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Rabbit Foot Fern Dropping New Fronds

Question:

I believe my rabbit foot fern is Davallia fejeensis. I recently moved with all my plants. And right before I did, I noticed some fronds falling off my fern. The soil was soaked, so I thought I was over-watering it. I cut back my watering, until the soil was pretty dry. I also periodically added some 3% hydrogen peroxide to introduce some O2 into the soil. Now, my fern is sitting about 15ft in front of an Eastern facing window. I have been watering it sparingly. All of the original mature fronds have fallen off except for 2, and one of those is looking like it might fall off soon. There are loads of new fronds being put up, but none of them get to full size before they too fall off. Just yesterday I watered it with about 1.5-2 cups of tap water (thinking maybe I’m not watering it enough?).

I love this fern, and I really don’t want to kill it! What should I do?

Answer:

You do have the correct botanical name for your fern. There are several problems here.

First, your Fern is not getting enough light. In an eastern exposure, it must be within 3 feet of the window and the window must be kept completely uncovered throughout the daylight hours. I suspect that inadequate light is the reason your Fern produces new leaves but cannot hold onto them.

Second, you have a watering problem. It is hard for me to say what you may be doing wrong because you have been Watergate erratically. I’m guessing that the planter does not have drain holes. If so, that means that excess water has no place to escape and collects in the bottom. That will cause root rot. Trying to counteract that by withholding water to the point of dryness can also cause roots to die. Ferns are not forgiving of watering lapses.

I suggest that you add a small quantity of water as soon as the surface of the soil feels almost dry or just barely damp. Add just enough water so that it reaches that level of dryness again in a week or less. Adjust the water volume to get it on a weekly schedule.

Hydrogen peroxide will not add oxygen to the root zone, but it will add more water. It is not a remedy for proper watering.

I think if you improve the light and your watering routine, your Fern will once again start to thrive.