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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Athyrium niponicum var. pictum
JAPANESE PAINTED FERN
Pronounced: a-THIH-ree-um nip-pon-IK-cum
Sunset zones 1-9, 14-24.
USDA zones: 5-8.
Heat zones: 8-1.
Height: 8-12 inches (20-30 cm).
Purple stems with variable, silvery-gray to green fronds.
Part to full shade.
Well-drained, moist soil with added organic compost.
Side dress with compost each year in the fall.
Sow spores when ripe.
Divide in spring or fall.
Rainy Side Notes
Japanese painted ferns light up the shade with colorful foliage that combines well with other shade tolerant plants such as hostas, dicentras and epimediums. The ferns need only an addition of compost to the surrounding soil each year, making them a great addition to a low maintenance shade garden. Light shade provides the best frond colors for these painted ferns. Our cool maritime climate in the Northwest also results in the best frond colors. A. niponicum keeps its color throughout the season until it dies back to the ground in winter.
When establishing plants, Japanese painted ferns need humus rich, moist, well-drained moist soil. These ferns are exceptional in the PNW, but their first few years of life they need constant moisture. Once established they can take drier conditions. They are slow growing so you need to give them a few years to become established. The ferns do not do well when there is competition from other vigorous plants.
Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum' won the 2004 Perennial Plant Association's Plant of the Year award. Athyrium niponicum var. pictum was chosen for the 2004 Great Plant Picks and the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.
Photographed in author's garden.