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Athyrium niponicum var. pictum (Japanese painted fern)

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Hardy fern grow sheet

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum

Japanese painted fern

The most colorful fern around with subtle shades of green, purple and red on a grey-blue background. The color is more intense with some direct sun, preferably morning or late afternoon. Strong-growing and dependable, the lady ferns are great garden plants.

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum LP32 - 32 per flat Availability
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12-18 Inches


18-24 Inches


12 Inches

Bloom Color

USDA Hardiness Zone 4-9

Japanese painted fern Interesting Notes

The Perennial Plant Association's 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year™

Charming throughout the growing season, Japanese painted fern provides a rare departure from the greens of the shade garden with its seemingly hand-painted, airy fronds. The 12-inch fronds are silvery-gray, almost appearing metallic. But the beautiful garnet-colored veins that extend to the tips of the leaflets really steal the show.

Japanese painted fern is one of the most popular cultivated ferns. It is a deciduous fern with a weeping habit which typically grows to 18" tall and features a slowly spreading clump of triangular, variegated fronds (to 20" long). Fronds are a soft grayish-green with an overlay of silvery hues accented by contrasting dark maroon midribs. The spore-producing structure called sori are located in a herringbone pattern along the veins of the pinnules. Synonymous with and sometimes sold as Athyrium goeringianum 'Pictum'. - Missouri Botanical Garden

Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum' is one of many ferns suitable for the rock garden. The species is native to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and other adjacent countries. This plant has been previously known under the names Athyrium goeringianum 'Pictum' and Athyrium iseanum 'Pictum' and may still be offered under those names. The cultivated form 'Pictum' is probably of Japanese origin, differing from the species in its more decorative color. The fronds of a single plant vary in color; the scan shown of two fronds from the same plant illustrate the point. The rachis (upper stem) of the frond varies in the extent of its garnet color, in some fronds extending into the veins of its pinnae (leaflets). Fronds may have varied amounts of a bluish gray color, contrasting well with the green of the lower pinnae and the bluish gray of the upper and outer parts of the frond. The plant's height is usually about 1' (30 cm). North American Rock Garden Society

Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’), wins popularity contests everywhere. The North American Perennial Plant Association deservedly named Japanese Painted Fern as the Perennial Plant of the Year in 2004 – the only fern to have been so honored. The colorful fronds are a collage of varying green shades blended with burgundy and gray. Whirls of deciduous foliage hold this unique and decorative appearance throughout the summer. Frond sizes and colorings can be highly variable, but Casa Flora’s variety is a select highly-colored clone. It is best displayed in filtered shade – direct sun will burn the foliage. Plant it as a focal point in your Zone 4 to 9 gardens where it will gradually spread to form an elegant ground cover. Great plant! - Casa Flora

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum Growing and Maintenance Tips

A. niponicum is an trouble-free landscape plant that prefers evenly moist soils, but will tolerate long periods of drought once it is established. It is best in partial or full shade. Full sun is possible with ample moisture. Leaves color up more with a bit of sun exposure, but can be more vertical and less attractive if they receive too much sun.

Good Substitutions

Japanese painted fern Athyrium 'Godzilla'
lady fern Athyrium filix-femina 'Victoriae'
lady fern Athyrium filix-femina
Japanese painted fern Athyrium niponicum 'Regal Red'

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Shade
Full Shade
Part Sun
Part Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Cut Flower
Cut Flower

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Green Infrastructure
Ornamental Foliage
Propagation Type
Tissue culture