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Crocodile Fern

Discover the Crocodile Fern: a unique houseplant with crocodile-like leaves, perfect for homes and offices. Learn about its care, benefits, and ideal growing conditions.

Crocodile Fern Overview

Scientific name:

Microsorum musifolium



Water requirements:


Light requirements:

Indirect Sun


Air Purifying, Pet Friendly

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Crocodile Fern


The Crocodile Fern, scientifically known as Microsorum musifolium ‘Crocodyllus’, is a captivating houseplant that offers both aesthetic appeal and practical benefits. This unique fern is native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and parts of Australia, often found growing epiphytically in the moist, shaded jungles of these areas.

Common and Scientific Names

The Crocodile Fern is also known by several other names, including Crocodyllus Fern and Alligator Fern. Its botanical name, Microsorum musifolium, signifies ‘small sori’ and ‘banana-like leaves’, respectively, due to the appearance and characteristics of its fronds.

Origins and Natural Habitat

Native to Malaysia Peninsula and parts of Australia, the Crocodile Fern thrives in humid, tropical environments. In the wild, it typically grows on trees, drawing nutrients from the air and surrounding debris rather than directly from the host plant. This adaptation allows it to flourish in the thick canopies of rainforests where light is filtered, and moisture is abundant.

Distinctive Characteristics

The Crocodile Fern is most renowned for its distinct, crocodile-like leaf texture. The dark green veins create a tessellated pattern that mimics the skin of a reptile, making it a striking visual addition to any interior space. It’s a slow-growing fern with the potential to reach up to 5 feet in height under optimal conditions.

The Crocodile Fern is a fascinating plant with a rich history and remarkable adaptations. Its unique appearance and beneficial attributes make it a worthy addition to any plant collection. Understanding its origins and characteristics is the first step in appreciating this exceptional fern and ensuring its care and maintenance in a home or office environment.

Unique Characteristics

Distinctive Leaf Texture

The Crocodile Fern gets its name from the distinctive texture of its leaves, which resemble crocodile skin. This unusual appearance is due to the segmented patterning of light green with darker veining, making each leaf look like it has scales. This texture gives the plant an exotic and unique look, turning it into a real show-stopper in any indoor garden.

Slow-Growing Nature

One of the most attractive features for many plant enthusiasts is its slow-growing nature. The Crocodile Fern is not a plant that will take over your space too quickly. It requires patience, but in return, it offers stable, manageable growth. As it gently fills out, it becomes a beautiful, long-lasting addition to any home or office.

Potential to Grow Up to 5 Feet Tall

While the Crocodile Fern may start small, it has the potential to grow impressively large under the right conditions. Outdoors in tropical environments, this plant can reach up to 5 feet tall and wide, making it a striking specimen plant. Most indoor settings will see it top out at 2-4 feet, which still makes for a substantial focal point in any room.

Optimal Growing Conditions

Light Requirements

The Crocodile Fern thrives in bright, indirect light. Mimicking the dappled sunlight of its natural habitat under tree canopies, this fern does best when shielded from direct sun rays. Direct sunlight can scorch its leaves, so it’s advisable to place the plant away from windows that receive direct sun during any part of the day. Positioning it within six feet of a south-facing window is optimal for ensuring it receives enough light to thrive.

Temperature Preferences

Room temperature is ideal for the Crocodile Fern, with a range of 18°C to 23°C being the sweet spot. It’s important to avoid cold drafts and ensure temperatures do not drop below 12°C. This fern doesn’t handle cold weather well and exposed drafts of cold air can be detrimental. Keeping the plant within these temperature ranges will make sure it stays healthy and vibrant.

Humidity Needs

Crocodile Ferns crave high humidity, ideally between 70% to 80%. Although they can manage at levels as low as 60%, higher humidity is preferable for lush, healthy growth. This fern’s tropical nature means that regular misting and creating a humid environment are essential. Placing the plant in a bathroom or kitchen where humidity tends to be higher can be beneficial. Additionally, using a pebble tray or misting daily helps maintain the moisture levels the fern loves.

By providing these optimal growing conditions—indirect bright light, room temperature, and high humidity—you can ensure that your Crocodile Fern remains a striking and healthy addition to your indoor space. These conditions replicate the natural environment of the forests of Southeast Asia and Australia, making it a perfect indoor statement piece.

Care and Maintenance

Watering Schedule and Techniques

The Crocodile Fern (Microsorum musifolium ‘Crocodyllus’) demands a precise watering schedule to flourish. Water them thoroughly and regularly, ensuring that the soil stays evenly moist. A good rule of thumb is to water when the top inch of the soil feels dry. In practice, this often translates to watering approximately every 9 days when kept in a 5.0-inch pot without direct sunlight.

When watering, ensure the water drains out of the bottom of the pot to prevent the risk of root rot. Uneven watering or allowing the soil to completely dry out between waterings can damage the plant, so maintaining a consistent moisture level is crucial.

Soil and Potting Recommendations

The Crocodile Fern thrives in a well-draining, humus-rich potting mix. Ideal soil compositions include components such as coco peat, peat moss, and perlite to maintain a good balance between moisture retention and drainage.

Ensure the soil mix is loose and not compacted to allow for proper aeration and drainage. A suggested recipe involves mixing one part organic potting soil, one part coco coir or peat moss, and one part perlite or pumice. This combination creates an environment that mimics the fern’s natural habitat, promoting lush growth.

Fertilisation Needs

Crocodile Ferns benefit from regular fertilisation, especially during the active growing periods in spring and summer. Use a water-soluble fertiliser specifically formulated for ferns, applied at half strength to avoid over-fertilisation, which can cause tip burn on roots and leaves.

Fertilise the fern once a month during the warmer seasons, dialling back to every other month in fall and winter when the fern’s growth slows. Look for fertilisers with a lower nitrogen content to maintain the distinct leaf texture without fostering overly aggressive growth. Organic fertilisers are a great choice, providing slow-release nutrients that nourish both the plant and the soil.

Following these care and maintenance guidelines will ensure your Crocodile Fern thrives and maintains its unique aesthetic appeal while providing the health benefits it is known for.

Benefits in Office and Home Environments

Air Purification Properties

The Crocodile Fern isn’t just another pretty plant; it’s also a natural air purifier. This fern works tirelessly to improve indoor air quality by absorbing pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene. By doing so, it helps create a healthier environment in your home or office, making the air more breathable and fresher for everyone. In essence, it acts as a silent guardian for your lungs, ensuring that the air you breathe is as clean as possible.

Aesthetic Appeal as a Statement Piece

Visually striking, the Crocodile Fern stands out with its distinct, crocodile scale-like leaves. Its vibrant green colour and unique texture make it a captivating focal point in any room. Whether placed in a living room, office, or even a bathroom, this fern adds an element of exotic beauty that can enhance the decor of any space. Its ability to grow up to 5 feet tall makes it perfect for creating a statement corner or as part of an indoor garden collection.

Potential Stress-Reducing Effects

Gardening has long been hailed as a stress reliever, and caring for a Crocodile Fern is no exception. The simple act of tending to this plant can have a calming effect, promoting mindfulness and reducing stress levels. Additionally, having greenery in your environment has been shown to improve mood and increase overall well-being, making the Crocodile Fern an excellent choice for both home and office environments.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting

Sensitivity to Cold Temperatures

The Crocodile Fern is native to tropical climates and doesn’t handle cold temperatures well. Ideally, keep it in a consistent temperature range between 18°C to 24°C. Temperatures below 10°C can cause serious damage or even kill the plant. It’s crucial to keep your fern away from cold drafts and sudden temperature swings, which can make the leaves droop and the plant look unhealthy.

Pest and Disease Management

While Crocodile Ferns are generally resistant to most pests, they can occasionally suffer from infestations of scale insects and mealybugs. If you notice these pests:

  1. Inspect the plant regularly for signs of infestation.
  2. Prune affected stems to remove scale insects.
  3. If pests persist, gently rub the leaves with diluted rubbing alcohol using a cotton ball.

Root rot is another common issue, often caused by overwatering and poor soil drainage. If the soil is more waterlogged than a sunken ship, hold off on watering and consider a pot with better drainage. Remove the plant from its pot and cut away the rotted roots with sterilised scissors.

Addressing Growth and Leaf Problems

Brown Leaves

Brown leaves can be a sign of several issues: low humidity, insufficient watering, or cold temperatures. Increase humidity around the plant by misting it daily or placing it on a pebble tray with water. Ensure consistent watering and maintain room temperatures to avoid cold stress.

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves often indicate overwatering or poor drainage. Make sure the pot has good drainage holes, and use a well-draining soil mix. Reduce watering frequency, particularly in cooler months when the plant’s growth slows down.

Drooping Leaves

Drooping leaves can result from exposure to cold drafts or significant temperature changes. Keep your plant in a stable, warm environment away from any cold air currents. Adjust the positioning of your fern to ensure it is comfortable and growing well. By staying vigilant and addressing these common issues, your Crocodile Fern can thrive and continue to add a unique, aesthetic appeal to your home or office environment.

Interesting Facts and Trivia

Cultural Significance in Its Native Regions

The Crocodile Fern, with its unique and prehistoric texture, has a deep cultural significance in its native regions of Southeast Asia and parts of Australia. Ferns, in general, have been heralded across various cultures for their resilience and symbolism of rebirth and new beginnings. This makes the Crocodile Fern not just an ornamental plant, but a symbol of endurance and renewal.

Unique Adaptations of the Crocodile Fern

This fern is a master of survival due to its unique adaptations. Naturally an epiphyte, it can grow on trees and rocks, forming a half-basket against tree trunks to catch falling leaves and debris, which decompose and provide necessary nutrients and moisture to the plant. Another fascinating adaptation is its unusual texture that resembles crocodile skin, and its segmented patterning of light green with darker veining. This feature not only gives it a distinctive look but may also help it in camouflaging within its natural habitat.

Comparison to Other Fern Species

While ferns are ancient plants with a plethora of species, the Crocodile Fern stands out due to its unique appearance and adaptations. Unlike the Bird’s Nest Fern that features smooth, solid leaves, the Crocodile Fern has wrinkled, puckery leaves with a textured feel. 

Additionally, many fern species reproduce through tiny spores or vegetatively, a trait shared by the Crocodile Fern, but the Crocodile Fern’s segmented and vein-patterned leaves make it more visually striking compared to its counterparts.

 Understanding the Crocodile Fern’s cultural importance and its remarkable survival strategies enriches our appreciation of this incredible plant. Whether you’re an avid plant collector or a curious beginner, these facts make the Crocodile Fern not only a unique decorative piece but also a conversation starter, reflecting its fascinating journey through history and evolution.

Enhance your indoor space with the Crocodile Fern (Microsorum musifolium 'Crocodyllus'). Explore its unique features, optimal care tips, and aesthetic benefits.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Summary of Key Care Points

The Crocodile Fern (Microsorum musifolium ‘Crocodyllus’) is a remarkable plant that thrives best under specific care conditions. Key points to remember include:

  • Light: Prefers bright, indirect light. Can tolerate lower light conditions.
  • Temperature: Room temperature (18°C to 23°C). Keep away from cold drafts.
  • Humidity: High humidity is crucial. Regular misting and using a humidifier can help.
  • Water: Water thoroughly but ensure the soil does not become oversaturated. Allow the top few inches to dry before watering again.
  • Soil: Use a well-draining, humus-rich potting mix.
  • Fertilisation: Monthly dose of a soluble fertiliser is beneficial.

Suggestions for Incorporating Crocodile Fern in Various Spaces

Given its unique aesthetic and air-purifying properties, the Crocodile Fern can be a valuable addition to both home and office environments.

At Home

  • Place it in living rooms, bedrooms, or bathrooms to utilise its humidity-loving nature.
  • Use it as a statement piece on a stand or in a decorative pot to enhance interior decor.

In the Office

  • Position it near workstations to benefit from its air-purifying abilities.
  • Place it in meeting rooms or reception areas to create a calm, inviting atmosphere.

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