topsoil.

Rabbit’s foot fern plants need to be regularly watered to prevent the soil from completely drying out, during spring and summer in particular.

However, make sure the soil is not soaked in water.

Daily misting helps keep the surface rhizomes growing on top of the soil from drying out or use a humidifier when the air is dry.

Feed the plant with a diluted liquid plant fertilizer after every 2 to 3 weeks from the start of spring season till the end of fall.

Reduce plant food to once a month in other seasons.

New plants should not be fertilized for about four to six months or until it starts to grow actively.

When fertilizing, it is suggested to use half the amount recommended on the bottle as too much fertilizer can cause scorching of the leaves.

Soil & Transplanting

As a garden plant, hare’s foot fern grows best in a well-drained peat-based potting soil with a neutral pH.

The ideal soil mixture for Davallia fejeensis comprises:

  • 2 parts peat moss
  • 1 part sand (or perlite)
  • 1 part loam

The plant may need to be repotted when the creeping rhizomes and roots get overcrowded and need more space to grow.

Because of its small root system always plant them in a shallow pot with a moist potting mix.

Spring is the ideal time for repotting.

Grooming and Maintenance

Davallia fejeensis doesn’t need much maintenance.

You have to be careful about watering to maintain the right level of moisture in the soil.

To ensure proper new growth, the plant may need to be repotted once the roots and rhizomes grow and overcrowd the pot.

How to Propagate Davallia Fejeensis

Rabbit’s foot fern is best propagated via rhizome division.

Carefully divide rhizomes into 2” inch sections using a sharp knife.

Make sure to keep the roots and at least one stem with a frond attached to the rhizome divisions.

Pin the rhizomes into moist-potting soil with the help of toothpicks or wire; do not plant the rhizomes in the soil.

Davallia Rabbit’s Foot Pest or Diseases

Davallia fejeensis can encounter the following problems:

Less Growth and Pale Fronds – These issues are most likely to appear due to poorly fertilized soil.

Pale fronds are the result of too much or too little sun exposure.

Browning of Tips and Fronds Yellowing –The rabbit’s foot fern exhibits these problems either due to very high temperature or extremely dry air.

Limp Fronds –While this is most likely to be caused by overwatering, sometimes very cold temperatures lead to limp fronds, so check for both.

In addition to these problems, the foliage of the fern species can attract fungus gnats, mites, and thrips, so inspect it regularly for these pests.

Details on: How to Get Rid of Gnats in Plants.

Do not use pesticides, even the ones meant for houseplants, on this fern species as they are not considered safe for it.

Use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol or a wet towel to brush off the pests.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern Uses

While rabbit’s foot fern is a highly prized ornamental fern grown in gardens, patios, pergolas, and terraces, its rhizomes are used for medicinal purposes in its native origin.

They are considered useful in treating a variety of health conditions, such as high blood pressure, kidney pain, blood disorders, stomach pain, diarrhea, arthritis, and even some types of cancer.

The rhizome buds are used by the Watoto people in Amazonia to treat cough.

If you’ve struggled growing ferns in the past…

I’ve got a recommendation for you: Davallia fejeensis. You might be thinking, “That sounds like an alien creature!” Its common names are much more recognizable: rabbit’s foot fern or rabbit fern.

This low-maintenance epiphytic fern is a wonderful choice for those of you (like me) who have struggled to keep ferns alive in the past.

Good Products for Rabbit’s Foot Ferns:

  • Organic Orchid Mix (great for ferns too)
  • All-Purpose Houseplant Fertilizer

Quick Care

Davallia fejeensis makes an excellent indoor houseplant or outdoor, low-growing ground cover. Source: 917press

Common Name(s) Rabbit’s Foot Fern, Hare’s Foot Fern
Scientific Name Davallia fejeensis
Family Davalliaceae
Height & Spread 12 inches long and 6 inches wide
Light Moderate to bright light
Water Keep the soil moist from spring to fall; let the top 1 inch soil dry between watering in winter
Soil Any good potting mixture with good drainage
Fertilizer
Pests & Diseases Mealy bugs and scales

All About Davallia fejeensis

Native to the Fiji Islands of Oceania, it’s an epiphytic fern, which means it grows easily on trees and rocks. It gets its nutrients from the rain, air, and debris that falls down from the forest canopy. These growing conditions make it a wonderful houseplant option.

Commonly known as rabbit’s foot fern, it gets this peculiar name from the fuzzy brown-haired rhizomes that look like a rabbit’s foot. Many people consider it to be a good luck charm. The rhizomes of the plant tend to crawl on top of the rocks and barks as they absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil, making the plant look like it has giant tarantula legs or is some kind of alien creature! The lacy-like fronds extend around 12″ long and 6″ wide, and are attached to thin stems, giving it the plant a typical fern-like appearance.

Rabbit’s foot fern has a delicate, gorgeous structure when contrasted against the light. Source: Sherri Barras

Rabbit fern requires moderate to bright light to grow. You can place it on an east-facing window with bright, but indirect light. If you’re growing in a south-facing window, place it at least a few feet away so as not to expose it to too much light.

Being a fern, direct light can lead to scorching of leaves, so make sure you choose the plant location carefully. During the day, the ideal temperature for rabbit foot fern is between 70-75°F (21-24°C) and a slightly cooler temperature range at nights. An important thing to remember is that rabbit fern is chill sensitive. So make sure the temperature doesn’t fall below 55°F (13°C).

Water & Humidity

As an epiphyte, it’s used to growing in quite a bit of water, so keep your soil moist throughout the plant’s life. Make sure to never let it dry out completely. You can even give it a “plant shower” by raining water from above, wetting the foliage, rhizomes, and soil at the same time.

As fall and winter approach, water a bit less. Wait until the soil is dry to 1″ before watering again.

Soil

For ideal growth, use a soil mixture that’s high in peat and chopped bark. You may want to take a standard potting mix and add a 50% mixture of peat and bark to make a soil mix that’s perfect for your fern.

Fertilizer

During the growing season (beginning of spring to end of fall), fertilize once or twice a month with a liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to 50% strength. If you plant stops producing new fronds, stop fertilizing it. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as the sensitive fronds can burn at the tips.

Repotting

If you’re going to repot, which isn’t necessary too often, do it at the beginning of spring to a pot that’s 1-2″ larger. It usually needs repotting when the rhizomes and roots start overgrowing the pot.

Propagation

Propagation for rabbit’s foot fern is pretty simple:

  • Take your fern out of its pot.
  • Divide 2″ sections of a rhizome, making sure to have at least 1 stem and front attached.
  • Secure in fresh, moist potting mix and wait for new growth to start showing up.

You can also propagate the plant by division by pulling the plant apart gently to find its natural divisions. Use a knife to cut through the tangled roots whenever necessary.

Pruning

There are no particular pruning needs because the plant isn’t invasive or aggressive. However, you can trim the fern if you find it growing a bit misshapen.

Troubleshooting

Growing Problems

If your fronds are yellowing with dry tips: Low humidity, high temperatures, or a lack of water are the likely culprits.

Slow growth and light green fronds: You need to fertilize with a 50% strength liquid houseplant fertilizer. Another potential issue could be an improper amount of sunlight.

Fronds are drooping: You’re over-watering your fern, so dial your watering schedule back a bit.

Pests

Mealybugs and scales are common for rabbit fern. If you see the infestation worsening, you will have to cut off the entire frond. Using commercial pesticides is not encouraged for these ferns as they can damage the fronds. You can remove the bugs using cotton swabs dipped in alcohol, or read our in-depth guides for these two annoying pests.

FAQs

Q. Why is my rabbit fern yellowing?

A. You’re probably under-fertilizing the plant, or exposing it to too much or too little light.

Q. Are Rabbit Foot ferns toxic?

A. Cats love to mess with your ferns due to the fuzzy rhizomes. Fortunately, it’s not toxic, so they can play all they want!

Q. What pot size is best for rabbit’s foot fern growth?

A. Shallow pots work well for growing this houseplant. Make sure to change the pot every few years!

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Kevin Espiritu
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