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How to Grow Rabbit’s Foot Fern — Davallia

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Davallia is a genus of epiphytic ferns whose furry-looking rhizomes craw; atop the soil; the furry rhizomes have given members of the genus the common names rabbit’s foot fern, squirrel’s foot fern, and deer’s foot fern.

Davallia has very finely divided almost feathery fronds that grow from 9 to 36 inches (22-91cm) tall. They can be planted outdoors in partial shade; their creeping nature makes them good groundcovers. They can also be grown in hanging baskets or containers where they spill over the sides or indoors as a houseplant.

Davilla is a genus of 34 species of mostly epiphytic ferns found by streams or on rocks from the Western Mediterranean to tropical Asia and Australia.

Get to know Davallia 

  • Plant type: Fern
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 10-11
  • Hardiness:  Hardy to 30°F (-1°C)
  • Optimal growing temperature: day, 68° to 72°F (20° to 22°C); night, 60° to 65°F (16° to 18C). Indoors give Davaliia average room temperature and medium humidity. 
  • Height and width: 9 to 36 inches (22-91cm) tall, 12 to 60 inches (15-52cm) wide
  • Foliage: Finely divided fronds to 12 inches long and 6 inches wide rise from furry brown stems, ½ to ¾ inch thick, grow horizontally along the soil surface. 
  • Uses:  Ground cover in shade, hanging baskets, houseplant
  • Common name: Rabbit’s foot fern, squirrel’s foot fern 
  • Botanical name:  Davillia
  • Family name:  Davalliaceae
  • Origin:  Western Mediterranean, North Africa, tropical Asia to Australia
Deersfoot fern, Davallia canariensis

Where to plant Davallia 

  • Light outdoors: Grow Davallia in partial shade.
  • Light indoors: Summer and winter, provide subdued light from northern or eastern exposure. Does well under artificial light, needing 14 to 16 light-hours daily. 
  • Soil outdootrs: Grow Davallia in humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Soil indoors: Use a fern mix, with good drainage. 

When to plant Davallia 

  • Set Davllia outdoors in spring or autumn.

Planting and spacing Davallia 

  • Space  Davallia 12 to 60 inches (15-152cm) apart.

How to water and feed Davallia 

  • Water:  Let the soil dry slightly between thorough waterings. Mist frequently. Humidity, 70%. 
  • Feedin: Fertilize Davallia every third or fourth watering during growing, season; use a mild liquid fertilizer. 

Davallia care  

  • Bring pot-grown Davallia indoors before fist frost.
  • Davallia may rest during fall and winter; water sparingly and withhold fertilizer. 

Growing Davallia as a houseplant

  • Davallia can be grown with limited light. It can be grown under fluorescent light.
  • Give Davallia average room temperature and medium humidity.
  • Keep the soil barely moist and fertilize occasionally throughout the year.

Davallia pests and diseases  

  • Davallia is susceptible to attack by aphids, mealybugs and scale insects.
  • Davallia can be damaged from salt buildup
  • Wilted foliage from over-dry soil cannot be revived. 

Davallia propagation  

  • Propagate by cutting sections from the rhizomes, sections of rhizome laid on top of rooting medium. 

Davallia varieties to grow  

  • Davilla carnariensis, deer’s foot fern. Semi-evergreen fern produces pinnate mid-green fronds 8 to 20 inches long with narrowly, triagnular or linear segments.
  • D. fejeensis, rabbit’s foot fern. Evergreen fern with thick rhizomes with long, curly hair margins; produces mid-green fronds 8 to 39 inches long with linear segments.
  • D. mariesii, squirrel’s foot fern. Decidious fern with thin, creeping rhizomes; produces finely cut pinnate mid-green fronds to12 inches long with arrowly trangular or linear segments.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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