This article was last updated by on

Macho Fern Care – Bulletproof Hacks

The swordlike massive green leaves of Macho fern often fade and wither down under poor care, like underwatering and low humidity.

Macho fern flourishes in bright indirect sunlight with the warmth of about 50-80°F, 60-80% humidity and twice-a-week watering with well-draining loamy soil. They benefit from once-in-six-month fertilization and seasonal pruning of damaged parts with once in 1-2 year repotting.

Read on to learn the care dynamics of Macho ferns to maintain their giant foliage stature so you can boast about it.

Overview of Macho Fern

Macho fern is also commonly known as a ‘giant sword’ or ‘broad sword’ fern due to its large swordlike leaves.

They are tropical evergreen plants native to Florida that easily add aesthetic tropics to your patio.

Scientific NameNephrolepis biserrata
Common NameMacho Fern
Native RegionFlorida
Growth Zone 9a to 11b
Grown ForFeathery, swordlike foliage
Mature SizeUp to 4 feet tall with a spread of 6 feet
Growth RateFast
Growth HabitEpiphytic, Perennial, Erect
FoliageShape: Broad, Swordlike wispy leaf

Texture: Smooth soft leaf

Color: Bright yellowish-green
ToxicityNon-toxic to pets and humans
Common Pests Scales, mealybugs, fern mites, nematodes
Common DiseasesLeaf tip burn

Complete Care Guide for Macho Fern

Macho fern won’t bug you much if you are fetching the right amount of water every now and then.

Quick Care hack of Macho fern
Keep your Macho fern hydrated in moist soil and maintain humidity at a relatively higher level.

1. Sunlight and Temperature

The Macho fern thrives in 4 to 6 hours of daily bright indirect sunlight with a warmth of 50 to 80°F.

Place them a few feet away at the east or north window for a few hours of morning sunlight. If you are in USDA 9a to 10b, place them outdoors under partial shade.

Direct sun and temperature > 80°F can cause wilting, curly, crispy leaves with sunburnt brown patches.

Contrarily, low light and cold drafts result in the leggy, stunted growth of Macho fern alongside leaf discoloration.

Thus, utilize sheer drapes and incandescent lamps (8 to 10 hours) during dark winter days. Also, aim for frost blankets or heat pads to warm Macho fern.

2. Watering & Humidity

Macho ferns despise staying soggy but prefer relatively high humidity of 60 to 80%.

To satisfy their thirst, fetch them rainwater once or twice a week or once the top layer of soil feels dry. Also, regularly mist them using spray bottles.

But do not stick with one hard and fast rule, as in summer, they need more water but once every fortnight suffice in winter.

Poor water or humidity (<35%) causes pale, wilting, yellowing leaves.

Meanwhile, consistent high humidity alongside soggy soil results in root rot and mold formation, attracting pests and fungal diseases.

You can use a moisture meter to gauge the watering needs and aim for bottom watering aided with pebbles.

3. Soil & Fertilizer

To avoid soggy soil, provide your Macho fern with well-draining, airy (6-6.5 pH) soil enriched with organic matter.

Mix peat moss, perlite, a handful of gravel and sandy, loamy soil and throw little compost or manure on top. Voila! The ideal soil mix is ready.

Replenish the nutrients by adding all-purpose fertilizer once in the active growing season. 

That said, they are prone to suffer from overfertilization. So, dilute the strength of fertilizer before use.

Generally, excess fertilizer causes chemical burn and salt build-up leading to root rot.

Moreover, overfertilized Macho ferns have curling leaf tips with brown spots. Thus, avoid fertilizing them in winter.

4. Potting & Repotting

A pot 6 inches wide in diameter is suitable for young Macho ferns. But aim for 8 to 12-inch plastic or a terracotta pot for matured ones.

Similarly, they won’t mind sitting in the same pot for about 1 to 2 years, provided that pot has extra space for roots to grow.

Aim for early spring or summer to repot them once the roots poke out from drain holes.

While repotting, use a pot an inch bigger than the last with multiple drain holes. If not, drill or make one.

Also, loosen the soil by soaking it the night before the repotting day to lower the repot stress.

5. Seasonal Pruning

Light pruning at any time of the year is beneficial for Macho fern but wait till active growth season for heavy pruning.

Moreover, trimming old, decaying or damaged parts benefits ferns by refocusing energy for new growth.

Pruning is crucial when pests like mealy bugs, fern mites and nematodes invade them.

Likewise, infection of Pythium root rot and Rhizoctonia blight also require immediate pruning as a control measure.

Alongside pruning, you can opt for neem oil and appropriate fungicides to treat such issues.

Furthermore, pruning is the only way besides amending improper basic care to treat leaf tip burns.

Macho Fern: All About Growth

Macho fern (Nephrolepis biserrata) is a tropical perennial plant that is often compared with the Boston fern.

They actively unfurl new feathery leaves in spring and summer but stay dormant or inactive in winter.

As they are one of the largest fern species, they attain a height of 4 feet with a spread of 6 feet under ideal care.

Interestingly, single fronds of Macho fern can grow up to 4 feet long.

Green macho fern leaf
Macho fern has bigger leaves than Boston ferns.

Thanks to such wide foliage, they are frequently used as a ground cover and landscaping.

The swordlike feathery leaves have a bright, light green color palette on the reddish hairy stems.

As they are non-flowering plants, they do not produce any flowers.

Toxicity of Macho Fern

Like most true ferns, the Macho fern is also pet-friendly and safe for humans.

According to the ASPCA, the Boston and Macho ferns are not toxic to cats and dogs.

Furthermore, there have been no reports of poisoning in humans.

That said, accidental consumption can introduce minor stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhea. Likewise, your pets and kids may choke on the large leaves.

Thus, place the plant somewhere safe from kids’ and pets’ reach to avoid unpleasant events.

For any accidental houseplant poisoning, you can rely on these hotlines.

Propagation Methods for Macho Fern

The Macho fern can be propagated via root division in early spring for optimal growth.

As they are non-flowering, they do not have the luxury of seed propagation.

However, propagation via spores is possible but is a sophisticated, time-consuming process.

Now, let us gather around tools like a sterilized pruner and fresh potting mix.

Root Division Method

You can divide the mature, healthy-looking Macho fern during the repotting process.

Before uprooting the plant, loosen the soil using the garden forks and thoroughly water them.

  • Clean the root balls using lukewarm water and untangle them.
  • Using a sterilized pruner or trowel, divide the root ball into smaller clumps.
  • Plant the individual division in a small pot filled with fresh potting mix.
  • Thoroughly water them to settle the soil.
  • Keep them in a bright, well-lit place with moderate humidity.
  • Mimic greenhouse using a clear plastic bag to maintain optimal humidity.

After a while, the newly planted division will establish roots but may appear sick, which is normal.

Proceed with regular care, and then you will be golden.

FAQs About Macho Fern

Can Macho fern survive winter?

Within 9a to 10b USDA zones, Macho fern can withstand winter even outdoors.

But they shall be overwintered indoors in zones with much colder temperatures.

What’s the difference between a Macho fern and a Boston fern?

Macho ferns grow larger (4 feet) than Boston ferns and have lighter green foliage. On the other hand, Boston ferns grow small (2-3 feet) with dark green foliage.

Should you mist a Macho fern?

To keep the humidity around Macho fern at an optimal level, you should mist them regularly in the morning.

Wrapping Up…

Macho fern is an easy-going plant that even a beginner gardener can manage to make happy and bushy.

Ensure to water them in time and remember they don’t sit dry for too long to avoid withered-toothed leaves.

All The Best!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like