By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What is a crocodile fern? Native to Australia, crocodile fern (Microsorium musifolium ‘Crocydyllus’), sometimes known as crocodyllus fern, is an unusual plant with wrinkled, puckery leaves. The light green, segmented leaves are marked with dark green veins. Although the distinctive texture has been compared to a crocodile’s hide, the crocodile fern plant actually has a graceful, delicate appearance.
What is a crocodile fern? Crocodile fern plant is a tropical fern suitable for growing outdoors only in the temperate climates of USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11 (and sometimes 9, with protection). Grow crocodile fern indoors if your climate has even a possibility of winter frost; chilly temps will kill the plant in a hurry.
At maturity, crocodile fern reaches heights of 2 to 5 feet (.6 to 1.5 m.) with a similar width. Although the broad green leaves appear to arise directly from the soil, the fronds actually grow from rhizomes that grow just under the surface.
Growing crocodile ferns requires a bit more attention than your average houseplant, but crocodile fern care really isn’t involved or complicated.
Crocodile ferns need regular water, but the plant won’t last long in soggy, poorly drained soil. A rich, well-drained potting soil such as a soil formulated for African violets works very well. To keep the plant happy, water whenever the surface of the potting mix feels slightly dry. Water until liquid drips through the drainage hole (always use a pot with a drainage hole!), then let the pot drain thoroughly.
A kitchen or bathroom is an ideal environment because crocodile ferns benefit from humidity. Otherwise, increase humidity by placing the pot on a tray or plate with a layer of wet pebbles, but never let the bottom of the pot stand in the water.
Crocodile fern plants perform best in indirect or low light. A spot in front of a sunny window is too intense and may scorch the fronds. Cool to average room temperatures are fine, but avoid heating vents, drafts or air conditioners.
To ensure your crocodyllus fern has adequate nutrients to keep it looking its best, provide a diluted water-soluble fertilizer or a special fern fertilizer once every month during spring and summer. Read the instructions carefully. Too much fertilizer won’t make your plant grow faster. In fact, it may kill the plant.
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Botanical Name: Microsorum musifolium
Other Names: Alligator Fern, crocodyllus fern, crocodile plant
Place of Origin: Australia and South East Asia
Watering Requirements: Water regularly but allow to drain
Lighting Requirements: Bright indirect – to low light
Humidity Requirements: Likes it humid
Soil Type: Loose, well-draining soil
Height: Up to 5 feet
The Crocodile Fern, sometimes known as an alligator fern, a crocodyllus fern or a crocodile plant, is a fern native to Australia with a slightly unusual texture. The fern gets its name from the scale like appearance of its leaves which also makes it an appealing houseplant for fern lovers.
Species: M. musifolium
Pteridaceae is a family comprising of about 45 different genera and more than 1150 Fern plants. Surprisingly, the members of this family are yet not described fully. Moreover, they need revised analysis for qualities and classification.
All the ferns grow from a rhizome instead of a rooting system. (Rhizome is a bulbous structure, which stays under or over ground and performs the functions of the rooting system). The growth habit of this diverse family includes both erect and trailing growth habit.
The leaves of these plants are simply more than the common leaves and known as fronds. Clusters of Sori are found on the margins of these leaves. Sori are the spore(seed) producing parts are of the leaves.
This is a collection of tropical rhizomatous plants. Moreover, the name is often miss-spelt as ‘Microsorium’ or ‘Microsreum’.
For more information on growing ferns, check out the following resources:
Although your Crocodyllus fern might require slightly more attention than some other varieties of houseplants, its unique beauty makes it worthy of pampering.
Native to Australia and tropical regions, the crocodile fern has spear-like, wrinkled leaves mimicking a crocodile’s hide.
The light green, segmented leaves are puckered with dark green veins that give off a an elegant, even graceful appearance. Agree?
So aptly named for the scale-like texture the leaves display, the crocodile fern ( Microsorium musifolium ‘Crocydyllus’) is an incredible low-light houseplant to own.
But know what blows my mind? This epiphytic fern grows on things in the wild like tree trunks and between rock cracks. The crocodile fern plant will absorb all nutrients and water it needs through the air, rain, or tree.
So grow your crocodile plant in a container but also consider affixing it to a wooden plank on your wall. Hello green vertical flair!
The crocodile fern’s wavy edges will certainly win your heart especially with the little fuss this fern causes. Talk about an easy indoor plant to grow.
Here’s all you need to know for the crocodile fern to survive and thrive in your space now because this pandemic is causing us all to invest in houseplants!
Your indoor space must be relaxing so spirits can revive and thrive!
Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil do not let dry out between waterings
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)
Can be grown as an annual
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed
This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:
On Jun 16, 2017, Donnalah from Spanish Fort, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:
I had my Microsorum Musifolium for 9 years while living in north Texas. It grew In a large planter with no hole in the bottom, in an east facing window with sheer curtains.
I divided it, once, but the shock caused it to take (literally) a couple of years to recuperate. The mother plant survived, however, the other didn't.
Otherwise, this plant did excellent and grew like crazy as long as it was watered with rain water (moist, but never soggy). It grew to about 3' wide!!
Unfortunately, it didn't survive the move to the gulf coast of Alabama. It went into shock, and never recuperated. I really miss that lovely fern.
On May 11, 2010, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:
Not nearly as hardy as listed. If it survives a bay area winter-and they have- The following summer is never warm enough for decent frond growth..the plant fades away. Strictly a house plant here, or outdoors only in areas of mild winters and hot humid summers.
On May 5, 2008, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:
Native to Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.
It has been brought to my attention that there is no difference between the Microsorum and the Microsorium genra. Evidently the genus Microsorum was originally published in 1833. Botanist Dr. Link went on to publish papers in 1841 using both the spelling Microsorum and Microsorium (with an "i") in the same paper. Botanists have been using both spellings interchangeably since then. Both spellings are able to be found on numerous scientific sites although Microsurum is technically correct, they are both acceptable. The International Plant Names Index (IPNI) uses only Microsorium musifolium while others use Microsorum musifolium.
Microsorium musifolium can be overwatered. If you over water this plant, you will kill it in the long run. M. musifolium would derive substantial ben. read more efits from being allowed to dry out ever so slightly between waterings.
On Oct 8, 2005, Pixydish from Lakewood, WA (Zone 8a) wrote:
I found two of these at the local Lowes and they've done beautifully as foliage accents in my zone 8A garden. I'll have to put them in the greenhouse over the winter, but its worth it.
On Aug 30, 2005, KiMFDiM from Alden, NY (Zone 5b) wrote:
So far, this plant has done well up north (NY). It is currently on the patio in the shade. I keep it moist and mist it periodically as it sits in a grouping of other tropical plants (wait a minute. they all are tropical!).
When it gets cold, it will be moved to a pebble tray in front of a south window with grow lights. We will see if I still think it is positive after the winter, but I feel confident that it will be fine.
Crocodile fern is one of the many astonishing creations of nature. My overall opinion about this fern is that it would be a great addition to most vivariums. Definitely wouldn’t use it for an extremely dry, desert-themed builds. An aquarium or fully aquatic setup would also not be a suitable environment for the plant to survive. I would, however, recommend it for terrestrial builds that want to go for a very tropical look. Microsorum musifoliums few and easy care requirements make it an easy vivarium plant for even beginners to use. Not to mention its scale-like crocodile appearance that will grab anyone’s attention from a simple glance. This complete care guide will provide all of the tools needed should you decide to take on this fern.