crocodile fern care

The Ultimate Crocodile Fern Care Guide

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If you’re looking for a tropical beauty to warm up your room, I highly recommend the Crocodile Fern. It’s a real showstopper with its exotic leaves that resemble the leathery skin of a crocodile. This unique and aesthetically pleasing houseplant will spark conversations and sure to get likes on your social media pages.

Unfortunately to fern lovers and collectors, this crocodile plant is not widely available to everyone, specifically the western side. If you are one of the lucky ones to have this in your collection, be sure to get back to this article from time to time to check our easy guide to Crocodile Fern Care and everything you need to know to keep this semi-fussy plant thriving!

Common NameCrocodile Fern
Botanical NameMicrosorum musifolium
Other Known NamesAlligator Fern, Crocodylus Fern, Crocodile Plant
Plant TypeHouseplant or perennial
Sun ExposureSun Exposure Bright, indirect late to shade
Soil pHSlightly acidic to neutral
Soil TypeRich, moist, well-draining
Ease of CareEasy
ToxicityToxicity Safe for humans and pets
Native AreaSoutheast Asia and Australia

Crocodile Fern Classification and Other Names

In the scientific world of ferns, the Crocodile Fern Plant is called Microsorium Musifolium. It is closely related to around 50 other fern species. They have rhizomes rather than roots. They are a type of creeping rootstalk that propagates horizontally under the fern.

The plant got its name from the distinct markings on its leaves that mimic the scales of a crocodile. Due to its unusual appearance, many people also called it Alligator Fern or Crocodyllus Fern.

Found generally in Southeast Asia and Australia, this fern thrives best in humid, tropical environments.

Crocodile Fern Features

Although known for its distinctive texture comparable to a crocodile’s hide, the Microsorum Musifolium has a delicate, graceful appearance.

They are typically slow to grow and need a little bit of pampering. A fully-grown crocodile fern reaches a height of up to 5 feet (.6 to 1.5 m.). Although the broad green leaves appear to arise directly from the soil, the fronds grow from rhizomes that grow just under the surface.

Crocodile Fern Care Guide

With its shallow root structure, the crocodyllus fern does not need to be buried deep. In their natural habitat, these tropical ferns naturally attach themselves to giant trees. Over time, they developed characteristics to survive harsh conditions by using their surroundings rather than relying solely on the soil for nourishment.

With bright indirect light and regular watering, you can add these ferns to your plant collection. Thanks to its surviving characteristics, they can tolerate short periods of drought, especially during the winter season.

As a result, the crocodile fern was an ideal indoor houseplant that didn’t require much maintenance or complicated care.

Ideal Growing Place

Microsorum Musifolium grows naturally in the forest or under a canopy of trees, like most ferns. With that, the plant will love some lighting that mimics bright, indirect sunlight, like in a window.


Crocodile ferns need adequate watering. When the top of the soil looks dry, pour enough water until it drains out of the bottom of the pot. But be sure the fern isn’t sitting in a soggy mess.


Too much sunlight can cause the leaves to burn. Just give your crocodile fern plant enough indirect sunlight as they would receive in the tropical regions. These plants still need sunlight. Just be sure they aren’t getting direct sunlight.


Ideally, crocodile ferns plant can thrive better outside in zones 10 or 11. However, any colder environment than those zones may cause the plant to die. As a tropical fern, it cannot handle cold weather well.


Fill your pot with moist, rich, and well-draining soil. You can add peat moss and perlite to improve aeration and keep the moist soil draining efficiently.


Keep the plant away from air conditioners and heating vents. Instead, maintain a good level of humidity in the room. Lack of it can make the leaves of the plant form crispy brown tips. To ensure the good health of your plant, I recommend the following tips:

  • Provide proper aeration in the soil by adding some pebbles with a small amount of water in them.
  • If the temperature in the room is not optimal for the plant, as suggested above, consider misting your crocodile fern daily with a mister.
  • Bring the plant with you when you shower in the bathroom. Do this from time to time. Just be sure the chemicals from the soap or shampoo will not get into the pot. The humidity and the heat will provide the plant with a pleasant spa session.


Use organic fertilizers to keep the plant healthy and full of foliage. But avoid putting too much fertilizer as it can cause burning marks on foliage. Be sure to ask for special fern fertilizer formulated explicitly for ferns when buying a crocodile fern for sale in the store.

I recommend choosing a diluted water-soluble fertilizer. For optimum health and growth of your crocodile fern, use fertilizer once a month, preferably during spring and summer.


Pruning the affected leaves due to infestation and disease is crucial to the plant’s health. Remove the plants with a cutter carefully to prevent infecting young, healthy leaves.

Potting and Re-potting

The crocodile fern is a slow-growing indoor plant. This means that the plant needs regular repotting. Crocodile ferns can be repotted when they become top-heavy in their original pots. When repotting, you have to make sure the root system is not planted too deeply.

Growth Zone

You can easily add the crocodile ferns to your outdoor garden if you live in zones 10 or 11 at any time during the year. However, a spot in front of a window directly exposed to sunlight is too intense for this plant.

Common Pests and Diseases

The common enemy of the crocodile ferns is the scale insects. To avoid infestation and disease, check the plant for such pests. Prune the affected stems if you see one. You can use rubbing alcohol if scale insects are persisting. Rub leaves gently with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab.

I highly recommend applying neem oil or similar insecticide oil if your crocodile fern is planted outdoors. It is much easier to eliminate scale insects this way.

You also have to be wary of root rot problems and fungal growth in the plant. To avoid them, be sure that your crocodile fern is planted in well-draining soil. Soggy soil can cause root rot or fungal growth.


Do you see mold in pots? A mold of this kind may be caused by vegetative compost or rotting material in the pot. This might be a good thing for most plants as a source of nutrients for food. However, molds can also signify that your crocodile fern is a little too wet, which can again lead to fungal growth or rotting roots.

To get rid of surface mold, Use a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol diluted in tap water and a dollop of biodegradable detergent soap. The mold will be cleaned up. It can also keep the pests at bay.


For ferns to reproduce and propagate, they use spores instead of seeds. Therefore, propagating your crocodile fern plants is not easy and requires patience.

Luckily, there is a way to make your Crocodylus fern reproduce. You can do this by dividing the roots. Cultivate the plant first until it has grown and is healthy enough for root division. Follow the process below on how to divide the roots on your own:

  • Remove the plant from the pot gently
  • Separate a part of the roots as carefully as you can with your hands
  • Avoid overhandling or damaging the roots as this can kill the plant
  • With a new clean pot filled with rich soil, plant the new fern in it and pour some water thoroughly
  • Place the new plant in a room with sufficient low light, not directly exposed to sunlight
  • Keep the soil moist by watering as much as needed, especially during the first few weeks.

Crocodile Fern Care FAQ

Aside from providing you with my own proven and tested Crocodile Fern care guide, I will share my answers to three of the most frequently asked questions about crocodile ferns.

How Much Light Does a Crocodile Fern Need?

Tropical ferns typically grow in a low-light environment with indirect sunlight as the primary source of energy. For best light exposure, put your plant in the northern or eastern window side of your home. Be sure to turn the plant once or twice each month for the best light sunlight exposure. This will help the plant grow evenly.

How Often Should You Water a Crocodile Fern?

Crocodile ferns require watering as often as it needs. To avoid soggy soil and the risk of fungal infection, use a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. Do not allow the surface soil to dry. Provide adequate water until you see a few drops of water through the pot’s drainage holes. Spray the leaves with water or use a mister several times a week to keep a healthy humidity level.

Do Crocodile Ferns Need Sunlight?

Yes, crocodile ferns like indirect sunlight. And, no, don’t expose this plant to direct sunlight as it can destroy it. The ideal environment for Crocodile Ferns is a space with low light.

The Bottom Line

The Crocodile Fern, in my opinion, is a fantastic, must-have addition to your houseplant collection. This plant is nature’s way of grabbing anyone’s attention with its scale-like crocodile appearance.

In this easy guide to crocodile fern care, we provide you with the keys to the success of growing a healthy fern that will immediately add warmth and a tropical vibe to your home.

Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by Gustaf Johansson

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