Home Plants Fishtail Fern – Forked Giant Sword Fern

Fishtail Fern – Forked Giant Sword Fern

by gardeningit
Fishtail Fern

Fishtail Fern, popularly known as Fishtail Sword Fern, is a palm-like tropical fern. It is a semi-evergreen plant that has dark-green fronds. Just like the name represents, this plant has fishtail-like, tattered leaves. This medium-sized palm tree looks great as a houseplant. You can grow it in small pots on your patio or home garden. This plant will add a lively factor to your home with its bright-green foliage and lovely appearance.

Let’s learn some of its amazing features and easy care tips.

Common Names

  • Forked Giant Sword Fern
  • Weeping Sword Fern
  • Fishtail Sword Fern


  • Family: Nephrolepidaceae
  • Genus: Nephrolepis
  • Species: N. falcata

About the Genus Nephrolepis

Nephrolepis is a genus of beautiful ferns. Around 30 species have been classified in this genus so far. These species are all the tropical regions around the world.

Origin and Distribution

Fishtail Fern was first discovered and introduced by Antonio José Cavanilles. It is native to Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Fishtail Fern Features

Foliage and Stem

This handsome plant has long bright-green fronds. These fronds can grow 1 foot long. Each frond has fishtail-like, ragged-edged leaves. Abundant fronds grow on numerous branches, giving this plant a fuller appearance.


It is a semi-evergreen plant that loses its foliage for a short period. This happens normally in its dormancy and resting stage. New fronds and foliage grow back in the coming growing season.


This plant can reach up to 3 feet when grown indoors. Its height greatly increases when the surroundings are changed, and this plant is moved outdoors.

Temperature Tolerance

This plant is tolerant of cold temperatures, but it cannot tolerate a hard frost. So just to be on the safer side, you should move this plant indoors in extreme winters.

In summers, keep this plant in a spot where the temperature does not exceed 26°. Never place it near an air conditioner or a fan.

Humidity Tolerance

This plant is not tolerant of low humidity or dry air. If the moisture is far too low than the average humidity, there is a high chance of damaged foliage. Its leaves will start to lose their color and freshness due to dry surroundings. This is why you should try to maintain the humidity by trying different ways.

Drought Resistance

It is a robust plant that can survive periods of drought and low water availability. Not watering this plant for a longer period will lead it to go into dormancy and save its life for good. This is why, if you forget to water it for some days, do not worry; your plant can take care of itself.

Disease and Pest Resistance

This plant is prone to leaf spot disease and various fungal diseases. You should avoid overwatering to prevent these harmful diseases. Spray fungicides on the foliage to get away from any such diseases.

Mealybugs are more attracted to this plant than other smaller pests. These bugs suck sap from the stem and leave the plant weakened. As soon as you notice any such bugs on your plant, remove them right away. You can remove them by rubbing the foliage with a cotton ball dipped in neem oil.


It is a fast-growing plant that produces new fronds now and then. Its growth rate is fastest from early spring to mid-summer, so you should do repotting, propagation, and pruning during these months.

The USDA growth zones for this plant are 10a to 11.


Fishtail Sword Fern is a poisonous plant that must be kept away from children and pets. Its fronds and its berries contain poisonous calcium oxalate crystals that can start harmful reactions in the body. These crystals can cause dermatitis and swelling in the mouth and throat.


You do not have to spend your whole day taking care of this plant. You don’t even have to look after it every day. It is a low-maintenance plant that does not want daily care or maintenance.  You only have to make a schedule for its watering and fertilization. And that’s it.


This plant goes dormant in winters. During those resting months, it does not require any fertilizer or watering. This plant can also enter its dormancy if it is not watered for a longer period.

Fishtail Fern Care

Its care requirements are regular watering and frequent misting. The ideal pH range for its soil is 4.0-7.0. The humidity must be around 70%. The optimum temperature range for its proper growth is 15ºC-25ºC. It needs fertilizer every 20 days. The ideal growth zones are 10a to 11.

Watering Requirements

This plant needs good watering. However, it does not like to sit in soggy soil or standing water. You will have to be very careful not to overwater this plant. You should create a regular schedule for watering it. This is because irregular watering can disrupt its healthy growth. Too much water can cause the tips of its leaves to turn yellow; under-watering can lead to droopy leaves.

Water this Fishtail Fern plant only when 70% of the topsoil is dry. It will require more watering in summers than in winters. Plan your watering schedule accordingly.

Soil Requirements

The Fishtail Fern plant grows best in acidic soil. The ideal pH range for this plant is 4.0 to 7.0. Acidic soil holds nutrients and moisture more effectively than neutral soil, so it is better for this plant. You should use 1 part potting mix and 1 part soil for its pot. Well-draining, medium moisture, organic-rich soil is what keeps its roots and foliage healthy and happy.

A good amount of peat moss and perlite in the potting mix will naturally lower the pH, increase the drainage and moisture-retaining capability of the soil. So you should add these ingredients to the potting mix.


Fishtail fern can tolerate bright sun, but direct sunlight is hazardous to its vibrant foliage. You should place this plant in a spot where it receives bright, indirect sun rays. You can grow it indoors or outdoors; it’s up to you. But you will have to make the necessary arrangement for its safer growth. Because if you do not cover the plant outdoors, its foliage will get burnt due to direct sun rays. And if you place it in low light indoors, its foliage will lose its color.

We recommend you place it near a window indoors or a well-light spot and place it under shade cloth in the home garden.

Temperature Requirements

The warmer temperature range is best suited for Fishtail Fern. As long as the temperature stays around 15ºC to 25ºC, this plant stays happy. If the temperature increases or decreases outside the range, it can affect your plant. The best way to regulate the temperature is to grow this charming fern inside your home. The temperature does not fluctuate much indoors, so your plant will be safe from any temperature injuries.


Just like other ferns, Fishtail Fern prefers a highly humid environment to grow. For this plant to thrive, humidity around it must be above 70%. It is relatively a lot higher than the average humidity inside houses. This is why you should increase the moisture level around this plant in other ways. Using a humidifier is one of them.

However, we do not recommend this to you as it is not cost-effective. You can try other DIY methods as well. Misting is a great way to compensate for the humidity of this plant. You should regularly shower the foliage using a spritzer; it will regulate its transpiration level.


Fishtail fern is a light feeder; it does not need occasional fertilization. You should fertilize it after every 20 days. A balanced fertilizer is best for this plant. Buy a fertilizer that has a 20-20-20 NPK value; it contains all the necessary nutrients. Make sure nitrogen is not in high amounts, as excess nitrogen can burn the leaf tips.

After every 20 days of each growing season, water this fern, dilute the fertilizer, and add it to its soil. Dilution and watering prevent the roots from getting burnt from the fertilization reactions.

Grooming and Pruning

You should trim the dried-up fronds annually to avoid the plant getting a messier appearance. This must be done before the growing season. This is because cutting back old, dried fronds makes space for new growth. Never prune the plant from above. Trimming 2 inches of each frond from the bottom will do the trick.

You should sterilize the shears every time before pruning the plant. This is because unsterilized blades will expose the blades to various deadly infections. You can use isopropyl alcohol or ethanol for disinfecting the shears.


This plant does not require occasional repotting. Repotting is only necessary when the plant has outgrown its present pot or when the plant gets root-bound. If you notice any roots growing out of the drainage hole, re-pot the plant right away.

Every time you re-pot the plant, renew the soil. This will replenish the nutrients for the roots.


The easiest way of Fishtail Fern propagation is through its rhizome or plant division. You must do the propagation at the beginning of the growing season. Propagation in spring will ensure faster growth of the baby plant. Follow these steps to propagate your fern plant.

  • Take a healthy plant and remove it from its pot.
  • Shake off any excess soil.
  • Untangle the roots gently by using fingers.
  • Use a knife to divide the plant into two to three sections.
  • Each section must have healthy rhizomes.
  • Prepare two separate pots.
  • Place both parts of the plant in pots and fill them with potting mix.
  • Water the plants and place them in a well-lit spot.


Fishtail Fern is a beautiful fern from the Nephrolepidaceae family. It is a low-maintenance fern that is widely grown as a houseplant. It can grow in a wide range of light conditions. You can grow it in your home garden as well as in your living room; this plant will stay happy as long as bright, indirect sunlight keeps shining on it.

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