How do you take care of an alligator fern?

Answered by Michael Wilson

Taking care of an alligator fern, also known as a crocodile fern, requires a few specific considerations to ensure its health and growth. Here are some care tips to help you keep your crocodile fern thriving:

1. Light: Alligator ferns prefer bright, indirect light. They can tolerate some shade, but avoid exposing them to direct sunlight as it can scorch their delicate fronds. Placing the plant near a north or east-facing window is ideal, as it provides the right amount of filtered light. If you don’t have a suitable location with enough natural light, you can use a grow light to supplement their light requirements.

2. Rotation: To promote even growth and prevent the plant from leaning towards the light source, give the pot a quarter turn every week. This allows all sides of the fern to receive equal light exposure, resulting in a more balanced and attractive plant.

3. Watering: Crocodile ferns prefer consistently moist soil, but they do not like to sit in waterlogged conditions. It’s best to water them lightly and frequently to keep the potting medium moist, but not soggy. Check the top inch of soil and water when it feels slightly dry to the touch. Avoid letting the soil completely dry out between waterings, as this can lead to stress and damage to the fern.

4. Humidity: These ferns thrive in high humidity environments. You can increase humidity levels around the plant by misting its leaves regularly with room temperature water or by placing a tray filled with water near the plant. This will help mimic the natural humid conditions that the fern would typically grow in.

5. Potting medium: Alligator ferns prefer well-draining potting mix that retains moisture without becoming waterlogged. A mix consisting of peat moss, perlite, and orchid bark or sphagnum moss works well. Avoid using heavy potting soils that can retain too much water, leading to root rot.

6. Temperature: Crocodile ferns prefer temperatures between 60-75°F (15-24°C). They can tolerate slightly cooler temperatures, but avoid exposing them to extreme cold drafts or freezing conditions.

7. Fertilization: Feed your crocodile fern with a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). Dilute the fertilizer to half strength and apply it according to the package instructions. Avoid overfertilizing, as it can burn the delicate roots of the fern.

8. Pruning: Remove any yellow or brown fronds regularly to maintain the overall health and appearance of the plant. Use clean pruning shears or scissors to make clean cuts at the base of the frond where it connects to the main stem.

9. Repotting: Crocodile ferns generally prefer slightly crowded conditions, so they don’t need repotting frequently. However, if your fern has outgrown its current pot or the potting medium has become compacted, you can repot it in a slightly larger container using fresh potting mix. Spring or early summer is the best time to repot.

By following these care tips, you can provide the ideal conditions for your alligator fern to thrive and enjoy its unique beauty. Remember to observe your plant closely and adjust your care routine as needed based on its specific requirements and response.