Kangaroo Paw Fern Info: Tips For Growing Kangaroo Foot Ferns

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Kangaroo paw ferns (Microsorum diversifolium) are native to Australia. The scientific name refers to the different leaf forms on the plant. Some leaves are entire, while mature leaves have deep indentations. Kangaroo fern care takes its cues from the native range of the plant, where it is a feature of the Canberra region, growing in sunny locations near rocky outcrops. Read on for more kangaroo paw fern info, including its cultural requirements and features.

What is Kangaroo Foot Fern?

Kangaroo paw ferns have a variety of leaf forms but their length contributes to the common name. Kangaroos belong to the animal family Macropus, a reference to their big feet, and the fern that bears their name is characterized by up to 6-inch long (15 cm.) varietal leaves. Kangaroo paw fern info states the plant is an evergreen most suited to indoor growing, unless you live in a very warm region.

Kangaroo fern is a very adaptable plant. It is equally at ease in the home or the office. The plant has semi-wiry stems that hold up long, herbaceous fronds. The fronds are not typical of those seen on common ferns and may have indentations on the edges or be smooth. Leaves are dark green and leathery, with a glossy shine.

Growing Kangaroo Foot Ferns

For anyone who wishes to divide this plant, kangaroo fern grows from hairy rhizomes. This means it can spread in larger spaces or you can divide it easily, when mature, to make more of the easy to grow fern. Try growing kangaroo foot ferns in indirect light. They are even tolerant of partial shade and in their native regions, are often seen growing up trees. Kangaroo ferns may be epiphytic, meaning they will grow in tree crotches, logs and cracks in rocks.

They need consistent humidity and moisture but should not be in boggy soil. As an outdoor plant, kangaroo fern is ideal in United States Department of Agriculture zones 9 to 11. All other zones should treat this as an indoor specimen, but it can be brought outside in summer and situated in partial shade. The fern prefers acidic, well-draining soil that is consistently damp but not soaked.

Add a bit of leaf mold or peat moss to enhance fertility and acidity. Plants should be kept in warm areas that are ideally 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 27 C.).

Kangaroo Foot Fern Care

Water kangaroo fern regularly. In winter, the plant is not actively growing and watering should be reduced to half. Rainwater or distilled water will improve plant performance.

Fertilize once every 3 weeks with a good soluble plant food. Repot plants that have become overcrowded in early spring. An ideal mixture is half potting soil and half peat moss.

Divide the rhizomes, after digging the plant up, by cutting them apart with a good, sharp, sterile knife. Each new plant needs several healthy fronds and rhizomes. As young plants establish, keep them in low light and give just enough water to keep lightly moist. Once new roots have formed and a couple of new fronds are visible, resume normal care.

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Phymatosorus Species, Kangaroo Paw Fern

Family: Polypodiaceae
Genus: Phymatosorus (fy-ma-toh-SOR-us) (Info)
Species: pustulatus subsp. pustulatus
Synonym:Microsorium diversifolium
Synonym:Phymatosorus diversifolius


Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual

Suitable for growing in containers


Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Gardeners' Notes:

On May 8, 2016, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

My first try with this fern was in ground. it grew very slowly,then died in the first winter.
My second try was with a small porch plant in a pot. and its thrived.

Today,I moved it from the porch to a pot of Orchid sphag a bit off the ground in the backyard where I hope it will do well and climb over large driftwood. Update,next year.

On Oct 11, 2013, Frostsychic from Runaway Bay,
Jamaica wrote:

I bought one of these in a wire basket a few years ago because I just loved the look of the leaves. especially all the little 'seeds' that are on the leaf (like most ferns), really making it look like a paw! For the longest time I did not know the real name of the Kangaroo Paw Fern.

I find it incredibly easy to maintain & easy to propagate a new plant. Simply break off a piece of the hairy looking stem that the leaves grow out of & plant in a rich dirt. careful to keep it in full shade & moist until it 'catches'.

The hairy looking arms that it grows are so interesting! I originally set my wire basket on a 2ft. tall stump in the yard because the basket was in poor shape. Those hairy arms have now grown onto the stump & are reaching down to the groun. read more d.

I started a new plant in a plastic hanging basket & now those hairy arms have dropped down where you can see them against the basket. so pleasing to the eye!

A friend of mine has them planted as ground cover against his house. in complete shade & they are just gorgeous, thick & again such eye candy.

My average year round temps here in JA are 88F so these plants (and many others) are very easy to grow.

On May 25, 2011, Hoyamatta from Ann Arbor, MI (Zone 6a) wrote:

I've had this plant for around 6 months or so now and I love it. I wouldn't have bought it had it been placed on a low, flat surface, but it was hanging and when I looked up, it had all these creepy-crawly things hanging around the basket. It looked too cool not to buy! I figured it would die in a few months, but nooooooo!! It's performed beautifully. I hung it in a low-light area it get's some indirect west window sun, but not all that much. Now the creeply-crawly things have little green shoots sprouting. It truely is a unique plant.

On Jan 5, 2011, Fires_in_motion from Vacherie, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

A great plant that tolerates near-total neglect and gives a super-tropical look with its glossy, exotic leaves and crazy roots. I got mine as a baby in '05 at a Winn-Dixie grocery store on a whim it is now somewhat huge, almost too big to be hung from the ceiling, unfortunately. It is kept inside in the winter, and I switch it between inside and outside throughout the warm months (March - Nov.). To rejuvenate the whole plant, just cut off all or most of the leaves.

On Jul 26, 2010, killdawabbit from Christiana, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

This outrageously beautiful fern has grown so well for me. It just keeps going and going and going. I planted mine in a semi-epiphytic potting mix. I had it before I got online and had read nothing about its culture.

This plant will live happily indoors with humans. I have three and they live and grow best in front of a rather large, East-facing window. They enjoy being nestled around other plants to maintain humidity levels but do not enjoy misting as much as other ferns. Keep soil moist to prevent pests. Mine live in plastic pots with drain holes (or cache pots if you want it to hang). I fertilize my Kangaroo Paws year around with liquid organic fertilizer once a month, using approx. half the recommended amount for plant feeding.

On Jul 6, 2008, houstonlisa from Houston, TX wrote:

I first noticed this fern about 6 months ago at a garden store in The Woodlands. Purchased a nice 8" and very healthy one for about $20 Put it inside next to a regular table lamp and it thrived like crazy so bought another at a garden center and it also did great indoors next to a lamp that is on maybe 2-3 hours a day. The only other light it gets is diffused light about 15 feet from the living room windows. Found 2 huge hanging ones at a Home Improvement store on sale for only $10, so scarfed those up as well. Never fertilized (maybe should but it's doing so well without it!), just water really well about every 10 days. If outside, I'm sure it would need more water. I don't find this a messy plant at all, in fact, rarely get any dead leaves from this plant. This is by far one of . read more my favorite indoor plants.

On Sep 5, 2007, greenthumb61 from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

I have one in a large wrought iron basket that seems to be thriving quite well. It's a very thirsty plant, and although the coco fiber liner of the basket lets it dry out quicker, I think it likes the increased air it receives to the roots. I was in Hawaii back in Feb and saw this plant growing like a weed on the rainy sides of the islands. So it seems to me, that if you give it the "Hawaiian" treatment, it should do just fine.

On Mar 30, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

So far I have planted two of these ferns without success. The last one was a seemingly healthy, good sized plant which I purchased from a local nursery and planted in early December 2006. Soon after planting the fronds blackened and it gradually withered away. No sign of them this spring.

On Jan 2, 2007, kcdenver from Denver, CO wrote:

I got it in a 4" pot, with few leaves, but sturdy. 8 years later, it has been incredibly tolerant, has completely inhabited a 10" wide, deep pot. In Colorado, it loves a patio with patchy shade, and is tough as nails during severe rain and temps. It drops leaves after being relocated, but always recovers, given big drinks and decent light--not good in full sun, but does recover from abuse, and does well in an apartment over winter.

It's a mildly messy plant, but fills a basket or plant stand quite handsomely--and smells great when washed/wet! leaves are large, deep green, and tendrils are thick, somewhat hairy looking.


  • You should not use insecticides on a Kangaroo Paw Fern because they are very sensitive to them.
  • Occasionally wipe off the leaves with a damp cloth to get rid of any dirt or dust.
  • The scientific name is Microsorum diversifolium and refers to the different leaf forms that are found on the Kangaroo Paw Fern.
  • On mature plants, some of the leaves have deep indentations while others are smooth.
  • Unless you live in a warm climate, this fern is more suited for growing indoors but on warm sunny days, you can bring the planter outdoors and put in partial shade.

The Kangaroo Paw Fern is epiphytic, which means that they can grow in cracks in rocks, tree crotches, or logs.

In Conclusion

For those looking for a new plant to add to their home, the rabbit foot fern makes a lovely choice. This tropical plant loves moderate to bright light and thrives under fluorescent grow lights.

Caring for this houseplant is rather easy and takes little to no effort. Kids, busy homeowners, and hobby gardeners will love the ease of caring for this plant. Along with being easy to care for, the rabbit foot fern is aesthetically pleasing.

Rabbit foot ferns are not fussy about their soil. Any quality potting mix that is well-draining will suffice for this temperate fern. It loves average room temperatures, generally those ranging between 60 degrees and 75 degrees.

In the winter, the plant can tolerate temperatures as low as 55 degrees so long as humidity levels are maintained. Feed your rabbit foot fern a diluted balanced liquid fertilizer during the growing seasons. Only feed it once per month, and avoid fertilizing it during the dormant winter months.

As a rhizome, the rabbit foot fern can grow quite long over time. With proper care, the long furry roots will start to look like spider legs. This can be a bit off-putting for some but may be a conversation starter for others. Take care to avoid burying the roots under the soil as it will trigger root rot. Maintain a stable level of moisture and provide regular fertilization for your plant to thrive.

It is normal for older fronds to fall off in the winter, but if newer fronds start to shed, make sure your plant is getting ample sunlight. East facing rooms provide the most light without exposing the plant to direct sun, which may result in scorching.

Indoor pollution such as scented candles and smoke will cause the plant to wilt while repeated exposure can result in plant death.

Watch the video: Growing ferns indoors

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