Rabbit’s foot fern care is easier than you might think. In this complete guide, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know. I’ll give you tons of tips that will help make you successful growing rabbit’s foot fern either indoors or outside.
With its delicate, gauzy leaflets and furry brown feet that give this houseplant its common name, rabbit’s foot fern is a popular choice for hanging baskets and shallow pots.
These easy to care for plants are fun to keep indoors, once you understand their specific growth habits.
Even newbies can learn how to take care of a rabbit’s foot fern with everything I’ve included in this guide.
Read on to learn what makes them unique, and get detailed growing instructions for water, light, fertilizer, propagation, and much more.
What Is A Rabbit’s Foot Fern?
Rabbit’s foot fern (Davallia fejeensis, aka Lacy Paw or Fijian Hares’ Foot Fern), is native to Fiji.
Out in nature, we’d find it growing on rocks or trees, rather than rooted into the ground.
But they drape beautifully over the edge of containers as well. This makes Davallia fejeensis a popular plant for hanging baskets.
The fuzzy rhizomes come in an array of shades from gray, to yellow, and brown, and resemble rabbit’s feet, hence the common name.
The beautiful top growth can get up to 2’ tall and features long, lacy fronds of delicate green leaflets that give it a bushy, soft appearance.
How To Grow Davallia fejeensis
Before we get into how to care for a rabbit’s foot fern, let’s talk about the best places to grow one. That way you’ll have all the details you need to pick the perfect spot.
Davallia fejeensis is a perennial fern that is hardy in zones 10 and 11. For everyone else, they’re best kept indoors, or wintered inside when temperatures drop below 55°F.
Though they don’t tolerate frost or direct sun, they’re tough plants that recover well from poor conditions. That makes them perfect for beginners!
Where To Grow Rabbit’s Foot Fern
If you live in a warm enough location, you can grow your rabbit’s foot fern outside all year long.
Keep it protected from direct sun, preferably in a full shade location. Since they’re epiphytes, you can put yours in a decorative container, or mount it on a rock or tree.
Indoors, they prefer bright, indirect light, and require consistent humidity. If you want, you can move it to a shady spot in your garden when nighttime temperatures remain above 55°F.
Rabbit’s Foot Fern Care Instructions
Now that you have the perfect spot picked out, it’s time to learn how to care for your Davallia fejeensis so it can thrive for decades to come.
Rabbit’s foot ferns are shade loving and thrive in indirect light. This makes them ideal houseplants. They’ll grow happily in a bright room, no south facing windows required.
When outside, keep them in full shade. Direct sunlight can scorch the delicate leaflets and dry out the rhizomes.
As epiphytes, rabbit’s foot ferns can take in water from the air, rain, or through the surfaces they sit on.
Indoors keep the soil moist, but never soggy. Since rainwater is a natural source for them, they’ll like an overhead watering indoors too.
When they’re mounted, watering is more hands-on. Provide moisture through daily misting, ensuring the feet and fronds don’t dry out.
I recommend using distilled water or rainwater if possible. Davallia fejeensis can be sensitive to the salts and chemicals found in tap water.
Since the are epiphytes and get their moisture in from the air rather than the soil, Davallia fejeensis need lots of humidity.
If you live in a dry climate, mist your rabbit’s foot fern daily, especially if you’re growing it on a board or rock.
To cut down on how often you need to give it a spritz, running a humidifier nearby, and keeping your fern in a humid location like the bathroom can help. A humidity monitor will help ensure they are getter enough.
Though they’re resilient, extreme heat or cold can be damaging or even fatal. Their ideal temperature is between 60-75°F.
When temperatures drop below 55°F, the plant can experience the loss of fronds, called leaf drop, which can ultimate kill them.
If temperatures reach above 75°F, they may require frequent watering and misting to prevent them from drying out. So make sure to keep a thermometer nearby so you can monitor temperature changes.
Most plants need the occasional fertilizer, and these are no exception. During the spring and summer you can fertilize your rabbit’s foot fern every 2-3 weeks through foliar feedings.
Despite not needing to be in a pot, rabbit’s foot ferns can be particular about the type of potting soil they sit in. If you choose to keep yours in soil, they’ll need a neutral pH.
Repotting is not a requirement for rabbit’s foot fern. They love to be pot-bound, and you will too when the furry feet begin to crawl over the sides of the container.
But extremely pot-bound plants can experience slow growth. A new home with more room and fresh soil can reinvigorate it.
The best time to repot them is in the spring. Choose a container that’s no more than 1-2” larger than the previous one. Be sure to never bury the rhizomes to prevent rotting.
Good news, your Davallia fejeensis doesn’t require any special pruning. If there’s browning or yellowing on the leaflets however, you can snip or pinch those off easily.
Use a clean pair of micro-tip pruners and trim just below the discolored or dying fronds. This will keep it looking healthy and encourage bushier growth.
How To Deal With Common Pests & Disease
Rabbit’s foot ferns are unfortunately susceptible to all the typical houseplant pests including spider mites, white flies, mealybugs, scale, aphids, or fungus gnats.
Test them first and use sparingly to manage the pests, they don’t like to be coated too often.
Rabbit’s Foot Fern Propagation Tips
Once you’ve fallen in love with your rabbit’s foot fern, you’ll be delighted to know it’s very easy to propagate by cuttings or division.
With a clean pair of sharp pruners take a 3-4″ cutting of a rhizome that has at least one frond attached to it.
Dust it with rooting hormone, set it on top of moist soil, and pin or tack it down. Mist it daily until you see new growth.
To divide it, remove it from the pot, and carefully separate the rhizomes. Then pot up the new division into a container, or try mounting it.
Troubleshooting Common Problems
Rabbit’s foot ferns are resilient and can often recover if problems are quickly addressed. Get my tips on resolving the most common ones below.
Rabbit Foot’s Fern Turning Brown
When rabbit’s foot fern fronds starts turning brown, it usually indicates a lack of humidity. This problem can be solved simply by increased mistings or running a humidifier nearby.
However browning at the rhizomes may be caused by root rot, usually a symptom of sitting in water for prolonged periods. If that’s the case, ensure you’re not overwatering, and that soil is well draining.
Fronds Yellowing & Tips Brown
Yellowing fronds and brown tips on a rabbit’s foot fern are often caused by either direct sunlight or too little moisture.
Increase the humidity level around the plant, and double check that the soil stays consistently moist. Also, check the amount of direct sunlight it’s getting, and protect it from intense sun and heat.
Pale Fronds & Plant Lacking Growth
Pale fronds and stunted growth usually means too much light or lack of nutrients for Davallia fejeensis.
Move it to a lower light area to see if that corrects the problem. If it’s still experiencing slow growth, a dose of organic fertilizer may help invigorate it.
Limp fronds are most commonly caused by overwatering. Keep the soil damp, but not wet, and make sure the rhizomes never sit in water.
If you struggle with keeping your plants watered properly, an inexpensive moisture gauge can help you get it right.
We’ve covered a lot of information about rabbit’s foot fern care, but you may still have a question or two. I’ve answered the most frequently asked ones below.
Are rabbit foot ferns toxic?
No, rabbit’s foot ferns are not toxic. According to the ASPCA website they are safe to have near your dogs and cats.
What pot size is best for rabbit’s foot fern growth?
The best pot size for rabbit’s foot fern growth is a shallow container that’s one to two inches larger than its current one.
Why is my rabbit’s foot fern dying?
There are many reasons why your rabbit’s foot fern is dying. The number one cause is overwatering, which can lead to rotting of the rhizomes.
But exposure to temperature extremes (too hot or too cold), lack of humidity, or too much direct sun could also be causes.
Rabbit’s foot ferns are easy to care for, and make excellent houseplants. Thanks to those fuzzy brown feet, they’ll grow in a wide variety of containers, and look good while they do.
If you struggle to keep your indoor plants alive during the cold dry winter months, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is just what you need. It will teach you everything you need to know in order to keep them thriving all year round. Download your copy right now!
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Share your tips for growing and caring for rabbit’s foot ferns in the comments section below.