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 soft gray-blue as the heat comes, the deep maroon midribs that course through each frond draws 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 that 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. Use Ghost Fern as a border front to shade tolerant shrubs along a walkway, near a patio, or in a naturalized forest setting. Combine with other dark purple or red-toned plants to accentuate 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 plant’s clump-forming habit creates hiding spots from predators and damp, cool areas during the hot summer months.

Maintenance Tips:

Ghost Fern requires little to no maintenance, except for some dividing 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. Ghost Fern will come back good as new in spring regardless of whether it is cut down in fall or not.


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 the plant are known to be toxic to animals and humans – exercise care when siting in areas with 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 recognized 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 or plant in masses with Hostas in front to create a visual cornucopia of greens. Use contrasting colors of Berry Smoothie Coral Bells or Hillside Black Beauty Snakeroot or near Fischer Monkshood in a carefully chosen site for pops of color.

A mix of different varieties such as Cinnamon Fern, Christmas Fern, and Japanese Painted Fern makes a calming site.

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