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Plant Profile: Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum)

Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern

I love good-looking foliage and Japanese Painted Fern has the most beautiful foliage of any plant I know. This deciduous fern emerges in my garden showing deep purple and then opens up to show its finely cut blue-green foliage with red midribs and a silvery and burgundy blush. It has a mounding habit and the fronds grow in such a way that they produce a horizontal layered look similar to that of a dogwood tree. In addition, it is easy to grow and multiplies steadily into good sized colonies if given moist, well-drained, acidic soil. It can tolerate some sun if given plenty of water and looks great in a woodland setting And by the way, it was the Perennial of the Year in 2004.

Type: Deciduous fern (it dies down in winter but comes back every year).

Bloom: None (ferns do not flower; they are grown for their foliage) Blue-green fronds variegated with silver and a hint of burgundy.

Size: 18” H x 18” W.

Light: Partial Shade to shade. They tolerate some sun if well watered but will loose their color in too much sun.

Soil: High in organic matter; acid pH 5.5-6.5.

Fertilizer: Do not fertilize; mulch with organic matter.

Hardiness: Zones 3-9.

Care: Use a compost of peat moss in spring to maintain acid pH; cut away dead fronds in spring.

Pests and Diseases: none of importance

Propagation: Division of rhizomes

Companion Plants: Blue-green leafed Hosta, pink astilbe, Tiarella, old fashion bleeding heart, columbine, Heuchera ‘Silver Scrolls’, sweet woodruff, Lenten rose.

Outstanding Selections: ‘Pictum’ (also known as ‘Metalicum’) is readily available but others may be found, including ‘Ursula’s Red’ deep burgundy with silver; ‘Burgundy Lace’ with redder blush than ‘Pictum’; ‘Red Beauty’ with redder midrib and veins than ‘Pictum’.

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