Athyrium niponicum var. pictum

Japanese painted fern

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

Japanese painted fern brings amazing and colorful foliage to the shade garden. The range of silvers and purplish-reds that are overlaid on the fronds brightens any shadowy situation. Although delicate in appearance it is a tough and reliable grower that will perform well in the garden or as a container plant.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: fern

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 1 ft. 9 in. (0.53 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 1 ft. 9 in. (0.53 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9

Flower Color: none

Sun/Light Exposure: open to dappled shade

Water Requirements: regular watering

Seasonal Interest: distinctive spring and summer foliage

Resistant to: deer

Colors & Combos

Great Plant Combinations: Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans, Actinidia kolomikta (male form), Smilacina racemosa, Sarcococca confusa, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

Great Color Contrasts: blue, black

Great Color Partners: white, cream, burgundy, purple

Culture Notes
Japanese painted fern grows best in light, open or dappled shade. In too much sun the foliage will burn by midsummer. It prefers rich well-drained soil, with regular watering. Ferns generally need little fertilizer once established; too much will cause the fragile fronds to fall over as they mature. The fronds can also flop if the plant gets too dry in the summer. If this happens, water the plant well and new fronds will sprout. This fern is almost completely free of insect and diseases and is trouble free once established. The fronds can be cut to the ground in the fall once they turn yellow. Plants are typically grown from spore and can be variable. Select plants with the colors you like best.