Crocodile Fern Guide: Houseplant Facts & Care

crocodile fern in footed pot

From the well known fern group, the crocodile fern is a distinctive plant named for its leaves that resemble crocodile skin. This tropical plant is easy to care for whether indoors or outdoors. While it only thrives outdoors in tropical to subtropical climates, it makes a beautiful houseplant in any space. Indoors this fern is loved for its simplicity and ornamental features like the interesting texture and pop of green. 

Names: Microsorum musifolium, Crocodile fern, Crocodyllus fern, Alligator fern

Origin: Native to Southeast Asian islands (specifically Malaysia Peninsular) and parts of Australia. The crocodile fern is an epiphytic terrestrial fern-- it grows up trees in the wild where it’s shaded by the tree’s canopy. 

ferns in the wild

 

About

The crocodile fern is an epiphytic terrestrial fern-- it grows up trees in the wild where it’s shaded by the tree’s canopy. Featuring long, wavy, almost lime green leaves, the foliage has a segmented design (resembling crocodile scales). Along with the reptilian look, the leaves contain spores on the undersides (common with most ferns). 

Most commonly adorning homes as an indoor plant, the crocodile fern can also be grown outside. It is sensitive to cold weather though, so therefore only recommended outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. 

Indoor Care:  

A low maintenance plant, the crocodile fern is tolerant of various conditions. It will however prefer a certain level of care to thrive to its fullest potential (outlined below). 

Sun 

Low to moderate sunlight is best for the crocodile fern, but it can handle bright light as well. Be mindful that it will not handle direct sun rays and the leaves will burn if exposed to too much light. 

Consider placing your crocodile fern away from windows that experience direct sun at any point during the day. A northern facing window, which gets the least amount of light on average, is preferable. Outside, find a fully shaded spot for the crocodile fern.

Water

The optimal watering schedule for a crocodile fern varies based on many changing factors (the season, your home’s humidity level, proximity to light/warmth, etc.). As a general rule of thumb, your plant will want more water once the top inch or two of soil is dry to the touch. And when you water, make sure you’re providing a plentiful amount (by letting the water drain through the bottom without allowing the plant to sit in standing water).

You’ll want to steer clear of overwatering your crocodile fern. It doesn’t bode well with too much water and can end up with irreversible root rot. 

crocodile fern houseplant

Moisture

Since the crocodile fern’s native environment is moist and warm, you may need extra moisture for your tropical plant. If you see browning leaf tips that could be an indication that more humidity is wanted. To up the moisture level, simply place a humidifier near the plant. Alternately, put a pebble tray filled with water under the plant’s drainage pot (always making sure that no water is touching the soil or roots).  

Weather 

The crocodile fern thrives in warm, humid environments like it’s native habitat. It prefers temperatures between 65-85℉. Frost and cold temperatures (below 55℉) can kill the plant quickly.

Extra Care:

The crocodile fern will require fertilizer monthly during the spring and summer months. This plant can be sensitive to too many nutrients at once though which will display as burned looking spots on the foliage. So to prevent this from occurring, we recommend diluting the fertilizer or cutting the suggested dosage in half. 

With the right conditions, the crocodile fern can reach up to 5 feet tall and wide. It commonly reaches 2-4 feet indoors. 

Pests

Pests are generally not an issue with the crocodile fern. In rare cases it can be susceptible to scale and mealybugs. 

hanging indoor fern

Interesting Tidbit:

Existing since prehistoric times, ferns are some of the oldest known flora. While the crocodile fern wasn’t named until the late 1800’s, it certainly existed far beyond nomenclature. 

Toxicity:  Considered nontoxic when ingested by humans, cats, and dogs. 

Buy Online:  Crocodile Fern6 Inch

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