Rabbit’s Foot Fern Not growing well – House Plant Journal

Rabbit’s Foot Fern Not growing well

Plant: Rabbit’s Foot Fern (Davallia fejeensis)

How long have you had the plant? 3 years.


It was growing well but now new growth turns brown before it develops into fronds and other fronds have brown edges. Not sure, but I think it is light. I have it about 3 ft from an East facing window (in VA).

Light Situation:

From this distance, the plant only receives indirect light.

How do you determine WHEN to water? I follow the schedule I was told/researched for this plant. When dry 1-2″ from top of plant. I water 2x per week until summer-June then 2-3x per week.

Describe HOW you water: Fully soak the soil, letting excess drain away.

Fertilizer: Either fish emulsion or Miracle Grow 1x/week in spring & summer.


Darryl’s Analysis

Let me start by saying the Rabbit’s Foot Fern is one of my absolute favorite plants!  Here’s mine over the past 3 years:

If you give a rabbit’s foot fern indirect light levels above 200 foot-candles most of the day, it will grow nicer – that’s only going to happen closer to the window.  I’ve never used a humidifier.  My winter indoor humidity reaches 25% – it has not affected this fern at all.

Your soil appears to be very compacted and water retentive.  If it has been in the same soil *and never aerated* for 3 years, the structure is likely compacted and suffocating the roots.

The watering strategy for this plant is to wait until the soil is halfway dry but even when mine is near completely dry, the plant is still fine.  If you say you’re watering it twice or three times a week, that’s much too frequent in an indoor setting.  Determine when to water by assessing the soil dryness (rather than a strict schedule) and water once the soil reaches at least halfway dry – use a chopstick to assess the soil dryness a few inches down.  Using a chopstick to gently loosen the soil prior to watering is also how you can ensure the soil structure is aerated.

This would typically be called “overwatering” but just telling you to water less frequently won’t help you understand the interaction and balance of light, soil structure, and watering.

I recommend you repot the plant into a slightly more draining soil – regular potting soil with some added perlite would work – or you could even use pure sphagnum moss, which is how I’ve potted mine.

You will get a few dry brown tips here and there and lose a few fronds on a regular basis – that is to be expected but ensuring the light levels are good and that you’re watering accordingly (assessing the soil dryness and watering when the soil reaches about halfway dry) is how new growth will outpace older fronds dying off.

My approach to houseplant care allows you to enjoy your plants to the fullest but with realistic expectations.

Check out my online video course here

Or eye-opening plant care book here

Tired of your houseplants dying on you?

3 responses to “Rabbit’s Foot Fern Not growing well”

  1. My Rt fern is suffering; did quite well for me for about3 or 4 mos. And I was so proud as I have a bad track record with ferns
    In general. However niw it has greatly thinner out and I am routinely removing browned fronds! Repotting niw (spying ) does seem like a good idea it is in a 6” pot. And I want to nit pot up. — stay 6” but with new soil. Does that seem like a good idea?

  2. My black rabbit foot fern is thinning out in the center and I’m pulling full shriveled stems out, so it’s really getting bare in the middle. What can I do?

  3. Thank you so much. I was worried about the sun being too intense but I will move both to my east facing bay window.
    And I will transplant into the soil mixture you talked about. I am worried about doing the s. Moss as you did in your video b/c I may not drain it enough.

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