The rabbit’s foot fern can be seen in many homes, but passing it by, you may miss the fuzzy little “foot” it’s named after.
This plant pet is relatively simple to grow so long as it is provided with adequate water and the proper lighting. This is a lovely addition if you are working on building a fern collection.
These popular houseplants can be found across the globe and are native to America, Asia, and Africa.
The rabbit’s foot fern is also known as the “Good luck” plant due to its rhizome resembling a silvery little rabbit’s feet.
Features and Characteristics
The scientific name for the rabbit’s foot fern is Davallia fejeensis, which hails from the Davalliaceae family.
This perennial is classified as a rhizome due to the little furry rhizome “foot” that it grows from. Its frilly, pretty fern leaves stem from the rhizome.
The little “feet” tend to grow over the edges of the pot as if they’re gripping its sides.
In the wild, this plant is epiphytic, meaning it grows on other plants and absorbs moisture and nutrition from its environment, but as a houseplant, it is potted.
Fun fact: this plant’s cute little “feet” are responsible for accessing nutrition and moisture for the plant to stay alive. This is possible as the rhizome spreads itself across the soil for maximum access to the surface.
Davalliaceae only has a few variants that are cultivated into houseplants:
- Davallia solia var. fejeensis: this is the most common version and the one known as the rabbit’s foot fern.
- D. canariensis: this variant is known as the hare’s foot fern and grows taller than a rabbit’s foot fern.
- D. trichomanoides: have shorter little fronds and are known as squirrel foot fern.
How Big Does It Get?
At its mature size, the davallia fejeensis grows to 6-24 inches (15-61cm) tall and up to 40 inches (101cm) wide.
How Fast Does It Grow?
The rabbit’s foot fern is a slow-growing plant that grows around 2 inches (5cm) per year.
How Long Does It Live?
This lovely and quirky little houseplant should give you 10 years of lacey leaves. This is, of course, if you take good care of it and provide it with the right conditions.
For many people, figuring out if their desired houseplant is toxic or not is essential. Below we have listed relevant toxicity information for both people and their pets.
Are They Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Luckily these plants are entirely non-toxic to both cats and dogs.
The good news is that if you come across one of your pets chomping on your rabbit’s foot fern, there is no reason to panic, as they will not get sick from their fern snack.
Are They Poisonous to Humans?
The good news is they are non-toxic to humans either. If you are looking for other non-toxic ferns to group with your davallia fejeensis, you can look for maidenhair ferns and bird’s nest ferns. A collection of ferns is a beautiful display to have in your home or office.
Rabbit’s Foot Fern Care
Here are a few key steps and points to follow to get the best results with your davallia fejeensis.
How Often to Mist and Water It
These plants like their soil to be consistently damp. It’s important to mist the rhizome once a day or at least once every second day. The fern will perish if it dries out, so stick to a strict schedule. In addition to the misting routine, water the plant once every two weeks.
The plant will go into a dormant phase during the fall and winter. During this time, misting can be reduced to once a week.
A well-draining pot with a layer of stones covering a few drainage holes will do perfectly.
Rabbit’s foot ferns prefer soil that drains well, such as peat-based soil.
There is no pruning required with this davallia fejeensis. The leaves are recommended to be trimmed if they appear to be dying. Towards the end of winter, you may notice a few of the leaves are dying; this is the time to pick them off.
Interesting fact: rabbit’s foot ferns are very sensitive to smoke, perfume, and other air pollutants. It’s not a great idea to situate them near a dressing table where they might get sprayed with perfume.
Your pretty davallia fejeensis plant requires a unique method and technique of transplanting. It should be repotted once a year. Choose a pot or a basket that is 2 inches (5cm) wider in diameter than the previous pot.
Follow the following steps to repotting your fern:
- Add a layer of stones over the drainage holes in the pot.
- Fill the pot or basket with peat-based soil.
- Lay the rhizomes down on the fresh soil and pin them in place.
That’s it! These plants should be allowed to overgrow their containers slightly and almost cascade over the edges.
Creating the right environment for your lovely rabbit’s foot fern is key to a thriving lush plant. While these ferns are relatively easy to grow, they can be fussy about the environment you provide them with.
Provide a setting with dappled or half sun, half shade light, and you will have a happy davallia fejeensis.
A north-facing or east-facing window is a perfect choice for these ferns. These delicate perennials will not do well in direct light and will likely die if you expose them to it for long periods.
Provide your rabbit’s foot with loamy, nutrient-dense soil, such as one that is peat-based.
Make sure the soil has an excellent drainage system if you want to succeed.
A slightly acidic pH is perfect for your frilly fern.
Your davallia fejeensis will thank you for a good dosing of diluted liquid fertilizer once every two to three weeks when you water it. Mix the fertilizer to half-strength to satisfy this medium feeder.
Feeding can be reduced in fall and winter as the fern enters its dormant period.
Best Pot Type and Size
Any type pot is suitable for these plants as they aren’t fussy in this regard. The main thing to consider is whether the pot has good drainage holes. Terracotta or plastic are equally suitable for this little perennial.
The pot should be around 2 inches (5cm) wider than the plant. The feet will eventually creep to the edge of the pot and cascade down the sides of it.
If you have a shallow pot at home and are struggling to find a use for it, this is the right plant for it. Due to most of the fern’s root action taking place on the surface, a shallow pot is quite suitable.
Rabbit foot ferns are just as happy in a basket as they are in a pot.
These plants love to trail and cascade if given a chance, so consider this when choosing the location for your plant.
The ideal temperature range for davallia fejeensis is 55 – 75°F (13 – 24°C). They will not be happy in cold environments or areas, so ensure they are far away from air conditioning units or drafty spots.
Similarly, these ferns will not cope well sitting close to a fire or blowing a heater, so find a neutral spot.
It prefers medium humidity levels of around 40-50%. Your plant pet will appreciate misting or time over a pebble water bath once a week.
The rabbit’s foot fern likes a lower humidity level than its other fern cousins, like staghorn fern.
Can It Live Outside?
The davallia fejeensis will live outside USDA hardiness zones 10-11. These ferns will happily live outside in warmer months as long as they have access to filtered light and a fair amount of shade.
As soon as the weather cools, they should be brought inside and back into a comfortable routine.
How to Grow It
This clumping fern is relatively easy to grow; here are some options of ways to multiply your fern friend.
Propagation by Cuttings via Soil
The rhizome of older plants can be split into two pieces and potted into its container.
Here are the steps to follow to achieve this:
- Wash and sanitize a pair of scissors or shears.
- Cut a 2-inch (5cm) slit into the rhizome.
- There should be at least one stem with leaves attached to the selected piece. Set aside until you are ready to plant (don’t wait for more than a day).
- Fill a small container with peat-based potting mix. Settle the rhizome onto the surface, pinning the cutting down with a wire loop.
- Place the container inside a plastic bag in a warm area with bright, filtered light.
- You know your seedling is ready and rooted once new little fronds appear.
How to Grow It from Spores
Harvesting the Spores
If you would like to attempt collecting spores and planting your seedlings, then follow these steps:
- Wait for the spores to turn dark in color in the summer. The spores are located underneath the leaves.
- Once the spores have darkened, cut off the leaf, place it into a brown paper bag, and let it rest in a cool, dark place.
- After a few weeks, the spores will begin to drop off as the leaf dies.
Germinating the Spores
Here are the next set of steps you’ll need to take to germinate your own sweet little set of spores.
- Fill a container with damp peat-based soil and spread the spores across the soil’s surface.
- Seal the container inside a plastic bag to create a little greenhouse effect.
- The temperature should remain between 65 and 70°F(18-21°C).
- When the seedling sprouts are around 1 inch (2.5cm) high, remove the bag.
- Once the seedlings have reached 3 inches (7.6cm) in height, they can be transplanted into individual starter pots.
Planting the Seedlings
Once your pretty little seedlings have developed stable rhizome “feet,” they are ready to plant.
Here are the steps you need to follow to plant your baby davallia fejeensis.
- Add a layer of stones to the bottom of a suitable pot or basket.
- Fill the basket with peat-based soil that is slightly moist.
- Place the little rhizomes of your seedling onto the soil’s surface. Pin them down gently so that the “foot” touches the ground. You can do this using a little wire pin that you have cleaned or washed.
- Water the plant once daily and mist it weekly to see good growth.
Why Is It Dying?
While this plant is relatively easy to grow, it has specific requirements to thrive and stay alive.
Here are a few symptoms that creep up from time to time and the steps you can take to revive the plant.
Yellow or Brown Leaves
If the leaves of your fern are turning yellow or brown, the plant is likely struggling with exposure to harsh sunlight.
If your plant is experiencing yellowing or browning leaves, remove it from its current position and settle it into a new spot that has dappled, indirect light.
Another step to remedying this issue is to provide it with a more humid environment. A little pebble-based water bath can go a long way to help with this problem. Do not overexpose it to humidity, as this is not a high-humidity-loving fern.
If the fronds of your davallia fejeensis are drooping, this is a likely sign that you are overwatering your plant.
Ensure that the soil is not too damp and that the rhizomes are not floating in the water.
The other issue to keep an eye out for if the leaves are dropping is root rot. If the little rhizomes are sitting in water or buried in the soil, they will rot.
If this is the case, lift them out, dry them and ensure you reduce your watering and misting schedule. An example of how you could do this is to mist once every second day rather than once a day.
If the temperature drops below 55°F (12.8°C), the fronds will likely fall off the plant. This can ultimately kill the plant so ensure you take action to remedy the situation as soon as possible.
Reposition the plant in a spot in your home or office that is at least 60°F (15.5°C).
Leaves Curling Up
If the leaves of your plant are curling, they are likely drying out or being exposed to too much light.
Ensure you move your fern into an area with indirect light that leans towards shady rather than sunny.
A light misting will bring your plant back to its healthy self and give it a daily dose of fresh, filtered water.
This plant is an enchanting little creature that will make you smile every time you look at its sweet little furry feet.
Bring some magic into your home or office space with this magical little plant pet. Remember to provide it with dappled light and a daily misting of water and you will have a healthy and thriving perennial for years to come.