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Japanese Painted Fern
Ferns are one of the first things that cross people’s minds when they think of a shade garden, and you would be hard-pressed to find a fern more beautiful than the Japanese painted fern. A beautiful addition to any shade garden, Japanese painted ferns offer unique and intricate texture and color in a world of greens. These ferns have a much finer texture than many other hardy ferns. For the greatest effect, plant them in groups to really magnify the beauty these ferns have to offer.
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Unlike other ferns, Japanese painted ferns are not a simple green texture. They are one of the best silver-leaved plants for your garden. Many ferns offer great texture to a space, but few can say they bring as much to the table as Japanese painted ferns. The fronds of these leaves have such interesting and unique patterns of colors that many look hand painted. In shades of steely gray, frosty white, and deep burgundy, every frond is a piece of art to be admired.
The rachis, or midrib, of each of the feathery fronds is typically a lovely burgundy color that bleeds into the smaller, gray-green leaflets that begin to flush silver-white as they progress to the tips. They are truly pieces of natural art and accent other garden plants so well—whether they act as a stand-alone star or as a soft complement to bold colors and textures in the garden.
Japanese Painted Fern Care Must-Knows
As you might guess by their delicate appearance, most ferns can be more temperamental than your average garden perennial. The most important thing to remember is that these ferns cannot tolerate full sun. Particularly in the harsh afternoon light, the delicate leaves can burn and scorch, ruining their beauty. However, because of their colorful nature, Japanese painted ferns can tolerate part sun quite well, and will typically sport the most vibrant colors with some direct sunlight. The best exposure is morning sun, so there is less risk of burning from afternoon sun and heat. They can also do well in full shade—just expect the colors to be a bit more muted but no less beautiful.
Another common association with most ferns is that they need constant moisture. While this is mostly true, once established, Japanese painted ferns can actually be quite drought tolerant. Regardless, it's best to keep these plants evenly moist for the most vigorous growth. Their ideal soil condition is rich in organic matter and well draining.
One reason ferns make great garden plants is because they typically have very few problems. Japanese painted ferns are fairly slow growing, so there is little risk of them becoming too aggressive and choking out neighboring plants. In ideal conditions, they can form nice large clumps and can be considered groundcovers. Over the years, you can dig up and divide your Japanese painted ferns to help continue to spread them around. If they are extremely happy plants, you may even see some sporelings pop up.