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How to Grow and Care for Rabbit's Foot Fern


If you are looking for a unique plant, one may want to consider the Rabbit’s Foot Fern.  There are several different types of rabbit’s foot ferns or hare’s ferns, the key characteristic are the feet.  These fuzzy feet are actually fleshy rhizomes that sit on top of the soil’s surface.  While this plant grows fine indoors, the rabbit foot fern can be grown outside in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11 only.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern Houseplant Care

Placement and watering is very important when it comes to rabbit’s foot fern indoor care.  The first factor to consider is light.  Early morning and late afternoon sunlight is just great but avoid long periods of direct sunlight.

The second factor to consider when growing rabbit’s foot fern inside is water.  While this fern does require a lot of humidity, it does not like wet soil or foliage.  To help address the humidity level, one can purchase a humidity tray or create one.  Since I am a frugal gardener, I pick the latter.  To make your own humidity tray is easy and starts off with a simple saucer.  Once you get your saucer, fill it with pebbles, add water, and top with your planted rabbit’s foot fern.  Another approach is to simply mist your plant several times a day.

Watering is another issue.  To keep you plant healthy, always check the soil moisture first before you begin to pour water.  This is easily done with just sticking your finger into the soil and pulling it out.  If you lift your finger out of the soil and it is covered in soil then you do not need to water.  One the other hand, if it comes out dry then you need to water but do not water from the top.  The easiest way to water this plant and prevent plant disease is from the bottom.  This can be easily done by filling an empty saucer with water and placing your planted rabbit’s foot fern inside.  Allow the plant to sit for about an hour to take up the moisture.  Remove the pot, allow to dry and sit back on the humidity tray. 

Rabbit’s Foot Fern Outdoor Care

While you can move your rabbit’s foot fern outside anytime after it warms up, you cannot leave it outside unless you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 or 11. 

If you do live in these areas, you can include this fern in your landscape design.  The best way to do this is to first choose the perfect location.  As far as the rabbit’s foot fern goes, this means an area that receives bright, indirect sunlight.  The soil also needs to be well draining.  To improve the drainage, add coarse sand to the soil before planting.

Once the fern has been planted, water in but do not make a habit of adding water to the fern.  The soil itself needs to dry out before watering.  While you have no control over rain, you should not add water yourself without checking the soil moisture first.  The soil itself should be dry at least four inches down before you water.  If checking the soil moisture is something you do not want to do, pull out the calendar and keep track of the rain.  Using this latter approach, you should only water every 10 days. 

Another task you will need to do is to feed your fern with a balanced fertilizer every five weeks during the growing season.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern Propagation

When it comes to propagating the rabbit’s foot fern, you have two choices.  The first technique is through division and the second is through spores. 


To begin this process, you will first need to remove the rabbit’s foot fern from its container.  Do not pull the plant out of the pot instead, tip the container upside down and gently squeeze the sides of the pot and/or tap the bottom.  Once the plant falls into your hands, gently lay it down on some newspapers.  If the soil is dry enough, the rabbit’s foot fern will fall apart into natural divisions.  While this will happen, it is not a perfect division.  Roots of the plant will be intertwined and will need to be cut. 

After you have your divisions, the next step is to clean your containers.  This is easily done by taking your pots and placing them in a sink full of warm water and a capful of bleach.  Allow the pot to soak for a few minutes and then scrub to remove any remaining soil.  Once that is done, rinse the containers in clear water and let air dry.

Next, place drainage material in the bottom of each container and fill with a well draining potting soil. 

Once the pots have been filled with potting soil, the next step is to return to the rabbit’s foot divisions.  For the divisions to be able to root, they will need to have several leaves still attached to the fuzzy rhizomes.  If you find that some of these rhizomes do not have leaves, do not bother to plant them.

The next step after your rhizomes have been selected is to simply plant them but do not bury the rhizomes.  The roots attached to these rhizomes need to be buried so that the rhizomes remain on top of the soil.

After all the rhizomes have been planted, water the divisions until moisture comes out the drainage hole.  Next, place the divisions in an area that receives indirect light.  Mist the divisions daily but only water when the soil is dry.   


Starting a rabbit’s foot fern from spores is the other way you can propagate this plant.  To begin the process, one must first take a look underneath the leaves.  This is where the spores are located.  What do the spores look like?  Well, they start out as light brown capsules that will turn dark brown when they are ripe.  Once you find a leaf with ripe spores, you will need to cut off the whole leaf and place it in a plastic bag.  To keep the leaf from rotting, leave the bag open so that the leaf can dry out.

After the leaf has dried, simply close up the bag and shake to remove the spores.

The next step is to clean a shallow container as described in the division step.  Once that is done, water your all purpose potting soil before putting it in the container.  Smooth the soil’s surface, open the bag and gently sprinkle the spores on the soil’s surface.  Cover the container with clear plastic and place in an area that receives direct sunlight. 

In about a week, you should begin to see little green dots.  These little dots indicate that the spores are growing but you will need to keep them covered in plastic until the true leaves are about one inch in height.  At this point, loosen up the plastic so that it is tenting the container.  Once the true leaves are three inches in height, remove the plastic and mist daily.


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Use Edgings

Nothing finishes off a flower bed like low, long flowering edging plants.

Alyssum, lobelia, and dianthus are great for just this purpose.

For good continual flowering, also fertilize every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer like a 15-15-15.

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