Rabbit Foot Fern (Davallia Tyermannii)

When it comes to dressing up a vivarium, there is a wide variety of plants to choose from. Each species of plant has its own unique characteristics and care requirements which must be considered. The Rabbit Foot Fern, for instance, is a low maintenance plant with a very unique appearance. For this reason, many hobbyists like to use it to accentuate their vivarium. This post will provide a quick care guide as well as some interesting facts about this particular Fern.

Quick Stats:

Scientific Name: Davallia tyermannii

Family: Davalliaceae

Common Names: Rabbit Foot Fern, Hare’s Foot Fern, Shinobu Fern, and Ball Fern

Habitat: Tropical

Height: 12 to 24 inches Tall

PH Range: 6.6 to 7.5

Temperature: 60°F to 75°F

What Is Rabbit Foot Fern?

Rabbit Foot Fern is a tropical species of fern that is part of the Davalliaceae family. It belongs to the Davallia genus, which is made up of about 40 plants. Rabbit Foot fern’s scientific name is Davallia tyermannii. Along with the rest of the Davallia genus, this plant is known to be epiphytic in nature. This means that this plant commonly grows on trees or in between rock cracks. Instead of absorbing nutrients and water from the soil, it will get them from other sources such as air, trees, and rain.

Rabbit Foot Fern (Davallia Tyermannii) Care Guide

Rabbit Foot Fern Facts

Besides Rabbit Foot Fern, Davallia tyermannii is also commonly known as hare’s foot fern, Shinobu fern, and ball fern. This plant gets its name from the furry rhizomes that it grows as roots, resembling a rabbit’s foot. Due to its creeping nature, this fern is usually used as a hanging plant. Like most types of ferns, Davallia will require high levels of humidity. Rabbit Foot Fern, in comparison, is a lot easier to satisfy when grown in a vivarium. Interestingly enough, this fern is widely known as a good luck plant to have in a home. Traditionally, the belief of having the foot of a rabbit will bring good luck to its owner.


Davallia tyermannii has the typical fern look with an added kick to it. It has wide fronds with fluctuating pinnae on both sides of the plant’s stem. The fronds, or leaves, of the Rabbit Foot Fern, are usually very green in color. Although, the pigmentation can vary depending on the plant’s health. Much like the Boston fern, the fronds in this plant will cascade over and grow to approximately 2 ft.

The delicate feather-like leaflets and stem of the Rabbit Foot Fern grow attached to a shallow root structure, better known as rhizoids. These fuzzy and hairy roots will be anywhere from a yellow, brown, white, or even silverish in color. Which is why they are believed to resemble a rabbit’s foot and are the most distinctive feature of this species. The rhizoids will grow over the soil or surface and also slither over the sides.


Davallia tyermannii is a species of plant native to tropical regions of Fiji. In nature, it will usually be seen growing on moss-covered trees and rocks of subtropical forests. A Rabbit Foot Fern will attach itself to the surfaces using its rhizoids and retrieve the nutrients it needs through the air and rain around it. Like most other ferns, it is usually found in humid environments.

Rabbit Foot Ferns do well in warm temperature, but can also tolerate cooler settings. If the temperature falls below 55°F, the plant’s fronds might begin to change in color and die off. As soon as the fern is given warmer temperatures, new ferns will begin to grow. The ideal temperatures for the Rabbit Foot fern to thrive in ranges between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

PH Preference

Ferns, in general, prefer shady locations that have very acidic substrate. Soil with a PH of 7 is considered neutral. A PH below 7 is acidic and a PH above 7 is alkaline. However, Rabbit Foot Fern, in particular, prefers a more neutral PH level of 6.6 to 7.5.

Vivarium Type

This type of fern will do great in a variety of vivarium types. When deciding if rather or not to use this fern in a particular type of enclosure, be sure to go with setups that have tropical/moist terrain areas. Here are recommended vivarium this type of plant will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosure with little to no aquatic features.

Vivarium Placement

Rabbit Foot Fern is a terrestrial-based plant. Therefore, it should not be placed fully or partially submerged in water. This plant’s unique look makes it a wonderful ornamental tool to decorate any part of a vivarium. If placed higher up in the enclosure, the fern will cascade down and cover walls.

The furry rhizoids will also create an appealing contrast against any type of background. If the fern is placed towards the ground, it is important to remember not to bury the rhizoids. They should be allowed to grow freely over any substrate around the plant. To maintain a healthy and strong plant, it will be best to always place the Rabbit Foot Fern somewhere high in humidity.


When it comes to the substrate, Rabbit Foot fern will have a better success rate in moist rich soil that is neutral in PH. A combination of leaf litter or peat-based soil mixture will more than likely be the ideal substrate for this plant. The peat moss and leaf litter will help maintain dampness in the soil and provide adequate moisture levels.

It will also be good practice to add a drainage layer under the substrate. A lack of appropriate drainage can lead to rotting roots and eventually the plant’s death. If Rabbit Foot Fern will be grown epiphytically, it will not need any substrate. Instead, make sure that the surface the plant is attached to has a neutral PH and provides sturdiness. The fern will most likely need to be tied with cotton thread at the beginning until the rhizoids are able to properly attach themselves.


Davallia tyermannii thrives best in moderate to bright light. They should be kept away from direct sunlight, which will burn its fronds. Rabbit Foot Fern can be acclimated to partial sun or full a¹shade, but it will not reach its full potential under those conditions. When setting up lighting inside of a vivarium, Fluorescent grow lights or LED lights will work extremely well. Try to go for cooler colors that resemble a partially shaded day. This will make for a happy and healthy-looking Rabbit Foot Fern.

If the vivarium will not have any artificial lighting there are a few pointers that could be very helpful. During winter months in the northern hemisphere, the vivarium should be placed by a north-facing window. When the spring and summer months approach, the enclosure should be relocated to an east-facing window. Doing so will allow the Rabbit Foot fern to receive the optimal amount of natural light it needs throughout the entire year.

Buy Rabbit Foot Fern

When shopping for possible Rabbit Foot fern for sale, expect a few key indicators you are buying the best quality plant. Since this fern does not grow from seeds, an existing plant must be bought. It will not necessarily need to be an adult or a large plant. However, it might be a good idea to buy a plant reasonable in size, in order to have more to work with.

The purchased fern should be green, vibrant, and healthy-looking. Try to avoid any browning or wilting leaves. Those are usually signs of a plant that is not doing so well. Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info of Davallia tyermannii:

Rabbit Foot Fern Care and Propagation

Rabbit Foot Fern is not a hard plant to take care of. Nonetheless, there are a few things that should be kept in mind to ensure its success. This fern will need plenty of water and moisture to survive, including daily misting of its fluffy rhizoids. In addition, Rabbit Foot fern does not like being disturbed once it has settled. Repotting or moving the fern around can cause unnecessary stress to the plant. The Rabbit Foot Fern will most likely not react well to the changing conditions.

Another care tip that will be beneficial is the fact that Rabbit Foot Fern is very sensitive to chemicals. Using insecticides or any leaf shine products will end up causing more harm than good to the plant. Things like Tobacco smoke, scented candles, and most forms of air pollution can also cause harm to the plant. Besides that, as long as the roots have enough room to grow and the plant has adequate care, rapid growth should be expected. Removing dead fronds and periodically trimming a Rabbit Foot fern will also promote the healthy growth of the plant.

How to grow

The easiest way to propagate Rabbit Foot Fern will be through the process of division. The rhizomes of a parent plant should be divided, each with stems and roots attached. Then take the new pieces and pin them down to some moist substrate using some sort of wire or toothpicks. The new Rabbit Foot ferns should begin growing in no time. Rhizoids hold plenty of water, so make sure not to overwater the new baby plants or they will rot.

Ferns can also be propagated through the use of spores. Inspect the backside of fronds for any spores. Cut the leaf with the darkest spores and put it inside of a paperback. Once it dries out, the spores will fall out on their own. The spores should then be planted in a rich and moist potting mixture. They should be watered, covered with plastic, and then left in a location with 60 to 70 °F. Once the new fronds are about an inch tall, the plastic can be removed and the new plants placed in smaller containers. Remember to keep baby ferns in a humid environment, or they will easily dry out.


Like most ferns, Davallia tyermannii will require a steady watering routine. This is a plant that needs a lot of moisture and failing to provide that can be significantly harmful. The Rabbit Foot fern should be watered moderately and periodically. The substrate should be moist throughout and then the top layer allowed to dry out before watering again. If the fern is kept in temperatures colder than 55°F, only give enough water to keep the substrate from drying out completely. As the temperature rises the amount of water given can be increased. When a Rabbit Foot Fern is being grown epiphytically, it must be misted daily to avoid the rhizomes from drying out. Keep in mind that overwatering the fern will also be a bad idea. If the soil becomes, sodden, and completely saturated for long periods of time the fern could die.

Plants Similar To Rabbit Foot Fern

Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing enclosure. Try mixing up the look of your vivarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment. Furthermore, if for some reason you find this fern hard to acquire or would like to consider something similar to this plant… Here are some other plants you might find may do well with or in the place of:

Heart Fern (Hemionitis Arifolia)
Mosquito Fern (Azolla Filiculoides)
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata)


Rabbit Foot fern has an extremely eccentric look that will catch anyone’s attention. Their gracefully overflowing fronds and furry rhizomes will give any vivarium a more sophisticated and intriguing presentation. Aside from its looks, Rabbit Foot Fern is also a relatively easy plant to care for and is not harmful to other inhabitants. For these reasons, I believe it would be a strong asset to any vivarium.

This comprehensive care guide to buying, nurturing, and propagating a Davallia tyermannii will be of immense support if you decide to own one. The proper knowledge and following of the above tips will give your Rabbit Foot fern a better chance at reaching its full potential. What do you think about this fern as a vivarium plant?