This reptilian textured fern is known for its scaly patterned leaves. Even though this houseplant needs a bit more moisture and humidity, the unique texture and pattern is well worth the work!
Botanical Name: Microsorum musifolium
This bumpy leaf fern gets its name from the crocodile-like details on it leaves. Those leaves grow out from the center of the plant as well. As this plant matures, the pattern and texture become more prominent while the edge of the leaves become more rippled.
Medium light is all that is needed for this fern. They could do okay in bright, indirect light, but it is not necessary for this plant to thrive. It is best to avoid direct sunlight otherwise you may see the leaves start to scorch or become pale.
The Crocodile fern needs medium moisture to thrive best. When the top layer of soil is dry, you can water your fern again. I would make sure you are not overwatering the fern or letting it sit in water. Giving this plant drainage and well-draining soil will help prevent excess watering. If you aren't quite sure if you are providing too little or too much water, I would highly recommend trying a Moisture Meter Reader. It is a great tool to measure the moisture until you understand the watering cadence needed for your conditions. If you notice your leaf edges turning brown, this could be due to a lack of moisture, or lack of humidity.
This plant does prefer to be in medium to high humidity to thrive. You can increase your humidity by placing this plant in a mini greenhouse or greenhouse cabinet. You can also place it next to a humidifier, mist, frequently or place it on top of a pebble tray.
As I always say, there are LOTS of ways to fertilize plants. Unless you are extremely over-fertilizing your plant, there isn't necessarily a wrong way to do this. I currently use Fox Farm's Grow Big Liquid Fertilizer and I normally fertilize every 2 weeks when I water my plants, starting around the end of February through October. I honestly probably only fertilize once or twice in winter because the plant isn't as active! I use about 1/2 to 3/4 the recommended amount of fertilizer because I would rather under-fertilize than over-fertilize my plants.
Practical Houseplant Book: "Apply a half-strength balanced liquid fertilizer once a month from spring to early fall."
There are MANY ways to fertilize and it is completely up to you! There are tons of products out there you can try but an overall rule of thumb for houseplants is that it is best to under-fertilize, rather than over-fertilize. Always use the recommended amount, or less, when applying your fertilizer to houseplants.
You can divide the Crocodile Fern when it is mature enough to propagate it. Try to be as gentle as possible when separating the root system in order to prevent damage in the process. Your newly divided plant may need a bit more moisture in order to establish itself, so make sure you are keeping this fern evenly moist during that time.
All part of the Polypodiaceae family.
Native to parts of Southeast Asia
Natively these can grow upwards of 4ft, if not more, in the right conditions.
As a houseplant, you will rarely see it reach any larger than 2ft and it will take a long time to get that large since it is fairly slow growing.
I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for the Crocodile Fern..
"What soil is the best? Chunky? Leca? (Hope not!!! LOL)"
This doesn't need anything too complicated. You can use a normal potting mix and if you would like to add a little perlite or bark for more drainage, you can. It does not need to be chunky and I wouldn't recommend leca (thankfully LOL)!
"Can a crocodile fern be happy with normal household humidity?"
I want to say yes to this but honestly, they don't thrive in regular household humidity. Giving them some kind of humidity with a small terrarium, mini greenhouse, humidifier, pebble tray underneath the plant or frequent misting will help.
"I like the look of this plant, but I feel like its the type of plant guaranteed to get pests...?"
I've had my Crocodile Fern in household humidity and I've also placed mine in high humidity. But in both environments, it has not gotten any pests. The number one pest issue that pops up during my research is scale. Check out Pests and Plants to learn how to treat that and for ways to prevent pests!
"Advice for growing this in a terrarium (open not closed terrarium)?"
Multiple plants in a terrarium will help increase humidity even if it has an open top so I would recommend choosing plants that have a similar moisture and sunlight need. I would recommend misting inside your terrarium to boost humidity as well (once a day). And I would also recommend placing a thin layer of moss on top of the your well draining soil to also help retain the moisture and increase humidity.
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Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)