Crocodile Fern: Indoor Plant Care & Growing Guide

Updated: 12 Oct, 2023


The captivating allure of Crocodile ferns (Microsorum musifolium) makes them a cherished gem among fern enthusiasts. Their leaves boast a distinctive, textured resemblance to the rugged skin of crocodiles, from which they derive their intriguing name.

Originating primarily in Southeast Asia and select regions of Australia, these ferns exhibit a penchant for specific environmental conditions, flourishing best in warm, humid tropical climates. Despite their unhurried growth rate, they command attention as they can reach towering heights of up to 5 feet.

Cultivating these unique ferns in your indoor garden is a straightforward endeavor, requiring ample watering and exposure to bright, indirect sunlight. For those fortunate enough to reside in zones 10 or 11, integrating these ferns into your outdoor garden is a possibility throughout the year. This affords a wonderful opportunity to bring a touch of exotic elegance to your outdoor space.

Botanical NameMicrosorum musifolium
Common NameCrocodile fern
Plant TypeHouseplant or perennial
Mature Size2-5 ft. tall and wide
Sun ExposureBright, indirect late to shade
Soil TypeRich, moist, well-draining
Soil pHSlightly acidic to neutral
Bloom TimeN/A
Flower ColorN/A
Hardiness Zones10-11 (USDA)
Native AreaSoutheast Asia and Australia

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What is a Crocodile Fern?

A Crocodile Fern, scientifically known as Microsorum musifolium, is a distinctive fern species renowned for its unique foliage. The leaves of the Crocodile Fern bear a striking resemblance to the textured skin of crocodiles, which is how it acquired its intriguing name. This fern is primarily found in regions of Southeast Asia and certain parts of Australia. It is sought after for its ornamental value and is favored by plant enthusiasts for its distinctive appearance.

Crocodile Ferns thrive in warm, humid, tropical environments. They require specific growing conditions, including ample humidity and bright, indirect sunlight. While they are known for their slow growth rate, they can eventually reach impressive heights of up to 5 feet, making them an attention-grabbing addition to indoor or outdoor gardens.

Read also: How to Grow and Care for Black Bat Flower

Crocodile Fern Care

Caring for crocodile ferns, despite their exotic nature, can be a relatively straightforward task, provided you offer them a touch of tender loving care. Ensuring an abundance of water and maintaining a humid environment will keep your fern content. It’s crucial, however, to ensure that the soil and pot facilitate efficient drainage. Given their affinity for humidity, these ferns make excellent enhancements to bathrooms or kitchens. Moreover, you’ll find there are few pests or diseases to fret over, making them a resilient and low-maintenance addition to your botanical collection.

Similar to most ferns, the crocodile fern species naturally thrives under a canopy of trees. Therefore, it thrives in lighting that replicates the dappled, bright, indirect sunlight it would receive on the forest floor. While these plants require sunlight, it’s crucial to ensure they are shielded from direct sunlight, such as being placed directly in front of a window. Excessive sunlight exposure can lead to leaf burn.

Crocodile ferns thrive in loose, nutrient-rich, moist, and well-draining soil. If needed, incorporate peat moss and perlite to enhance soil aeration and drainage.

These ferns have a penchant for water. Ensure consistent and thorough watering. When the top layer of soil starts to dry out, water the plant until it drains out from the bottom of the pot. Allow excess water to drain completely to prevent the fern from sitting in waterlogged soil.

Temperature and Humidity:
Originating from tropical regions, crocodile ferns are not well-suited for cold weather. While they can flourish outdoors in zones 10 or 11, any area colder than this could be detrimental to their health. As an indoor plant, ensure it’s kept away from drafts, air conditioners, or heating vents. Since these ferns thrive in high humidity, lack of it may cause the leaves to develop dry, crispy tips. To maintain suitable humidity levels, consider the following:

  • Place the pot on a tray of pebbles with a small amount of water. The evaporating water will provide moisture to the fern, but ensure the pot doesn’t sit directly in the water.
  • Mist your fern daily with a spray bottle.
  • Bring your fern into the bathroom while you shower to provide it with a boost of heat and humidity.

Applying fertilizer correctly can promote the health and lushness of your fern. However, excessive use can result in burn marks on the foliage. Opt for a diluted, water-soluble fertilizer formulated for ferns. Apply monthly during spring and summer to support robust growth.

Propagating Crocodile Ferns

Ferns employ spores, rather than seeds, for reproduction, setting them apart from other plants. Yet, propagating ferns through spores can be a challenging endeavor with uncertain outcomes.

Fortunately, an alternative method involves dividing the roots, offering a more reliable means of generating new ferns. It’s advisable to wait until your fern has achieved a substantial size before attempting root division. Select a few sections for propagation, as not every segment may successfully establish itself. The process for root division is straightforward:

  • Gently extract your crocodile fern from its pot.
  • With the roots now visible, delicately separate a portion of the fern, taking care not to over-handle or harm the roots, which could potentially harm the plant.
  • Plant your new fern in its own pot and thoroughly water it.
  • Ensure the soil remains consistently moist, particularly during the initial few weeks.

How Big Can It Grow?

Under optimal conditions, these ferns have the potential to reach heights of up to 5 feet, although achieving such stature is exceptionally uncommon in the UK. Nevertheless, akin to most ferns, they exhibit vigorous growth tendencies, so it’s wise to be ready to trim the leaves should they begin to veer towards exuberance.

Potting and Repotting

Crocodile ferns are known for their leisurely growth, sparing you the need for frequent repotting. However, when you observe the roots becoming tightly packed in their current container or notice your fern becoming top-heavy, it’s time to consider a larger pot. Repotting is a straightforward process when you adhere to these simple steps:

  • Gently tilt the pot with your plant on its side.
  • With care, ease the plant out from the pot. If it’s in a plastic container, apply gentle pressure to release the roots from the pot.
  • Settle your fern into its new abode, filled with fresh soil, and give it a thorough watering.
  • Ensure not to bury your fern too deeply, as these plants possess shallow root systems that prefer to remain closer to the surface.

Common Pests & Diseases

Spider Mites: These tiny pests can be a nuisance for crocodile ferns. They feed on the plant’s sap, causing yellowing leaves and fine webbing on the foliage.

Aphids: These small insects can cluster on the undersides of leaves, sucking sap and causing distorted growth.

Mealybugs: They appear as white, cottony masses on the plant. They feed on the sap, causing stunted growth and yellowing.

Scale Insects: They look like small, round bumps on the stems and leaves. They can cause wilting, yellowing, and reduced growth.

Fungus Gnats: These are small, flying insects that lay their eggs in the soil. The larvae feed on the roots, potentially leading to weakened plants.

Root Rot: This is a common disease caused by overwatering or poorly draining soil. It leads to the decay of the roots, resulting in wilting, yellowing, and overall decline of the plant.

Leaf Spot: This fungal disease manifests as dark spots on the leaves. It can spread if not addressed promptly.

Powdery Mildew: It appears as a white, powdery substance on the leaves. It can stunt growth and weaken the plant.

Preventing these issues involves maintaining proper care practices. Avoid overwatering, ensure good drainage, and regularly inspect the plant for signs of pests or diseases. If an issue arises, treat it promptly with natural remedies or appropriate insecticidal soaps or fungicides. In severe cases, consider consulting with a professional for targeted treatment options.

How Often Should I Water It?

Hailing from lush tropical forests, Crocodile Ferns have a penchant for consistent moisture. It’s imperative to water them regularly for their well-being, but it’s equally crucial to avoid waterlogged soil, as root-rot can set in swiftly. Wait until the soil surface has dried out before watering and ensure the fern’s pot allows excess water to drain away promptly.

Misting can be beneficial to maintain adequate humidity levels, and a monthly application of a water-soluble fertilizer can provide a boost. There are specialized fern fertilizers available, but always heed the dosage instructions. Even with a tailored mix, an excess of nutrients can overwhelm and ultimately harm the plant.

Compared to other ferns in your collection, Crocodile Ferns may demand a bit more attention. However, they repay the devoted caretaker with exuberant growth and breathtaking foliage. Whether nestled in a terrarium or showcased as a focal point in your living space, with proper care, these ferns offer a bountiful return on your investment of time and care.

Where is the Crocodile Fern typically found?

This fern is primarily found in Southeast Asia and certain parts of Australia, thriving in warm, humid, tropical environments.

How tall can a Crocodile Fern grow?

Despite their slow growth rate, these ferns can reach impressive heights of up to 5 feet, making them a noteworthy addition to indoor or outdoor gardens.

What are the preferred growing conditions for a Crocodile Fern?

Crocodile Ferns thrive in environments with ample humidity and bright, indirect sunlight. They also require consistent watering to flourish.

Is it possible to grow a Crocodile Fern outdoors?

Yes, if you reside in zones 10 or 11, you can incorporate Crocodile Ferns into your outdoor garden, providing a touch of exotic charm year-round.

Are Crocodile Ferns suitable for beginners?

While they may require a bit more attention than some other plants, with the right care, Crocodile Ferns can be a rewarding addition to a beginner’s plant collection.

How can I propagate a Crocodile Fern?

Crocodile Ferns can be propagated through spore propagation or by dividing the plant. Both methods require careful attention to maintain a suitable environment for successful growth.

Are there any common issues or pests that affect Crocodile Ferns?

Like many fern species, Crocodile Ferns can be susceptible to pests such as mites and aphids. Additionally, overwatering or prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can lead to issues, so it’s important to monitor their care closely.


The Crocodile Fern (Microsorum musifolium) stands out as a captivating and unique addition to the world of ferns. Its leaves, resembling the textured skin of crocodiles, give it a distinctive charm that appeals to plant enthusiasts around the world. Native to Southeast Asia and parts of Australia, this fern thrives in warm, humid, tropical environments, making it a bit selective in its habitat preferences.

Despite its slow growth rate, the Crocodile Fern can ultimately reach impressive heights, adding a touch of elegance to both indoor and outdoor gardens. For those in zones 10 or 11, it offers the opportunity to bring a touch of the exotic to their outdoor spaces year-round.

Mary Lloyster

Mary Lloyster

Mary, the ultimate oracle of indoor gardening! With years of experience and a flourishing indoor expo, Mary has become our go-to expert for all things related to house plants and indoor gardening. Despite her background in Political Science, Mary has discovered a delightful way to blend her full-time job with a touch of relaxation through indoor gardening. Now, she eagerly shares her wisdom and experiences with our readers on a daily basis. If you have any inquiries about house plants, indoor gardening techniques, or caring tips, don't hesitate to leave a comment for Mary in the designated section below!

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