Crocodile Fern (Microsorum musifolium) Species Profile & Care Guide

The Crocodile Fern, named for its distinctively patterned leaves, is a unique and eye-catching plant. With its crinkled fronds that resemble reptilian scales, it has become a popular choice for indoor plant enthusiasts. Native to the tropical climates, it thrives in warm, humid conditions with moderate light.

Crocodile Fern

What is the Species Profile of Crocodile Fern?

A species profile is like a biography for a plant. It tells you important facts about the Crocodile Fern. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Common Name: Crocodile Fern
  • Scientific Name: Microsorum musifolium (Also known as Polypodium musifolium)
  • Family: Polypodiaceae
  • Origin/Native Region: Australia and Southeast Asia
  • Growth Habit: Epiphytic (grows on other plants such as trees) and has a spreading growth pattern.

What are the Ideal Growing Conditions of Crocodile Fern?

The Crocodile Fern thrives when you give it the right home. It loves light, but not too much. It needs to be warm, but not hot. Humidity makes it happy, like the air in a bathroom after a shower.

The soil should feel like a sponge, moist but not soggy. Put it in a pot that lets water drain out. By giving your Crocodile Fern these perfect conditions, it will grow healthy and strong.

Light Requirements

The Crocodile Fern does best in medium to bright, indirect light. It should not be placed in direct sunlight, as this can burn its leaves. Instead, find a spot near a window where the sun’s rays never actually touch the foliage.

For example, you can set it back from a south or west-facing window or use a light curtain as a shield. The right light encourages the fern to grow and keeps its “crocodile skin” pattern looking vibrant.

However, if the light is too low, its growth may slow down, and its rich green color might fade. Therefore, it is important to find a balance in lighting for the Crocodile Fern to thrive.

Temperature Preferences

Crocodile ferns like it warm but not hot. They thrive in temperatures that stay between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If it gets colder than 55 degrees, the plant can get damaged. You should keep your crocodile fern away from drafty windows and doors during the winter to avoid cold air.

During hot summers, don’t put your plant near air conditioners or vents that could blow cold air directly on it. Maintaining a consistent temperature range helps the crocodile fern grow well.

Humidity Needs

Crocodile Fern thrives in damp places. Think about how it’s usually humid in a bathroom after a hot shower. This fern needs that kind of wet air to grow well.

It’s happiest when the air around it feels like a gentle mist, not too dry and not soaking wet. In your home, you can help your fern by misting it with water or placing it near a humidifier.

This will make it feel like it’s back in its natural, tropical home. Keeping the air moist is like giving the fern a comfortable bed to sleep in; it helps it stay healthy and green.

Soil and Potting

Crocodile Ferns grow best in soil that drains well but stays moist. This means the soil should not hold water for too long. You should use a mix that has peat moss or coco coir with perlite or vermiculite.

These ingredients help with moisture and let air reach the roots. When potting, choose a container with holes in the bottom. These holes make sure extra water can flow out.

Over time, roots can fill up the pot. So, you may need to move your fern to a bigger pot every couple of years. Always be gentle when handling the roots during repotting.

What are the Watering Needs of Crocodile Fern?

Crocodile Ferns need regular watering to stay healthy. Water the soil when it starts to feel dry. Make sure you don’t let the soil get soggy, though. It’s like giving the plant a drink when it’s thirsty but not making it swim in water.

If the leaves turn yellow or brown, you might be watering too much or too little. Try to mimic the damp environment they love, similar to a rainforest floor. During the warmer months, you’ll water more, and in the cooler months, less. It’s all about keeping the soil moist but not wet.

What are the Fertilization Requirements of Crocodile Fern?

Crocodile Ferns need food just like us, but they get it from fertilizer. Use a balanced, liquid fertilizer once a month during spring and summer, which are the growing seasons. Make sure it’s diluted to half the strength recommended on the package—this keeps the plant healthy without overfeeding it.

No fertilizer is needed in fall and winter because the plant is resting then. Remember, too much food can hurt the Crocodile Fern, causing its leaves to brown.

What is the Growth Habit of Crocodile Fern?

The Crocodile Fern grows in a unique way that makes it stand out. It has broad, shiny, dark green fronds that look like crocodile skin. This fern does not grow flowers or seeds. Instead, it reproduces by spreading spores that grow on the underside of the leaves.

Crocodile Ferns can get quite large, with fronds that can reach up to 3 feet long. They grow slowly and stay neat, so you don’t have to trim them often. This fern likes to spread out as it grows, so it’s perfect to hang in a basket or place on a high shelf.

What are the Benefits of Pruning Crocodile Fern?

Pruning crocodile fern means cutting back its leaves. This helps the plant in several ways. First, it gets rid of dead or yellowed leaves, which makes the fern look better. Second, it allows more light and air to reach the inner parts of the fern. Therefore, the plant can grow healthier.

Pruning also stops diseases from spreading, because bad parts are removed. Finally, it can encourage the plant to grow more, resulting in a fuller and lusher fern. Remember, use sharp scissors to avoid hurting the plant.

How do You Propagate Crocodile Fern?

Propagating a Crocodile Fern means making new plants from the one you already have. Follow these steps to propagate your fern:

  1. Find a healthy part of the fern.
  2. Carefully cut off a piece with clean scissors.
  3. Let the cut part dry for a day.
  4. Plant this piece in damp soil.
  5. Put the pot in a warm, shady spot.
  6. Keep the soil moist, but not too wet.
  7. Wait for new growth to show, then take care of it like a mature fern.

With patience, you’ll have a new Crocodile Fern from the piece you started with.

What are the Common Pests and Diseases of Crocodile Fern?

The Crocodile Fern can face issues from pests and diseases, just like other plants. Pests are bugs that can eat or harm the plant, whereas diseases are caused by things like fungus or virus that can make the plant sick. For example, pests like spider mites and scale insects may attack the fern, leaving small bites or sticky substances on leaves.

When it comes to diseases, leaf spot and root rot are common if the plant stays too wet. You might see brown or yellow spots on leaves or mushy, decayed roots. Keeping your Crocodile Fern healthy involves watching out for these problems and acting quickly if you spot them.

Pests (types and symptoms)

Pests are unwanted insects or animals that can harm your Crocodile Fern. Some common pests include:

  • Mealybugs: You’ll notice a cotton-like fuzz on your fern.
  • Spider Mites: Look for tiny webs and yellow spots on the leaves.
  • Scale Insects: These look like small bumps on stems and leaves.

Pests can cause your Crocodile Fern to look sick and stop growing well. If you see these signs, your plant may have pests. You should take action to remove them.

Diseases (types and symptoms)

Crocodile Ferns can get sick from different diseases. These include fungal infections, like leaf spot and root rot. Leaf spot causes brown or black spots on the leaves. Root rot makes the roots mushy and brown, often from too much water. If you see these signs, your plant may be sick.

To help, remove the bad parts and don’t water as much. Also, make sure the soil drains well to prevent more issues.

What to Know about the Toxicity of Crocodile Fern?

Crocodile Ferns are not toxic. This means they are safe for people and pets, like cats and dogs. You don’t have to worry if a pet nibbles on the leaves or if a child touches the plant. However, it’s always best to keep plants out of reach to avoid any possible skin irritation or accidental ingestion that could cause discomfort.

Remember, even though Crocodile Ferns are non-toxic, it’s important to be careful with any plant in your home.

What to Know about the Air Purification Capabilities of Crocodile Fern?

Crocodile ferns can clean the air you breathe. They take in harmful chemicals from the air and change them into harmless substances. However, compared to some other plants, like the spider plant or peace lily, crocodile ferns are not as powerful at purifying the air.

They are still good to have in your home because they help a little with air quality, and they look nice. Remember to place your crocodile fern in a spot where it can grow well to do its best at cleaning the air.

What are the Decorative Uses of Crocodile Fern?

Crocodile ferns improve your home’s look with their unique leaves. These plants look best when placed in bright, indirect light. You might hang them near a window or set them on a shady balcony. Their striking pattern can draw the eye in a room that has lots of green plants.

Crocodile ferns also grow well on shelves or in hanging baskets, where their leaves can drape down. You can use them to add a touch of nature to your living area or office. By choosing the right spot, you not only make your space more beautiful but also help the fern thrive.

Ferns   Updated: November 25, 2023
avatar Hi, I'm Amy, a devoted horticulturist and the creator of, where I use my expertise to help beginners foster their green thumbs. My blog is a vibrant community where I unravel the complexities of gardening and share my profound love for nature.
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