This furry-legged plant, the Hare’s Foot Fern, or Rabbit’s Foot Fern (Davallia fejeensis), is an evergreen perennial fern that grows great indoors. It is indigenous to Fiji and a member of the Davalliaceae family. A resilient fern that can live both inside and outside is the rabbit foot fern.
The Rabbit’s foot ferns are named for their delightful furry rhizomes that creep over the top of the plant pot. The growing conditions required are similar to most other ferns including managing moisture levels well. Functional as well as decorative, the rhizomes absorb moisture and nutrients as they crawl across the moist soil.
Description of Rabbit’s Foot Fern
The Davallia fejeensis belongs to a genus of about 40 plants that are epiphytic in nature, which means they grow on trees or within rock crevices taking moisture and nutrients from other sources “not soil” such as air, rain, trees, and other debris .
Over the years we have learned to grow these within our western homes by imitating the plant’s natural habitat. We’ve learned how to grow a group of ferns for some time now and the Rabbit’s foot is one that will grow well, “if the correct conditions are provided”. Moisture and the right amount of light are the rule of thumb here.
How It Looks
Davallia fejeensis is a perennial plant, that belongs to the Pteridophyte group (does not have seeds or flowers). The D. fejeensis is easily recognizable as a fern because of its fronds (grow upright) that display gauzy or lace-like leaflets. It can grow about 12 to 18 inches tall with runners up to 3 feet long. [2,3]
It’s important to keep in mind what pot the plant should be planted in so it can display its rhizomes (within a hanging basket is common and a shallow pot).
Although the Rabbit’s foot fern does seem to be a bit more resilient than many other ferns and less temperamental, I would treat it as a fern in terms of humidity. This means providing enough humidity that you’re likely to need to increase yourself and keep the soil moist.
|Names:||Rabbit’s Foot Fern (common). Davallia fejeensis also known as Davallia solida var. fejeensis (botanical/scientific).|
|Max Growth (approx):||Height 12 – 18 inches.|
|Poisonous for pets:||Non-toxic for cats, dogs, and horses.|
Rabbit’s Foot Fern Care
The temperatures of this plant range from 60-75ºF are advised. No lower than 55ºF.[4.5]
Provide indirect sunlight – avoiding direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will scorch the leaves and turn the rhizomes brown, especially with low humidity levels. A small amount of sun (not midday sun) will not cause too much harm and can encourage plant health, but it’s a bit risky with this fern.
During spring and summer try and keep the soil moist of the Rabbit’s Foots Fern at all times, without leaving the soil soaked. This species only has small roots so it’s taking most of its water and nutrients from the topsoil and storing them within its rhizomes.
A well-draining potting soil that is peat-based will suffice.
Re-pot within the spring to a slightly larger pot in width – if the rhizomes and roots need more room. This is a good time to cut away rhizomes to propagate new plants. Don’t plant the rhizomes in the soil!
From the beginning of spring until the end of fall use a diluted liquid feed (half strength water soluble fertilizer) once every 2-3 weeks. The is no need to apply fertilizer in the winter season.
It is advisable to increase the humidity in a room to keep the Rabbit’s Foot Fern looking healthy. Misting will help but you are likely to need to place the plant on a humidity tray or use a humidifier when the air is dry.
How To Propagate This Plant?
To propagate divide 2-inch sections of a rhizome and include at least one stem with a frond. You will have to pin the rhizome within moist potting soil using strong wire or toothpicks. Once you see new growth, new plants are growing.
Propagation by Spores
Propagating Rabbit’s foot fern can be done by spores. If the season is in the late summer or early fall, you need to cut a frond from this plant. You need to place it between two pieces of white paper in a location protected from drafts.
After a couple of weeks, you need to remove the wilted frond and check the paper beneath it for signs of the fern’s spores.
Grow those spores in a microwave-safe lidded clear plastic container with drainage holes. Fill that container with damp potting soil and microwave the soil for three to five minutes until it steams. Keep a window open to air out the room since the smell will not be pleasant.
If the soil cooled down, crease the white paper that holds the spores. Holding that paper tilted over the container, tap it lightly to disperse the spores evenly over the surface of the soil.
Propagation by Division
Divide the old fern into new several new ferns, if an old fern has become severely pot-bound. In doing this, you need to first water the plant well.
Remove it from its pot and cut its root ball into two to four sections with a long-bladed knife, disentangling the rhizomes at the surface as you work so some are included with each section.
Pot up each piece in its own new container, making sure the rhizomes rest on top of the soil rather than being covered by it.
Rabbit’s Foot Fern Problem
- Fronds yellowing and tips brown: Check to see if the air is too dry and the temperature is not too hot then increase humidity levels.
- Pale fronds and plant lacking growth: The likely cause here is the need for fertilizer within the soil. Pale fronds can also relate to the plant being exposed to too much sunlight or even not enough.
- Limp fronds: The most likely cause is over-watering. Also check the temperature is not too cold.Tip: To avoid overwatering, allow the 1/2 inch of the topsoil to dry out before watering again.
Tip: To avoid overwatering, allow the 1/2 inch of the topsoil to dry out before watering again.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ferns love moisture, so if you’re unsure, the more the better. Although it is possible to overwater your fern, it’s far more likely that your plant will suffer from underwatering.
To test this, squeeze some of the topsoil between your fingers. If water seeps out, your fern shouldn’t need watering. If it’s dry, be sure to water your plant as soon as possible.
A diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer should be mixed at half strength and used once every 2-3 weeks. Fertilize this plant from the beginning of spring to the end of fall for maximum growth.
Repot during spring, but only upsize to a slightly bigger pot if you’ve noticed the rhizomes and roots looking squashed. Repotting is a great time for propagation, just remember not to plant rhizomes in the soil – it causes rotting!
If you notice this, along with brown tips, your plant is most likely not receiving enough humidity or moisture. Up the humidity levels, mist your plant, and check the temperature of the area.
This is totally normal, don’t panic. Even with the perfect conditions, older fronds will fall. It’s just to make room for new, fresh ones! Just remove the fronds from the area and keep caring for your fern as normal.
This fern-like plant is a resilient and easy-going one to care for. Its furry rhizomes are unique and functional, absorbing moisture and nutrients as they move. The Rabbit’s Foot fern is a popular hanging basket choice, it perfectly displays the intricate lacy-looking leaves and provides the best angle to show off the distinctive rhizomes.
Originating from Fiji, the Rabbit’s Foot fern loves moisture and humidity. It’s best to try and imitate these exotic conditions, which can be achieved through regular watering, misting, and maintaining high humidity levels. If you struggle with dry and cold air in your home, a humidifier might be worth a purchase.
These ferns aren’t huge lovers of sunlight, so adequate light is fine to keep these plants healthy and happy. It’s a good idea to position your fern in an area with access to indirect light but make sure to avoid direct sunlight, otherwise, the leaves will scorch and the rhizomes will turn brown.
Water these plants lightly but regularly, to make sure the surface of the soil remains moist. Misting can also help keep the rhizomes and foliage moist, which is a great way of topping up the plant’s moisture levels.
Be careful of any chemicals you’re exposing your Rabbit Foot fern to, as they can be sensitive plants. Avoid using insecticides and take care to monitor what chemicals are in the fertilizer you’re using. Any forms of air pollution including smoke from tobacco, candles, or fire can also be harmful to your Rabbit Foot fern.
- Godofredo U., Stuart Jr., Rabbit’s Foot Fern. Philippine Medicinal Plants.
- Fact sheet: Rabbit’s Foot Fern. IFAS, University of Florida.
- Ferns: Indoor Growing. Home and Garden Education Center
- Smith, B.H., Rabbit’s Foot Fern. Horticulture Associate – Agent, HGIC, Clemson University.
- Davallia solida var. Fejeensis. North Carolina Extension Gardener. Plant Toolbox.
Elyssa Goins is an experienced house plant hobbyist who maintains over a hundred plants. She is a gardener, beekeeper, and a proud mother of four. She is a member of the American Horticultural Society, has been published in a Scientific Journal, and loves to talk about her love of plants. For the past twenty years, she’s been all about growing and caring for various fruits, veggies, herbs, livestock, kids, and houseplants. Managing a big garden to feed four growing kids and raising dairy goats has taught her so much about being an excellent plant parent and now is her time to share with you.