Crocodile Fern Plant Profile

A Houseplant With Interesting Foliage

crocodile fern and an air plant

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

Crocodile ferns (Microsorum musifolium) have lots of personality. Getting their name from their reptilian texture, these ferns resemble crocodile skin. They have long, broad leaves with dark green veins and a leathery appearance.

Typically found in Southeast Asia and parts of Australia, this fern thrives in humid, tropical environments. They make great statement pieces since they can grow up to five feet.

With plenty of water and bright, indirect sun, you can easily add these interesting ferns to your own houseplant collection. If you live in zones 10 or 11, you can even add these to your outdoor garden.

Botanical Name Microsorum musifolium
Common Name Crocodile fern
Plant Type Houseplant or perennial
Mature Size 2 to 5 feet tall and wide
Sun Exposure Bright, indirect late to shade
Soil Type Rich, moist, well-draining
Soil pH Slightly acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Not Applicable
Flower Color Not Applicable
Hardiness Zones 10 to 11
Native Area Southeast Asia and Australia
crocodile fern by the window

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

closeup of a crocodile fern

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

crocodile fern as a potted houseplant

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

How to Grow Crocodile Ferns

For such an exotic plant, crocodile ferns are easy to care for. Plenty of water and humidity will keep your fern happy. Just be sure that your soil and pot drain easily.

Because crocodile ferns love humidity, they make great additions to bathrooms or kitchens.

On top of this, there aren’t many pests or diseases to worry about. Root rot, fungal growth, or scales are the most common issues.


Like most ferns, the crocodile species is naturally found growing under a canopy of trees. Because of this, your plant will like lighting that mimics the dappled, bright, indirect sunlight that they would receive on the forest floor.

These plants still need sunlight, just be sure they aren’t getting direct sunlight, like in a window. Too much can burn the leaves.


These ferns love rich, moist, well-draining soil.


Crocodile ferns love water. Water your plant thoroughly and consistently. When you notice the top of the soil getting dry, water until it drains out of the bottom of the pot. Continue to let the water drain out until it no longer drips to be sure your fern is not sitting in water.

If your soil is not well-draining, soggy soil can lead to problems like root rot or fungal growth. Adding peat moss or perlite will help keep water moving freely.

Temperature and Humidity

Because this plant is native to the tropics, it does not handle cold weather well. It can be grown outside in zones 10 or 11, but any area colder than that could kill it.

Thankfully, this beautiful fern makes a great houseplant. Just be sure to keep it away from drafts, air conditioners, or heating vents.

Crocodile ferns also love humidity. There are a few things you can do to give your fern the humidity levels it likes.

First, you could set your pot on a tray of pebbles with a small amount of water in it. The evaporating water will keep your fern moist. Just be sure that the pot is not sitting in the water.

Another option would be to mist your fern daily. Or, you can even take your fern into the bathroom while you shower. The heat and the humidity will be like a spa day for your crocodile fern. This makes bathrooms or kitchens great places to keep your crocodile fern.


Properly fertilizing your fern can help keep it healthy and full of foliage. However, too much fertilizer can burn your plant.

A diluted water-soluble fertilizer is a good option. You could use a fertilizer that is specifically formulated for ferns. Fertilize once a month during spring and summer to promote healthy growth.

Potting and Repotting

Crocodile ferns are slow growers, so you won’t need to worry about repotting very often. When you notice the roots getting crammed in its current pot or your fern is top-heavy, you will want to give your plant a bigger pot.

Repotting is easy, and the best way to do this is to turn your plant on its side and gently work it from the pot. If it is in a plastic pot, squeeze it gently to release the roots from the pot. Place your fern in its new home, give it some fresh dirt and water, and you are all set.

Be sure not to bury your fern too deep, however, because these plants have shallow root systems.

Propagating Crocodile Ferns

Unlike other plants, ferns do not use seeds to reproduce, instead, they use spores. However, propagating your fern through spores is not always easy, and may not yield results.

Thankfully, you can create more ferns by dividing the roots. This process is easy and simple. Here’s how:

1. Gently remove your crocodile fern from its pot.

2. With its roots now exposed, carefully work your fingers into the roots to separate a part of your fern.

3. Plant your new fern in its own pot and water thoroughly. Be sure to keep the soil moist, especially during the first few weeks.

It is best to wait until you have a substantial plant before attempting root division.