Macho Fern
Ferns,  Plant Care

Macho Fern (Nephrolepis Biserrata)

Welcome to our guide to the Macho Fern we cover all you need to know about care and propagation

Macho Fern Care Summary

Light needs:Low to medium indirect sunlight.
Watering needs:Check soil weekly, water if top half is dry.
Fertilizer:A balanced feed every few months in the spring and summer.
Soil:Rich peat based compost with perlite.
Temperature:18°C to 25°C (64-77°F).
Where to buy:Try our list of Rare Plant Shops.
Other names:Macho Fern, Nephrolepis biserrata, Broad Sword Fern, Giant Sword Fern.
Common issues:Lack of water and moisture.


Welcome to our guide to the Nephrolepis biserrata a.k.a. the Macho fern. Native to Central and South American tropics, this is a large impressive fern that can grow up to 2 meters (six feet tall) and spreading 1 to 2 meters wide (four to six feet). This is a great architectural plant for darker corners of the room.

See also: Birds Nest Fern Care, Kangaroo Paw Fern, Peacock Fern, Blue Star Fern, Rabbit’s Foot Fern Care, Sprengeri Fern (Asparagus Fern).

Tip: we recommend Etsy for buying plants. Look for the best rated seller you can, and try to buy as close to your home as possible so the plant does not travel too far.

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Light Needs

Low to medium indirect light is best. Like most ferns, the macho like shaded areas if outside and medium to low light indoors, to mimic it’s natural environment where it lives on the forest floor. Bright, direct sunlight can burn the foliage so be careful if grown outdoors.

How Often to Water

Check the soil weekly with your finger and water it if the top half of the soil mix is dry. They like to be moist, but not soaking wet. This ‘finger dip’ method is ideal as it means you won’t under or over water. The fern might need more one week and less the next, due to enrapture changes for example, this method will keep on top of it, so check the soil each week.

Make sure you tip out any excess water from the saucer or external container about 5 minutes after watering so that the soil does not get water logged.

If your macho fern is outside it will need more water during the hotter summer months. If kept indoors, so keep an eye on it.

Macho Fern Fertilizer

Macho ferns do not need fertilizing regularly, but they will grow quicker if you need them in the warmer spring and summer months. You can you a balanced feed every few months. If feeding young plants, use a well diluted feed.


Macho ferns grow in moist soil in their natural environment, but do not like to sit in heavy wet soil. A mix of a rich peat based potting compost (or similar) with perlite is great. Make sure there is twice as much compost as perlite. This gives the plant a rich, airy and well draining compost. You can add some coco coir too if you’re fancy!

When To Repot

Macho ferns will probably need to be repotted every one or two years, depending on how crowded they get. I check the roots of all my plants at easter time and then pot them up if needed before the upcoming growing season.

Macho Fern Humidity

Aim for 70%, like most ferns, they love humidity. You see them thriving in bathrooms. You can mist regularly, or keep it in a humid spot. You can use a wet pebble tray to up the ambient humidity too.

Tip: keep them humid, aim for 70% in the day and they’ll be ok with a bit less at night. You can buy a humidity meter (affiliate link) to keep an eye on maximum and minimum levels.


A good day time range is 18°C to 25°C (64-77°F), and a minimum of 10°C (50°F) at night. Macho ferns are tropical plants and enjoy warmer locations. Average home temperatures are acceptable. If planted outdoors, keep them in a cooler, shady area like under an awning or in the shade of other trees. They are not frost tolerant, so bring them inside before freezing temperatures in autumn.

How To Propagate

Propagate Macho fern by root division when repotting. Cut the root mass into two or three divisions, and repot individually in moist soil. The new plant starts may need more frequent watering and higher humidity until established.

How To Divide A Macho Fern

You can divide a macho fern once it is big enough. Take the plant out of it’s pot and get as much of the soil off the roots as possible. They grow out of rhizomes, and the plants will be connected to each other via the rhizome. You will probably have to break the rhizome, just be careful when you do. You can use a clean knife if the it is too big to cut. You need to take a away a smaller plant with it’s own part of the rhizome. Then pot the plants up separately in soil.

Macho Fern Vs Boston Fern

The macho fern is larger, and a brighter green than the Boston fern.

How To Overwinter Macho Fern

Keep your macho fern in a pot so you can just bring the pot in over winter to protect it over winter.

Why Is My Macho Fern Turning Brown?

The leaves turn crispy and brown from brown from underwatering or sun damage. If the fronds are drooping and sort as well as turning brown then it could be overwatering. Make sure you are watering the plant correctly but not overdoing it. They want to be kept moist but not allowed to dry out or become waterlogged.

Will Macho Ferns Come Back?

They can be fussy and die back, if you look after them they should bounce back. Don’t be tempted to overwater them if they die back, just keep the soil moist.

Do Macho Ferns Like Sun?

They do not do well in full on midday sun, they do best in shade or indirect sunlight.

Can Macho Ferns Be Grown Indoors?

Yes they can be grown indoors in a multitude of growing conditions.

Macho Fern USDA Zone

Zones 9-10.

Other Names

Macho Fern, Nephrolepis biserrata, Broad Sword Fern, Giant Sword Fern.

Where To Buy

Try our list of Rare Plant Shops.

FAQs and Common Problems

How Big Do Macho Ferns Get?

When given the best conditions they can grow huge! They can get to 1.5 meters (6 feet) high and wide.

Should I Cut Back my Macho Fern?

Yes you can cut back older, brown fronds that can draw on the plants energy. You do not need to prune it though.

My Macho Fern Fronds are Fading or Dropping Off…

Check the soil moisture. Either too little or too much water can kill Macho fern, just like any other houseplant. If the soil is bone dry, increase your watering frequency. If the soil is waterlogged, give it a break and let the soil dry out a bit.

Is Macho Fern Toxic To Cats?

Ferns are not toxic to cats, although eating many leaves may cause the cat to vomit, just like anything their digestive system is not meant to handle.

Other Articles You Might Like

Hope you liked our article, you might also like these articles: Birds Nest Fern Care, Blue Star Fern, Rabbit’s Foot Fern Care, Sprengeri Fern (Asparagus Fern).

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Macho Fern
Image Source:
Photo by David J. Stang
CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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