Macho Fern Growing Guide

macho fern

Macho ferns (Nephrolepis biserrata) are large tropical ferns with long fronds and foliage. These ferns can grow up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) long and can be grown indoors and outdoors, depending on the climate. Macho ferns are relatively easy to grow, if you know how to do it. Macho ferns are endemic to Florida, Mexico, the West Indies, southeast Asia and Africa.

If you have a lot of room indoors and you are missing a big green plant, you’re in the right place. In this article, we will provide adequate information on how to care for the Macho fern, how to water it, what soil to plant it in, how much light it demands and so on.

Macho Fern Care

Macho ferns are tropical understory plants. The ideal location for a macho fern is a warm, humid and moderate light. A bathroom with large windows would be perfect for the Macho fern. Nephrolepsis biserrata are easy to grow but need a lot of watering.

Young macho ferns should be repotted at least every two years since they grow quite a lot. By providing more space for the roots, the plant will grow bigger easily.

Common Names

Macho fern is also known as Coarse sword fern, Great sword fern or Broad sword fern.


Macho ferns can be grown outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 10. In colder climates, some prefer to grow this tropical fern outdoors during summer and bring the plant indoors for the winter.

The perfect temperature range for growing a Macho fern is 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 27 degrees Celsius). Temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) will start damaging the plant, as well as temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius).

Macho ferns prefer very high relative humidity conditions (over 70 %rh), which can be hard to achieve indoors. Especially in colder climates during winter. There are a couple of ways to solve this.

One way would be to continuously mist the plant with water. The second way would be to buy an air humidifier, which can be expensive when trying to raise indoor humidity levels by more than 50 %rh. Growing Macho fern in a bathroom would be ideal since showering and bathing will raise the humidity level.

Macho fern in a hanging basket
Macho fern in a hanging basket Source: Starr


Like most plants, Macho ferns need light to grow. However, these tropical ferns are understory plants and are used to shade. Bright or moderate indirect light is ideal. Full sun will scorch the foliage easily.


Macho ferns demand quite a lot of water. The soil should be kept moist, but not soggy at all times, do not let the soil dry out. When traveling for longer periods ask for friends or family to water the plant for you.

Soil & Fertilizer

Macho ferns thrive in well-draining, light, rich, and slightly acidic soil. Regular potting mix will be troublesome for this tropical fern. Make the perfect growing medium by adding peat moss, orchid bark, and perlite to regular potting soil.

Young tropical Macho ferns will appreciate feeding quite often, about every two months. Established Macho ferns will be happy with just two feeding sessions annualy.

Feed Macho ferns with an all-purpose fertilizer during the growing season, from spring to fall.

macho fern
Macho fern in a garden Source: Serres

Growing Macho Fern Indoors and Outdoors

Macho ferns can be brought outside to get a glimpse of the sun during warmer months, this will likely help with the growth. Ensure you will not run into additional problems while doing this.

  • Place Macho fern in a spot with adequate shade from full sun
  • Make sure the temperatures are not too low for the plant, especially during the night
  • When bringing the plant back indoors, be on the lookout for pests, preemptive measures such as quarantining the plant and applying insecticide can be necessary.


Macho ferns are most easily propagated by rhizome division:

  1. Gently remove a mature Macho fern from the container
  2. Cut off a part of the rhizomes with a sharp, sterilized tool
  3. Plant the cuttings in growing medium
  4. Water deeply
  5. Care for them as described before .

Pests & Diseases

Macho ferns do not have any known diseases, except for root rot, which is most likely caused by overwatering.

Aphids, scales, fern mites, and mealybugs are pests that may infest your glorious Macho fern. Use insecticides, rubbing alcohol, or neem oil to get rid of these pests.

Final Thoughts

Macho ferns are big tropical ferns that are easy to grow in high-humidity environments. Their large green fronds will add a tropical feel to any indoor setting. Keep the soil moist, provide it with indirect light and be cautious of nasty pests!

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