How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Japanese Painted Ferns

This hanging, noteworthy plant has obtained a number of awards for its magnificence and relevance within the gardening world. In 2004, this fern was named the Perennial Plant of the Yr by the Perennial Plant Affiliation, an award reserved for just one plant per yr. 

The Royal Horticultural Society has additionally acknowledged the plant and awarded it the celebrated Award of Backyard Benefit to the species. It isn’t obscure why these awards have been rightfully given. That is one beautiful plant. 

In order for you a shocking addition to the shade backyard, you’ve come to the best place. This shade-lover is gorgeous and comparatively straightforward to take care of. Let’s have a look at this fascinating plant and focus on methods to plant, develop, and take care of the Japanese painted fern


Close-up of a Japanese Painted Fern plant in the garden. Its fronds are a vibrant combination of silvery-gray and burgundy, with a delicate and feathery texture.


A fan of full shade

Watering Necessities


Pests & Ailments

Snails, Slugs, Leaf Scorch

Soil pH

5.5-7.0 Acidic, Impartial

Historical past

Close-up of lush fern foliage in the garden. The Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) is known for its unique and visually striking foliage. Its fronds are finely divided, feathery, and display a captivating combination of silvery-gray and burgundy hues.
The recognition of this fern led to its introduction within the Americas, and its ease of care makes it a favourite amongst gardeners.

This fern selection has an extended historical past of use in Japanese panorama design. Actually, it has been used on this manner for hundreds of years, as its magnificence and sweetness are an exquisite complement to different backyard vegetation. With its distinctive leaf colours and texture, phrase of this fern has traveled exterior of its native vary and is now fairly standard in many alternative elements of the world. 

The favored fern started to realize notoriety exterior of its native vary because it made its technique to Europe within the Eighties. In the course of the Victorian Period, ferns turned standard parlor vegetation, and this species was particularly prized for its distinctive foliage. 

From there, the plant didn’t take lengthy to journey to the Americas. Its ease of propagation and relative ease of care have contributed to its reputation, and at the moment, it’s a favourite amongst many achieved gardeners.

Native Space

Top view, close-up of four Athyrium niponicum var. pictum on a stone covered with moss, in the forest. The Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) boasts distinctive fronds with bluish-green, finely divided leaflets, creating a delicate, feathery texture.
This fern, native to Jap Asia, adorns shade gardens with its hanging foliage and stylish look.

Because the identify suggests, Japanese painted fern is native to Jap Asia, together with Japan, China, and Korea. It has been used on this area for hundreds of years to brighten shade gardens, with its beautiful and distinctive foliage and swish kind. 


Close-up of an Athyrium niponicum plant in a shady forest. Athyrium niponicum, commonly known as the Japanese Painted Fern, features exquisite leaves characterized by a graceful and finely divided structure. The fronds showcase a captivating blend of silvery-gray and burgundy hues, creating a striking contrast.
This shade-loving plant has colourful foliage and is appropriate for in-ground and container plantings.

Like different ferns, this selection is a shade plant that likes wealthy, moist soil and performs greatest when stored out of direct daylight. Some cultivars are smaller, rising not more than six to 12 inches tall, whereas others are identified to succeed in heights of as much as three ft tall and extensive. 

The foliage is colourful and extremely ornamental, which has precipitated no small rise within the plant’s reputation through the years. It’s an herbaceous perennial that performs effectively within the floor or as a container plant, forming a dense, low mound of nice, toothy leaves on lengthy, swish stems. 

The foliage coloration varies, with some varieties sporting silvery leaves veined with shiny purple and others flushed with a deep shade of crimson. It’s hardy in zones 4-9. As a perennial fern, the foliage dies again within the winter, however the roots are cold-tolerant. In spring, the fern will return as sturdy as ever.

Makes use of

Close-up of an Athyrium niponicum plant with lush feathery foliage. Japanese Painted Fern features eye-catching foliage characterized by its finely divided, delicate fronts. These leaves exhibit a striking blend of silvery-gray and purple hues.
This fern is favored for decorative landscaping, offering coloration and texture, and it’s secure for pets and people.

The Japanese painted fern is primarily used as a decorative plant standard in panorama design. Its low, mounding development behavior and engaging foliage make it significantly standard as a foreground plant within the shade backyard. 

This plant provides vital coloration, texture, and magnificence to the backyard. It’s thought-about non-toxic to pets and people, making it a secure plant for all areas, even indoors with curious pets. It has no identified makes use of exterior of its decorative worth, though the younger shoots are edible and are often used on this vogue.

The place to Purchase

The supply of this fern varies primarily based on the rarity of the range. Some extra frequent varieties are straightforward to find on the native nursery. Rarer varieties will possible require some searching and should have to be bought on-line. Due to their ease of propagation, it’s not troublesome to find most varieties this fashion.


Close-up of new leaves of a Painted Japanese Fern emerging in late spring. The leaves are finely divided, displaying a delicate and feathery structure. They are silvery-gray with purple central stems.
In spring, transplant fastidiously to permit root development earlier than winter.

Ferns must be transplanted within the spring to make sure ample root institution and development earlier than the winter. Their roots are considerably fragile, so care must be taken when dealing with them in order to not break or injury the basis tissue. In case you are transferring this plant from one location to a different, one of the best time is within the early spring whereas it’s nonetheless dormant. 

The quantity of area that the fern wants relies on the range, however on the whole, give your painted fern about two ft of area all the way in which round to stop overcrowding. These ferns will unfold beneath favorable circumstances, forming a big clump or colony in a hedgelike form. 

Select a spot within the backyard with not more than partial solar (fewer than 4 hours of direct solar day by day), because the leaves will look their greatest beneath low mild circumstances. They require fixed moisture to determine robust roots, significantly within the first yr. Ensure to maintain your ferns effectively watered when they’re younger.

Tips on how to Develop

Ferns, on the whole, are usually not fussy about their care, however they do have some particular wants that, when not met, can spell catastrophe for the plant. In step with different vegetation of the identical household, the painted fern must be planted within the correct area and given the correct care to look and carry out its greatest. 


Close-up of an Athyrium niponicum plant in a forest under dappled sun. The leaves of Athyrium niponicum, commonly known as the Japanese painted fern, are delicate and finely divided, with a lance-shaped outline. They feature a graceful and feathery appearance, composed of multiple pairs of pinnae (leaflets) that are alternately arranged along the stem. The coloration is a striking combination of silvery-gray or metallic green with contrasting maroon midribs and veins.
This plant thrives in partial morning solar, as extreme afternoon daylight could cause fading and leaf injury.

By way of daylight, this fern has comparable must different ferns. As an understory plant, the perfect mild scenario is partial morning solar. This selection is greatest identified and beloved for its uniquely colourful leaves and stems. The colours are most vibrant and vary from gray to blue to purple when not uncovered to an excessive amount of warmth or daylight. 

An excessive amount of harsh afternoon mild will trigger the foliage to fade. It may well even burn if the sunshine is just too intense. Whereas they’ll develop in practically full shade, they may respect a number of hours of morning daylight when the publicity is cooler and fewer intense. 

An excessive amount of mild and warmth will scorch the fragile leaves, inflicting them to fade and dry out. Purple tones would be the first colours affected by an excessive amount of solar. If you happen to discover the crimson tones fading, there’s a good likelihood that it’s getting an excessive amount of publicity. 


Close-up of Athyrium niponicum plant leaves with water drops in the forest. The leaves of the Japanese painted fern are elegant and feathery with a lance-shaped structure, consisting of multiple leaflets on each side of the stem. The leaves are silvery-green with a purple tint.
Preserve constantly moist, however not waterlogged, soil for a wholesome fern.

Moist however not soggy soil is greatest for this fern. Maintain your fern proud of constantly moist soil. Keep away from waterlogged soil.

An underhydrated fern is extra prone to endure from solar overexposure than a hydrated one. Nonetheless, a fern in soggy soil is prone to root rot. That is usually a loss of life sentence by the point you discover the injury. 


Close-up of fern frond in the garden. A fern frond consists of a main stem, with numerous smaller leaflets, arranged in a feathery structure. These leaflets have a finely divided or lobed appearance.
These ferns can thrive in acidic soil with some moisture-holding capability, ideally loamy soil.

They’ll thrive in additional acidic soil than most vegetation can tolerate. It doesn’t want an distinctive quantity of vitamins, however it does want soil that holds some moisture. Loamy soil with loads of natural matter is right for this plant. 

As a result of the plant wants a soil kind that holds some moisture, drainage is sort of vital. This isn’t the best plant for swampy soil. The roots are considerably delicate, making them extra prone to fungus and root rot. 

Temperature and Humidity

Close-up of an Athyrium niponicum plant growing among other plants in a garden, in the sun. Japanese painted fern boasts distinctive fronds with a fine, lacy structure featuring lance-shaped leaflets that are alternately arranged along a central stem, giving it a graceful, feathery appearance. The fronds exhibit a captivating coloration of silvery-gray, burgundy, and gree.
It thrives in gentle, humid circumstances just like their native woodland habitat.

Gentle and humid local weather circumstances are most favorable. In its native atmosphere, ferns are woodland understory vegetation. They’ll tolerate some heat climate so long as they’ve sufficient water and safety from the solar. 

These ferns are surprisingly cold-hardy, with roots that survive from zones 4-9 and even zone 3 beneath the best circumstances. Humidity is a crucial issue on this plant’s well being, because it gained’t tolerate arid climates. A 40-60% humidity stage will hold your fern glad and wholesome.


Close-up of an Athyrium niponicum leaf against a blurred foliage background. Up close, an Athyrium niponicum leaf reveals a finely textured and delicate structure. The individual leaflets are lance-shaped and intricately divided into smaller segments, creating a lacy, almost fern-like appearance. The leaflets exhibit a captivating coloration of silvery-gray, burgundy, and green, with a subtle silver overlay along the edges.
Fertilization could also be pointless in case your soil is wealthy in natural matter and vitamins.

Japanese painted ferns are usually not heavy feeders and don’t want common fertilization. When you’ve got amended your soil or it already accommodates loads of natural matter, you might not must fertilize this plant in any respect. Vitamins can be simply out there to the plant if the soil is wealthy and acidic sufficient.

If you happen to determine to fertilize, it is best to solely accomplish that as soon as yearly. You possibly can fertilize with a single software with a slow-release, balanced fertilizer, reminiscent of a 10-10-10 formulation. Solely fertilize as soon as yearly in spring to encourage regrowth after the plant’s dormant interval. 


Close-up of Athyrium niponicum plant with mulched soil. The plant produces elongated, branched leaves revealing a complex yet delicately structured composition. The leaflets exhibit a fine texture and are lance-shaped, featuring a remarkable array of colors including silvery-gray, burgundy, and green, with a hint of metallic or iridescent sheen. Stems are purple in color.
Trim lifeless foliage for aesthetic functions or take away diseased fronds for improved plant well being.

This plant doesn’t require pruning, though you might wish to trim off the earlier yr’s lifeless foliage in spring, after the specter of frost has handed, and earlier than the brand new foliage emerges. That is solely for aesthetic functions, and leaving the previous foliage intact won’t injure the plant or inhibit new development. 

If you happen to discover any lifeless or diseased fronds all through the rising season, it’s completely nice to trim these away, as it will add to the general attractiveness and well being of the plant. In any other case, they’re low-maintenance and don’t require any particular care.

Rising in Containers

Close-up of leaves of the Athyrium niponicum plant hanging from a stone edging in the garden. Athyrium niponicum fronds reveal a stunningly intricate display of finely textured and delicately structured leaflets. These lance-shaped leaflets are exquisitely adorned with a captivating blend of colors, including silvery-gray, burgundy, and green. The stems are thin, graceful, purple in color.
You possibly can efficiently develop them in pots by offering ample area, correct mild, and publicity circumstances.

Japanese painted ferns might be efficiently grown in pots when supplied with sufficient area, the best publicity, and light-weight circumstances. These ferns don’t wish to be root-bound, so select a container barely bigger than the nursery pot to permit your plant some room to develop. 

The width of your container is extra vital than the depth, as these ferns do not need deep roots, however they do unfold. A clay pot is a superb device for regulating soil moisture. I’m a giant fan of normal terracotta pots as a result of they create a very good steadiness of moisture for outside vegetation and age properly, too.


Close-up of a young japanese painted fern, in a pot on a white background. The plant has elongated fronds that showcase an intricate tapestry of lacy, lance-shaped leaflets arranged along the stem. The fronds display a mesmerizing blend of silvery-gray, burgundy, and green hues that seem to shimmer with a subtle iridescence.
Spore propagation includes making a sterile, humid atmosphere, whereas division is an easier methodology.

You possibly can propagate by spores or division. Division is the simpler methodology, however when you’re up for a problem and have the time, propagating ferns with spores is a captivating course of and greater than slightly satisfying if you see these fern infants rising. 

Propagation from spores is a unique course of than from seed. It includes creating a selected atmosphere that’s sterile and humid and mimics the pure atmosphere wherein spores sometimes germinate. It requires plenty of endurance, and your fern infants will want constant moisture and humidity for a number of months earlier than they are often planted.

Due to the sophisticated nature of propagating from spores, most ferns are propagated by division. It is a a lot easier course of that solely requires the gardener to dig up the fern, separate a portion of the rhizome and the foliage hooked up, and plant them independently of the guardian plant. 

There are a selection of hybrid sorts of Japanese painted ferns. Some have been bred for distinctive coloration, others for dimension, and nonetheless extra for hardiness properties. 

Burgundy Lace

Close-up of Athyrium niponicum var. Pictum 'Burgundy Lace' on a blurred background. Its fronds are finely textured and feathery, with a lance-shaped structure, and they exhibit a captivating combination of silvery-gray, burgundy, and green hues.
This small to medium-sized fern produces silvery inexperienced leaves with everlasting burgundy veining.
botanical identify

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum ‘Burgundy Lace’
solar necessities

A fan of full shade

hardiness zones


‘Burgundy Lace’ is a small to medium-sized fern with a stunning coloration sample. The brand new foliage emerges solely a stunning garnet coloration. As they age, the leaves mature to a silvery inexperienced with a sheen to the floor, however the veining and midribs retain their burgundy coloration completely. 

Crested Surf

botanical identify

Athyrium niponicum ‘Crested Surf’
solar necessities

A fan of full shade

hardiness zones


‘Crested Surf’ is among the extra cold-tolerant varieties, with a tolerance all the way in which north to zone 3.

It has muted crimson stems, midribs, and veining on silvery inexperienced leaves. This selection additionally has the distinctive trait of double-crested frond suggestions, including a extra ornamental air to the plant.


Close-up of Athyrium niponicum var. Pictum 'Godzilla'. Its fronts are lush, finely textured, and intricately lobed, forming a strikingly large and vigorous structure. The coloration features a rich blend of silvery-gray, burgundy, and green, with a bold and pronounced burgundy midrib running down the center.
This huge fern, with purple midribs and veining on inexperienced leaves, can attain as much as three ft tall.
botanical identify

Athyrium niponicum ‘Godzilla’
solar necessities

A fan of full shade

3’ tall and 5’-6’ unfold
hardiness zones


This number of epic proportions has beautiful purple midribs and dusty inexperienced leaves. The purple extends into the veining of the person leaves, making a really hanging mixture.

As you may most likely deduce from the identify, this can be a massive selection, reaching as much as three ft tall with an expansion twice its peak. It’s much less cold-tolerant than some varieties however no much less hanging. 

Ursula’s Purple

Close-up of Athyrium niponicum var. Pictum 'Ursula's Red' on a blurred background. Its fronds are finely textured and lance-shaped, exhibiting a remarkable combination of silvery-gray, burgundy, and green hues. This variety has a vibrant burgundy-red coloration that dominates the fronds, creating a visually striking contrast against the silvery-gray and green tones.
‘Ursula’s Purple’ is a compact fern with silvery-green leaves that includes crimson midribs and veining.
botanical identify

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum ‘Ursula’s Purple’
solar necessities

A fan of full shade

hardiness zones


A smaller selection, ‘Ursula’s Purple’ has silvery-green foliage accented with deep crimson midribs and veining. The colour of the foliage fades with age, changing into extra silver and fewer inexperienced. It is a slow-growing fern, so it’s nice for smaller areas and gained’t overcrowd rapidly.

Frequent Issues

Close-up of a snail on a young fern leaf against a blurred background. A snail is a gastropod mollusk with a distinctive appearance characterized by a coiled, spiral-shaped shell on its back. It has a soft, slim body with a muscular foot used for locomotion.
Ferns are typically immune to pests and ailments, although occasional snails or slugs may be seen.

Japanese painted ferns are much less prone to pests aside from the occasional snail or slug. Most pests and different critters will sometimes keep away from this plant. It’s comparatively disease-free.

The environmental points that these and plenty of different ferns face embrace root rot, which is mostly the results of overwatering or poor drainage, and leaf scorch. Leaf scorch, typically referred to as leaf scald or sunscald, outcomes from an excessive amount of solar, which burns the leaves. Scorched leaves imply it must be moved to a shadier spot. 

If the leaves seem light with lighter areas, that is sunscald. In case your leaves flip brown towards the sides, your fern most likely wants extra water. Ferns like moist soil, and with out sufficient moisture, the ends of the frond would be the first place the place this exhibits.

Incessantly Requested Questions

They’ll, however they have to be positioned in a cool, humid atmosphere. Place your fern in a spot that will get dappled or oblique daylight, and ensure the humidity stays above 50% across the plant.

No, it’s a clumping grower that spreads moderately slowly, so it’s not thought-about invasive. That is a simple plant to handle and management the unfold of.

Sure, deer don’t appear to have a lot of a style for ferns on the whole, probably due to their texture. They have an inclination to keep away from vegetation which can be fuzzy, thorny, or floppy.

Closing Ideas

Japanese painted fern is an exquisite and low-maintenance addition to the shade backyard. The place many vegetation refuse to develop, this fern thrives in cool, moist, and principally shaded circumstances. They make an exquisite border and mingle splendidly with small flowering shade vegetation for added coloration and texture. 

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