Japanese Painted Fern

This perennial accents the other plants in your shade garden with unique silver-toned leaves.

Colorful Combinations

Unlike other ferns, Japanese painted ferns don't have a simple green texture and color. They're one of the best silver-leaved plants for your garden. Many ferns offer great texture to a space, but few 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.

Each feathery frond's rachis, or midrib, is typically a lovely burgundy color that transitions to smaller, gray-green leaflets of silver-white as they progress to the tips. They're pieces of natural art and accent other garden plants beautifully—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

Most ferns can be more temperamental than your average garden perennial. The most important thing to remember is that these ferns can't 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. They'll typically sport the most vibrant colors with some direct sunlight. The best exposure is morning sun, so there's 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, though no less beautiful.

Most ferns need constant moisture. However, once established, Japanese painted ferns can become drought tolerant. Regardless, keeping these plants evenly moist for the most vigorous growth is best. Their ideal soil condition is rich in well-draining organic matter.

Ferns make excellent garden plants because they typically have very few problems. Japanese painted ferns are relatively slow-growing, so there's little risk of them becoming too aggressive and choking out neighboring plants. In ideal conditions, they can form large clumps and be considered groundcovers. As they grow, you can dig up and divide your Japanese painted ferns to help continue to spread them around. If they're thriving, you may even see some sporelings pop up.

More Varieties of Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern Overview

Description 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.
Genus Name Athyrium
Common Name Japanese Painted Fern
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 2 feet
Foliage Color Gray/Silver, Purple/Burgundy
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Groundcover

Lady in Red lady fern

Lady in Red
Clint Farlinger

Athyrium filix-femina 'Lady in Red' has distinctive red stems. Compared to most other ferns, it is relatively tolerant of dry soil. Zones 4-9

Branford Beauty fern

Branford Beauty fern
Clint Farlinger

Athyrium 'Branford Beauty' is a plant with stunning upright silvery fronds with red stems. Zones 5-8

Crested Japanese painted fern

Applecourt fern
Clint Farlinger

Athyrium niponicum 'Applecourt' bears textural, crested fronds marked with silver and burgundy. Zones 5-8

Japanese painted fern

athyrium japonicum pictum
Denny Schrock

Athyrium niponicum pictum is one of the best-known ferns. Its silvery fronds tinged with burgundy make an elegant container or garden accent. Zones 5-8

Painted lady fern

Ghost painted lady fern
Clint Farlinger

Athyrium 'Ghost' has silvery white fronds and an upright growth pattern. Plants reach 2 feet tall and produce new fronds all summer long. Zones 4-8

Silver Falls Japanesse painted fern

Silver Falls silver painted fern
Clint Farlinger

Athyrium niponicum 'Silver Falls' has pinkish red stems and reddish purple veins. It's most colorful when it gets a few hours of sun per day. Zones 5-8

Tatting fern

Frizelliae tatting fern
Clint Farlinger

Athyrium filix-femina 'Frizelliae' is a dwarf, 1-foot-tall plant with rounded ball-like leaflets attached to the main stem, resembling a lacy string of beads. It is a type of lady fern. Zones 4-8

Japanese Painted Fern Companion Plants

Lady's Mantle

Yellow Alchemilla Close
Matthew Benson

Lady's mantle looks great in the garden and in a vase. Its scalloped leaves catch rain or dewdrops, making them look dusted with jewels. The chartreuse flowers appear in playful, frothy clusters above the foliage. Lady's mantle is ideal for softening the edge of a shaded path or creating a groundcover in dappled shade.


Lungwort Pulmonaria Benediction
David McDonald

In early spring, lungwort's brilliant blue, pink, or white flowers bloom despite the coldest chill. The rough basal leaves, spotted or plain, continue to be handsome into winter. Lungworts are workhorses planted close as a weed-discouraging groundcover or in borders like edgings or colorful accent plants. Provide high-humus soil that retains moisture. Although lungworts tolerate dry conditions, be alert for mildew.


Justin Hancock

Ajuga is one of the most indispensable groundcovers around. It has many uses and looks great much of the year. Also known as carpetweed or bugleweed, ajuga forms a 6-inch-tall mat of glossy leaves. The leaves are often colored with shades of purple, white, silver, cream, or pink. Individual plants grow as a rosette but intertwine to form a solid carpet that withstands some foot traffic. Blue, lavender, pink, or white flower spikes adorn plants from spring to early summer. Ajuga works in rock gardens, at the front of beds and borders, under leggy shrubs or small trees, along paths, or in other places in your landscaping.

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