Ghost Fern

Athyrium x ‘Ghost’

Description & Overview

Ghost Fern is a hybrid of Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’) and Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina), best noted for its combined upright stellar silvery foliage. Showing off its best steely-gray foliage in spring and becoming more soft-gray/blueish as heat comes, the deep maroons midribs that course through each frond draw the eye. Great as a mass planting, in a rock garden, or border this shade tolerant perennial is useful in many settings of the landscape.

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 24-30″
Mature Spread: 18-24″
Growth Rate: Perennial
Growth Form: Upright, spreading
Light Requirements: Partial Shade to Full Shade
Site Requirements: Moist, humus rich soil -sheltered from sun
Flower: Non-flowering
Bloom Period: N/A
Foliage: Silvery fronds with contrasting maroon midribs
Fall Color: None
Fruit Notes: N/A

Suggested Uses:

Typically found in moist forest and woodland settings, Ghost Fern is a dense herbaceous fern that slowly spreads to form clumps of fronds which stand out against any background. Use in a shade garden with rich nutrient dense soil that stays moist, it can tolerate some standing water. Keep out of direct summer sun rays, and in a partial to full shade setting. Can be utilized as a border front to shade tolerant shrubs along a walkway, near a patio or in a naturalized forest setting. Combing with other dark purple or red toned plants pulls out the beauty that lies within this perennial fern.

Wildlife Value:

Ferns help to establish cover and shade for small mammals and insects when left to naturalize areas. The clump forming habits makes way for hiding spots from predators and damp, cool areas during hot summer months.

Maintenance Tips:

Ghost fern requires little to no maintenance, except for some diving throughout the years to allow for healthy new growth uncrowded. It may become slightly “tattered” looking towards the end of the summer season, in which it can be pruned back if necessary, otherwise leave untouched and Ghost Fern will come back good as new in spring.


Susceptible to bleached fronds when it receives too much sun, be sure to site in a sheltered and moist location away from the hot summer rays. Parts of it are known to be toxic to animals and humans, exercise care when planting around children and pets.

It is known to be deer resistant and rabbit resistant.

Leaf Lore:

Introduced by the late Nancy Swell of Virginia, an expert on Ferns and Azaleas, she is highly thanked in the horticulture industry for her contributions. Note that as a cultivated variety there may be restrictions on propagation of Athyrium x ‘Ghost’.

Companion Plants:

Combine Ghost Fern with other shade loving perennials, try creating a backdrop mass planting and placing Hostas in front. Use contrasting colors of Berry Smoothie Coral Bells or Hillside Black Beauty Snakeroot in a shade garden setting. Place near Fischer Monkshood in a carefully chosen site for a POP of color in the shade.

As always, a mass planting of different varieties such as Cinnamon Fern, Christmas Fern, and Japanese Painted Fern make a calming site for sore eyes.

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