Stephanie shares about her Rabbit's Foot Fern and explains how and why she and her husband decided to re-pot it. skip to Main Content

My Amazing Rabbit’s Foot Fern

Rabbit's Foot Fern In Pink Flamingo Plant Stand
Rabbit's Foot Fern In Pink Flamingo Plant Stand

Years ago, I decided to plant a container garden for our flamingo plant stand. The Behnke Houseplant Department had just gotten in some cute little 4″ rabbit’s foot ferns, Davallia fejeensis so with that, a caladium, and something else I can’t recall, I planted it all up in this 12″ round planter. Perfect! Each Fall, my husband, Jon would take it out of the stand, look at it and say, I think it will live a little longer. Then, each Spring, the fern got a little bigger, the caladium pushed its way back up, and he would put it back out in the garden.

Last Winter, our new kitten decided sitting in the pot was the thing to do and pretty much destroyed the plant. However, Jon was not ready to give up on it and took it to the garage. Once again, we put it in the flamingo, but the caladium never came back up. Instead, the fern tripled in size. It got to the point we were not sure how we would overwinter it without making a mess and having all the furry rhizomes (I call them the feet) drop all over the house. Plus, who knows what THAT CAT (former kitten) would do to it. Spring is the best time to re-pot this type of fern. However, it could not wait.

We found a bigger, taller pot that would give the fern room to grow and the little feet room to hang. However, I felt the pot would be too deep for the fern, so Jon placed a pot upside down in the pot. I purchased some fresh ESPOMA Potting Soil from Meadows Farms last weekend, and we got to work. We filled the container with the new soil up to the top of the inserted pot.

We were unsure if we could pull it out of the planter, but it came out with no problem. So while I held the whole thing upside down, Jon pulled the pot off, which took a little work, but he managed without too much damage. The fern was pretty root bound, so he carefully pulled the root apart so it could take off in its fresh new soil.

Once done, we placed the fern in its new home. We then filled in extra soil loosely around the 1″ around the edge of the plant. Then it was time to water it in thoroughly and enjoy. It got to spend a few days outside until last Saturday night when we saw the night temperatures were going down. So, for now, it will stay in the heated garage. Jon will bring it out each day that it is nice with all the other plants Jon likes to overwinter. I am not sure if it will come to our house because of the cat. While I looked up and found it is not a toxic plant, the thought that he will jump up and sit in it does not make me happy. (why did I think I needed to get another cat again?)

Caring for a rabbit’s foot fern you need to provide good light, moisture, and the correct temperature, along with regular fertilization. This fern likes bright but indirect sunlight, such as that found near a window with eastern exposure. During the day, they like temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees F. and slightly cooler temperatures at night. You should hold off on insecticides and any leaf shine stuff as this fern is sensitive to chemicals.

Repotting Rabbit's Foot Fern With ESPOMA Potting Mix
Re-potting Rabbit's Foot Fern With ESPOMA Potting Mix
Side View Of Rabbit's Foot Fern
Side View Of Rabbit's Foot Fern
The underneath of a Rabbit's Foot Fern showing the Furry Rhizomes
The underneath of a Rabbit's Foot Fern showing the Furry Rhizomes
Re-potting Using A Smaller Pot Inside the larger pot to save on soil
Re-potting Using A Smaller Pot Inside
Loosening up roots on Rabbit's Foot Fern
Loosening up roots on Rabbit's Foot Fern before re-potting
Watering Rabbit's Foot Fern
Watering Rabbit's Foot Fern after re-potting

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Maybe you can get an ornamental bird cage or something similar to bring the plant it to the home? I used to do something similar for houseplants that a dog would eat/destroy (sadly dog passed).

    I love the feet on these ferns. I would love to plant it in a wooden slat basket and hang it up high so the feet could be more easily seen, but then I’m not sure how to keep it from dripping water everywhere…

  2. We had a stag horn fern in Behnke’s Houseplant house hanging from a gold bird house from the BIG tree for many years. Great idea!

    Love the idea of a wooden slat basket. The feet are really lovely . Thanks for the ideas!

  3. Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for a very interesting article and a few memories! One year long ago before my back yard became an ornamental plant refuge, I had a garden. I would start seeds in the basement in the late winter/early spring to plant outside when the soil had warmed. One year I started a number of heirloom tomatoes (better flavor and more interesting appearance). As the seedlings matured, I thinned them and moved them to somewhat larger pots. As spring approached I transplanted them into still larger pots so as to allow the roots to have more room to grow.

    One morning I went into the basement to check on my plants and one tomato was completely flat. I was mystified as to how that had happened. I moved the por plant into the garage to see if it would recover. No luck there. As the days progressed toward planting the tomatoes outside, I noticed that another tomato had succumbed to the mysterious “flat tomato” disease which seemed to strike intermittently and for no reason. As more tomatoes met this same fate, I was completely baffled as to it’s cause. One morning I went to down into the basement with great trepidation as to what I would find and sure enough there was another flat tomato. However, this time there was my cat sitting right on top of it while gazing serenely outside. Mystery solved however by that time most of my heirloom tomatoes had been flattened by my cat, who by the way wasn’t particularly fond of tomatoes. He did enjoy some cantaloupe and corn (he was a farm cat from Iowa)!


  4. I just bought a little 4″ rabbit’s foot fern (now I know it’s called davallia — thanks!) at Meadows Farms last weekend. I have it in a glass cabinet with grow lights. Hopefully it’ll do well.

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