Rabbit's foot fern: Complete care guide

Rabbit's foot fern

The Rabbit’s Foot fern (Davallia Fejeensis) is a slow-growing, moisture-loving tropical plant. Like all ferns, they have been around for eons. Their primordial fronds, which can grow up to two feet, will add a serene presence to your windowsill, hanging basket, or terrarium. Unlike many popular houseplants, the Rabbit’s foot fern is not toxic to animals or children.

The Rabbits Foot fern gets its name from its furry rhizomes, the root-like structures ferns use to absorb moisture and nutrients from both soil and air. These rhizomes are the stand-out feature on the Rabbit’s foot fern. They resemble long, mossy ropes that are brown once mature and white while still growing. Once they grow out over the top of the soil, they add a lovely decorative filler to your pot.

The Rabbit's foot fern comes into varieties: white and black. Black rabbit's foot fern has slightly darker green foliage. It is much rarer than the white variety, but their care needs are the same.

Rabbit's foot fern care is easy and if you are starting out with ferns, this a species you should definitely consider.

Temperature, position, and lighting


Sherry Barras https://www.flickr.com/photos/theadventurecontinues/41469394165

These plants are forest-dwellers so never leave them in direct sunlight. Especially avoid south-facing windows. A partially-shaded west or east-facing spot is best, ideally in bathrooms or kitchens where the high humidity will keep them at their best. Keep them away from heaters or air condition units.

You should only plant the Rabbit’s foot fern outdoors if you live in the warmest USDA hardiness zones of 10 and 11.

The Rabbit’s Foot fern is native to tropical Fiji, so will not tolerate temperatures below 55ºF. They do best in temperatures between 60-75ºF.

Watering

The soil should be slightly moist at all times. You can check soil moisture levels by poking your finger in. Make sure the soil never gets soggy or waterlogged. The best way to avoid waterlogging is to only water when the top of the soil is starting to feel dry. A well-draining potting mix will help achieve the right balance.  Water by running the soil under a tap until the water is running through the drainage holes. Make sure you get the leaves wet too as these plants thrive on humidity.

Humidity

This fern does not need very high levels of humidity as fussier species as the Maidenhair fern does. However, it’s best to keep humidity over 50 percent. The easiest way to achieve this is by placing your fern in a bright bathroom, kitchen, or terrarium. Read more on how to make a fern terrarium here.

If the air around your Rabbit's foot fern is dry, here are some tricks to increase humidity:

  1. Place a group of plants on a tray of pebbles with water halfway up the depth of the pebbles. Make sure the bottom of the pot doesn't touch the water as this will make the soil too soggy. The idea behind the pebble tray is that the pebbles give a larger surface area for water to evaporate off of. Grouping plants together also increases humidity in their immediate surroundings.
  2. Mist with a bottle spray several times a day. If you have a busy schedule and are likely to forget, opt for the pebble tray.
  3. Get a humidifier. This is one of the most effective ways of raising air humidity, especially if you have a large number of humid-loving plants indoors.

Potting mix

The potting mix for your Rabbit's foot fern should be well-draining but also rich in nutritious organic matter. To achieve this balance, blend 2 parts regular houseplant potting soil with 1 part coarse horticultural sand. The sand keeps the soil porous so that water will run right through instead of accumulating and adding the risk of root rot.

Fertilizer

Use a balanced houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength of the manufacturer’s instructions every two weeks between spring and fall.

Repotting


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Davallia_canariensis_cult1.jpg
You will only need to repot your Rabbit’s foot fern around once every two years because it only grows slowly. When you do repot, leave some rhizomes peeking out. Choose a new pot that is only about two inches wider than the soil.

While you do not need to repot often, it might be a good idea to replace the soil at the beginning of every spring. Ferns are susceptible to fungal infections and fresh soil can prevent this.

Propagation

Rabbit’s foot fern propagation is easy. All it takes are some cuttings from their furry rhizomes.


Forest and Kim Starr https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starr-080117-1706-Davallia_tyermannii-furry_rhizomes-Walmart_Kahului-Maui_(24533075429).jpg

Spring is the ideal time to take rhizome cuttings. This is when you should be snipping any straggly, over-hanging strands back to the edge of the pot. Stick 2-3 inch cuttings into a container filled to about 3 inches deep with moistened one part perlite and one part sphagnum moss. Place the container somewhere with bright but indirect light. Wait a couple of weeks and check whether any roots are forming. Pot new plants once their roots are around 3-4 inches long.

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