A Rabbit’s Foot fern, Davillia fejeensis, is the only fern in the Davalliaceae family and is in the order Polypodiales. Originally from Southeast Asia and Fiji, this is a very unique looking, compact plant that never makes a mess like other indoor ferns such as a Boston Fern. A Rabbit’s Foot fern is a type of epiphyte which means it can grow in rock crevices and on trees. When growing in this manner, the plant gets the nutrients and moisture it needs from rain, the air, and other plants not from the soil. This fern looks lovely in a hanging basket that often gets covered with the fern’s long, creeping rhizomes.
Rabbit’s Foot Fern Description
The lacy, leathery, medium green, arching fronds of a Rabbit’s Foot Fern have an almost bluish tinge. This upright, airy looking plant is about 16”-18” tall and 18”-20” wide. As the plant matures it develops furry, rhizomes (fleshy roots) that grow on the surface of the soil and cling to the edges of the pot. These rhizomes, which do not like to be buried in the soil, are covered with brown hairs that make them resemble the feet of a rabbit. The large, triangular shaped fronds grow out of the rhizomes. If you like the look of a Rabbit’s Foot fern you might want to check out some of its close “footed fern” cousins such as the Hare’s Foot fern, the Squirrel’s Foot fern, the White Rabbit’s Foot fern, and the Bear’s Foot Fern.
White Rabbits Foot Squirrels Foot Fern Bear’s Foot Fern
Quick Care Tips for a Rabbit’s Foot Fern
Medium light no direct sun
Allow top 1/4 of the soil to dry out before you water
Prefers high humidity. Fronds turn yellow and develop brown tips when the air is too dry.
Edges of the fronds turn brown from too much plant food
Brown dots, arranged in a line, on the back of a frond are spores used for propagation not a sign of pests or diseases
A Rabbit’s Foot fern is a uniques looking, low maintenance plant. It is more drought tolerant than other ferns and tends to be more forgiving if you forget to water. This fern is also more tolerant of the cold though still needs to be protected from temperatures below 50°F (10°C). The fronds are fragile and need room to grow. A Rabbit’s Foot fern is safe to have around cats, dogs, and small children.
How much light for a Rabbit’s Foot Fern: Prefers the medium light provided by a north or east- facing window. Avoid south and west- facing windows because the intense sun will burn the fronds and the heat will cause the soil to dry out too quickly.
How to water a Rabbit’s Foot fern: This fern likes to be a little drier than most other indoor ferns. Wait until the top 25% of the soil has dried out before watering.
How to fertilize a Rabbit’s Foot fern: Feed every 2 weeks in the spring, summer & fall with a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Fertilize only when the plant is actively growing. Too much fertilizer burns the edges of the fronds.
What’s the best temperature for a Rabbit’s Foot fern: Temperatures between 65°-75°F (18.3°- 23.9°C) during the day and 10° cooler at night help a Rabbit’s Foot fern grow better.
Does a Rabbit’s Foot fern need high humidity: Although the plant prefers 40-50% humidity, unlike a lot of other indoor ferns, it still grows and looks beautiful in lower humidity.
Rabbit’s Foot fern plant pests: Watch out for mealy bugs and scale. If the infestation is very bad, cut off the entire frond. Do not use a commercial pesticide on any fern, it damages the delicate fronds. Use a Qtip dipped in alcohol to remove any bugs or spray the plant with Neem Oil. Read more about Neem Oil in the Glossary of the website.
Rabbit’s Foot fern plant diseases: Fairly resistant to most plant diseases.
Best soil for a Rabbit’s Foot fern: Use a soil that is 50% peat moss and 50% chopped bark.
What size pot for a Rabbit’s Foot fern: These plants have very shallow root systems and like a shallow pot. Re-pot every few years when the roots have filled the entire pot.
How to prune a Rabbit’s Foot fern: Remove any fronds that turn brown as soon as they appear.
How to propagate a Rabbit’s Foot fern: Plant division is the best way to propagate ferns. Divide the root ball into a few pieces in the spring. Be sure there is a piece of stem attached to each rhizome you use for propagation. Using the spores that develop on the backs of the fronds, which propagate the plant in nature, is extremely difficult to do with a houseplant.
A Rabbit’s Foot fern needs to rest during the winter in an area that has less light and cooler a temperatures around 55°F (12.8°C).
Poisonous Plant Info
A Rabbit’s Foot Fern is a non-poisonous houseplant.
I am not a big advocate of misting plants. I don’t think it does much good and water on the leaves of a plant encourages fungal and bacterial infections. You can increase the humidity by putting a small humidifier near the fern, grouping plants together, or setting your Rabbit’s Foot on a tray of wet gravel. Be sure your plant is sitting on the stones and not in the water.
Brown spots on the back side of fern fronds (leaves) are usually spores not scale. Spores are similar to seeds in other plants and are the way Rabbit’s Foot ferns propagate in nature.
It sounds like your fern has Mealy Bugs. A Rabbit’s Foot doesn’t like to be sprayed with any kind of pesticide. Carefully wipe the sticky stuff off with a Qtip dipped in alcohol. Try to locate the tiny white oval Mealy Bugs that are leaving the white stuff on your plant and remove them in the same manner. If the infestation in really bad, cut off the entire frond.
There are a couple of reasons why the fronds could be turning brown. Too much fertilizer causes salts to build up in the soil: these salts can burn the leaves. Direct sun will also burn the leaves.