Japanese Painted Fern

Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’

Description & Overview

Japanese Painted Fern is a showstopper in any woodland garden, with silvery blue fronds and pulsing burgundy veins brighten up a shady location. Great for mass planting or border, this fern is a proven performer in our local soils. Contrasting nicely with an array of shade perennials or at the base of a specimen tree planting, Japanese Painted Fern is versatile in the landscape.


Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: No – Introduced
Mature Height: 12-18″
Mature Spread: 24-30″
Growth Rate: Perennial
Growth Form: Upright, spreading
Light Requirements: Partial Shade to Full Shade
Site Requirements: Moist, organically rich soil
Flower: Insignificant
Bloom Period: NA
Foliage: Silvery fronds with burgundy, wine-red accents
Fall Color: None
Fruit Notes: NA

Suggested Uses:

Ferns are most used in mass plantings as a bedding or border, as a groundcover, or as an understory plant. With the Japanese Painted Ferns’ unique eye-catching color display, it can also make a beautiful specimen plant in a shade garden. Combined with other shade-loving perennials and ferns in a moist site, this silvery-accented perennial will speak for itself when allowed to naturalize an area. It is also suitable for use in a rock garden.

Wildlife Value:

As a dense groundcover when left to naturalize, it can create cover and protection from predators for small mammals as well as provide a cool place during the heat in summer.

Maintenance Tips:

Pruning is unnecessary, and when sited correctly, requires little to no maintenance. Every few years, Japanese Painted Fern can be divided into thirds if needed. To maintain good plant health, site in a shady location with moist organically rich soil.

Pests/Problems:

Deer and rabbit-resistant, this fern has no major pest or disease issues.

Leaf Lore:

The Perennial Plant Association’s 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year, Japanese Painted fern is a staple in any woodland garden. A trial conducted by Richard Hawke at the Chicago Botanic Gardens which rated over a dozen painted ferns solidifies the hardiness and performance abilities of Athyrium niponicum.

Companion Plants:

Combine with other shade perennials such as Jack Frost Brunnera, Patriot Hosta, Fanal Astilbe, Variegated Solomon’s Seal, and Lungwort. Contrast with purple-leaved Hillside Black Beauty Snakeroot or darker-leaved Coral Bells. Create a mass planting in combination with other ferns such as Ghost Fern or Sensetive Fern for a woodland garden setting.




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