Japanese Painted Fern

By: C. Colston Burrell
Close up detail of Japanese painted fern.
Japanese painted fern is unusual in that it has multicolored foliage. sarah beard buckley / Getty Images

Everyone knows ferns have green fronds, but obviously no one told the Japanese painted fern. This plant is unusual in that it has multicolored foliage. That attribute alone would be enough to ensure its popularity, but it is also an easy-to-grow fern that would be attractive even if it were all green.

Description of Japanese painted fern: The deeply cut fronds grow to 1 feet long and about 1 foot high. Each leaflet is a spectacular combination of purple, lavender, and silver on a green base. The fronds are deciduous, dying back when touched by hard frost. Ease of care of Japanese painted fern: Easy.


Growing Japanese painted fern: Plant in rich, damp soil in partial to full shade. The Japanese painted fern is slow growing, forming clusters that gradually increase in size over a number of years.

Propagating Japanese painted fern: By division or spores.

Using Japanese painted fern: An attractive fern for border and foundation plantings and also along pathways in shaded areas. It can also be grown indoors in pots.

Related species of Japanese painted fern: Lady fern (Athyrium felixfemina), native to both the Old and New Worlds, reaches 3 to 4 feet in height with lacy, yellow-green fronds on red or light green stalks. It has a general vase-shaped growth habit: narrow at the base, broad at the top. It spreads quite abundantly when happy.

Scientific name of Japanese painted fern: Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'


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