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How to Grow a Rabbit Foot Fern

The rabbit foot fern (Davallia fejeensis) is a native of Fiji. It can be grown outdoors in warm climates (USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11), but is most commonly grown as a house plant. The lacy leaves on the rabbit foot fern have a smooth texture, and range in color from light green to dark green. The fern is decorative and features distinctive fuzzy rhizomes that hang over the side of the plant. The light brown rhizomes resemble rabbit feet, giving the fern its name. Use these tips to grow a rabbit foot fern.


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    Purchase a rabbit foot fern as a houseplant. Because rabbit foot ferns do not grow from seeds, but rather are propagated by dividing rhizomes or collecting spores, you must purchase an existing plant. Rabbit foot ferns are available at garden centers and through online distributors.
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    Plant the rabbit foot fern in an appropriate container. Because the rhizomes hang over the side of the container and can grow up to 2 feet (.6 m) long, the rabbit foot fern is ideal for a hanging basket. The container should be either plastic or clay, and 6 to 10 inches (15.2 to 25.4 cm) in diameter. Plastic containers tend to allow for a more even distribution of water than clay pots, but clay pots are sturdier and may last longer.
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    Grow the fern in a porous soil that drains well. The soil should contain 2 parts peat moss, 1 part loam and 1 part sand or perlite, which is a volcanic glass with a high water content. The soil should have a neutral pH of 6.6 to 7.5.
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    Grow the rabbit foot fern in indirect light. During the winter months, a north-facing window is an ideal location for the fern. During the spring and summer months, when the sun is higher on the horizon, choose an east-facing window with filtered light. Avoid south- and west-facing windows where the direct sunlight may scald the fern's fronds.
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    Water the plant sparingly. Allow the soil in the container to dry out slightly between waterings. Over-watering will cause the fronds to yellow, and may result in root rot. Do not allow the plant to sit in water.
    • Mist the fuzzy rhizomes regularly. The rhizomes take up moisture. Mist them every few days, or as needed, to prevent them from drying out.
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    Grow the fern in a moderately humid environment. Ferns thrive in moderate humidity. If your heat is on in your home during winter months, consider using a room humidifier where your rabbit foot fern is located. If you don't have a room humidifier, place the fern's container on a tray of wet pebbles to increase the humidity around the plant.
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    Maintain a temperature of 60 to 75 degrees F (16 to 24 degrees C). The rabbit foot fern will thrive indoors in comfortable house temperatures. If the temperature drops below 60 degrees F (16 degrees C), check the plant before watering and only water when the soil is dry to the touch. If the temperature rises above 75 degrees F (24 degrees C), you may need to water the plant more often.
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    Fertilize the rabbit foot fern monthly. Any liquid houseplant fertilizer can be used to feed the fern, but use only about half the recommended amount. Too much fertilizer may scorch the fronds. Do not fertilize newly potted plants for at least 4 to 6 months, or until the plant is showing signs of active growth.
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    Examine the fern regularly for pests. Thrips, mites and fungus gnats are often found on the foliage of houseplants like the rabbit foot fern. These pests like wet soil, so keep pests away by not over-watering. To remove pests, brush them off with a wet towel or a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. Most houseplant pesticides are not safe for use on ferns.
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    Propagate the rabbit foot fern by dividing rhizomes or planting spores.
    • Divide the rhizomes to create more rabbit foot fern plants. Carefully separate the rhizomes using a sharp knife, keeping the roots and stems attached. Place the rhizomes in a moist potting soil mixture and water as needed. The rhizomes hold a lot of water, so do not overwater the newly planted fern or it will rot.
    • Propagate new rabbit foot fern plants with spores. Examine the underside of the leaves for spores. Remove a leaf with dark spores and place it in a paper bag. When the leaf dries, the spores will fall off. Plant the spores in a peat-based mixture. Water, cover with plastic, and keep at a temperature between 65 and 70 degrees F (18.3 and 21.1 C). When the fronds are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) high, remove the plastic and transplant the fronds to small containers.


  • The rabbit foot fern usually loses some of its foliage in the winter. The plant will replace its lost foliage in the spring. Cut back on watering during winter months and raise the humidity in the room where the plant is located to reduce the foliage loss. Also, keep the plant away from drafty windows and heat vents.
  • Avoid burying the rhizomes in the soil. Rabbit foot fern has a shallow root system. Keep the rhizomes near the surface of the soil so they don't rot.
  • Because the rhizomes of rabbit foot ferns are close to the surface of the soil, the plants rarely need repotting. If you choose to repot your fern, choose a container only 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) larger than the current container.
  • Keep in mind that you may need reverse the advice about which window to hang your fern in depending on whether you live in the North or South hemisphere.


  • Some rabbit foot ferns can be sensitive to salt. If your plant is not thriving, water it with soft water to reduce the salt intake.

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Categories: Growing Flowers