Japanese Painted Fern Synonym: Athyrium goeringianum Beautiful, easy to grow low-maintenance perennial. Japanese Painted Fern is a dwarf fern and one of the showiest ferns for shade gardens. Emerging fronds are metallic pewter with a reddish/bluish blush, burgundy stems. Mature fronds hold color and contrast with emerging fronds to form a compact clump. Very cold hardy (including southern parts of zone 3). Naturalizes well by short, branching rhizomes and can form dense colonies in optimum growing conditions. Good for borders.
Clumps can grow to two feet wide and can be divided in early spring every 3-4 years. Good for erosion control. Winter dormant (fronds may be trimmed to the ground in late fall or early spring). Spacing: 12 to 16 inches, mature height 12"-16", deer resistant. Moderate growth rate.
Japanese painted fern provides a nice contrast to other shade-loving perennials such as hosta, astilbe and coral bells. In the south, a few hours of morning sun will bring out the high colors. In the north they will take more morning sun without sunburning. Colors are more intense in the spring or in cooler temperatures or in cooler climates such as the Northwest. Thrives best when you add 2-3 inches of compost or peat moss to the beds each spring or fall.
Extremely reliable when grown in the proper environmental conditions. Its colorful foliage should be vibrant from early spring until frost, when it will go dormant and reemerge with its excellent foliage the next spring. Japanese painted fern performs best in well-drained but moist soil with added organic compost or peat moss. Flourishes where moisture and humidity abound, soil must not be allowed to dry out.
The Perennial Plant Association has named Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum' the 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year. Some also refer to this as the Japanese Lady Fern, but that is not correct.
Athyrium niponicum is a species of fern in the genus Athyrium, native to eastern Asia in Japan, northern China, Korea and Taiwan. It is a deciduous herbaceous plant, with a whorl of fronds growing from the basal rootstock. The fronds are 25-40 cm tall and 15-25 cm broad, pinnate, with 6-10 pairs of pinnae 4-9 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, deeply lobed, bright green with a dark red-brown stem in the wild plant, with the spore-bearing sori on the underside of all of the pinnae.