Japanese Painted Fern

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum

Family: Dryopteridaceae
Genus: Athyrium (uh-THEE-ree-um) (Info)
Species: niponicum var. pictum
Additional cultivar information:(aka Pictum)
Synonym:Athyrium goeringianum
View this plant in a garden



Foliage Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


12-18 in. (30-45 cm)


15-18 in. (38-45 cm)


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Partial to Full Shade



Bloom Color:


Bloom Time:



Grown for foliage

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From spores

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (2 reports)

Auburn, Alabama

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Scottsdale, Arizona

Mabelvale, Arkansas

Camarillo, California

Livermore, California

Martinez, California

San Francisco, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Clifton, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Hamden, Connecticut

Fruitland Park, Florida

Shalimar, Florida

Alpharetta, Georgia

Athens, Georgia

Cordele, Georgia

Marietta, Georgia (2 reports)

Bloomington, Illinois

Caseyville, Illinois

Cherry Valley, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois (2 reports)

Geneva, Illinois

Hampton, Illinois

Homewood, Illinois

Mount Prospect, Illinois

Peoria, Illinois

Tuscola, Illinois

Washington, Illinois

Greenville, Indiana

Lafayette, Indiana

Oskaloosa, Iowa

Shelby, Iowa

Shawnee Mission, Kansas

Wichita, Kansas

Hebron, Kentucky

Bordelonville, Louisiana

Kennebunkport, Maine

Norridgewock, Maine

Easton, Maryland

Gaithersburg, Maryland

Millersville, Maryland

Beverly, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Dracut, Massachusetts

Middleboro, Massachusetts

Saugus, Massachusetts

West Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Wrentham, Massachusetts

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Cedar Springs, Michigan

Hillsdale, Michigan

Ludington, Michigan

Owosso, Michigan

Pinconning, Michigan

Royal Oak, Michigan

South Lyon, Michigan

Rochester, Minnesota

Young America, Minnesota

Marietta, Mississippi

Kansas City, Missouri

Salem, Missouri

Springfield, Missouri

Manchester, New Hampshire

Neptune, New Jersey

Bellmore, New York

Coram, New York

Hannibal, New York

Jefferson, New York

Montauk, New York

Port Washington, New York

Ronkonkoma, New York

Raleigh, North Carolina (3 reports)

Belfield, North Dakota

Bucyrus, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio (2 reports)

Cleveland, Ohio

Clyde, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio (2 reports)

Coshocton, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio (2 reports)

Glouster, Ohio

Haviland, Ohio

Hilliard, Ohio

Lorain, Ohio

North Ridgeville, Ohio

Saint Marys, Ohio

Williamsburg, Ohio

Enid, Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Gold Hill, Oregon

Oregon City, Oregon

Albion, Pennsylvania

Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Mercer, Pennsylvania

Norristown, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

West Chester, Pennsylvania

Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

Wakefield, Rhode Island

Conway, South Carolina

Hampton, South Carolina

North Augusta, South Carolina

Rock Hill, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina (2 reports)

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Clarksville, Tennessee

Hixson, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee

Lafayette, Tennessee

Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Alvin, Texas

Arlington, Texas

Austin, Texas (2 reports)

Boerne, Texas

Center, Texas

Crockett, Texas

Elgin, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas (2 reports)

Garland, Texas

Houston, Texas

Huffman, Texas

Mc Kinney, Texas

Missouri City, Texas

Plano, Texas

Rowlett, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Weatherford, Texas

Wells, Texas

Provo, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

Leesburg, Virginia

Lexington, Virginia

Newport News, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia

Springfield, Virginia

Ames Lake, Washington

Artondale, Washington

Kalama, Washington

Kirkland, Washington

Olympia, Washington

Poulsbo, Washington

Puyallup, Washington

Vancouver, Washington

Woodland, Washington

Charleston, West Virginia

Parkersburg, West Virginia

Appleton, Wisconsin

Ellsworth, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin

Menasha, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Oct 19, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is an easy, adaptable, deciduous, clump-forming fern, one that's deservedly popular. The silver and burgundy tones are strongest on new fronds but are retained through the life of the frond. New fronds continue to emerge successively throughout the growing season. The colors vary from plant to plant if they are not vegetatively propagated.

This is a clump-former that does not spread by rhizomes. Where happy, it may spread by spores. After several years, clumps may be divided in spring. This is a small fern and several are usually needed to make an impact in the garden.


On Apr 15, 2015, valowal from Lafayette, IN wrote:

I've bought about a dozen painted ferns from various sources, mostly big box stores. I was delight to discover some of them have "tassled" fron tips. A local Master Gardener identified this variety as "Applegate" but I haven't been able to find any more information about it. Is anyone familiar with it?


On Oct 12, 2011, RFriend4 from Gaithersburg, MD wrote:

Had 2 of these for 3 years lanquishing under a Bradford Pear in a raised bed. Was certain they had died at the end of each year but was surprised to see them return the following year. Finally gave them the attention they deserved and moved them to a bed at the edge of some White Pines where they received much more water and unfortunately more attention from rabbits and whitetail deer. However they survived and at least tripled in size. Not sure if the extra acid in the soil or moisture is the reason for success. Probably both. Am anxious to see next years performance.


On Oct 11, 2011, AresDraco from San Francisco, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

LOVE this fern! It does well for me in my cool, damp, half-shade San Francisco garden.

Has anyone propagated this fern? Is it by crown division, or does it spread by rhizomes? I want to plant a rather long bed of these, but the cost to purchase several dozen plants is a bit out of reach right now.


On Oct 11, 2011, prickersnall from Madison, WI wrote:

I love my Japanese Painted Fern, and hope soon to add some other varieties of it. (I've had a change to a new garden and house). Their delicacy and pattern are a great enrichment to a usually-plain, though textured, green background.

Mine is not robust, but it has had to compete with a lot, plus over-hanging lilac boughs. It's future should be literally brighter !

I think one of the maroon-ish ones is called "Ursulla's Red", and there's also something more light-green that's different from the most silvery one, with a similar pattern in it. Being a pattern-lover, of course I'm really ga-ga about this plant !

Incidentally...isn't Texas "full-sun" a lot hotter than mine, here in Wisconsin, due to it's closer proximity to the equator ?


On Oct 10, 2011, pastapicker from Columbus, OH wrote:

I have mine growing under a large maple and they are doing fine in this dry shade for at least 4 years, although I do give some supplemental water if it hasn't rained for about a week. They get some late afternoon sun. The deer which have ravaged most of the yard this year have left these ferns alone.


On Oct 10, 2011, pmcfern from Gig Harbor, WA wrote:

Japanese painted fern is a perfectly beautiful plant for the Puget Sound area. I grow it in full shade with Maidenhair fern, Vancouveria, Hostas and Astilbe. However, the Vancouveria is overtaking it and I am going to try to move it to a new garden this fall. Hope it 'takes' transplanting!


On Jul 9, 2011, vyskol from Brantford, ON (Zone 5b) wrote:

I just purchased this fern and the tag on it says it's hardy to zone 2.


On Jun 10, 2010, John_in_Garland from Garland, TX wrote:

Beautiful small fern. I haven't seen the sun tolerance described by others. First year, mine were sunburning badly with 2 hrs. midday Texas sun. Had to shield them. For next season, moved them into full shade where they are doing well, so don't know if established plants are more sun tolerant.


On Oct 5, 2009, mslehv from Columbus, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

This plant is extremely easy to tranplant by division and will survive under light conditions ranging from full sun to fairly dense shade. However, it's size and appearance is best in partial shade. It is an excellent plant for tough areas such as under a large mature tree. On the downside, it is definitely invasive and forms a dense mat of roots that makes later eradication difficult. You can feel and hear the roots crackle as you dig in with your spade.


On Aug 31, 2009, cam2 from Houston, TX wrote:

Mine came as a bonus plant with my Var. Solomon's seal, so I planted them together in a protected bed off the deck. They both died back in the winter, and the fern was first to immerge last Spring, followed by the Solomon Seal.


On Apr 13, 2009, ival from Arlington, TX wrote:

Here in Arlington, Texas, in our generally rather dry, shady garden, this is one of the few ferns that survives and thrives. (Others include wood ferns and holly ferns.) Absolutely pest-free and much more tolerant of our summer heat and sun than other ferns. And even when I occasionally neglect to water them enough in late summer and they wilt into the ground, next spring up they come again, lush as ever! I unconditionally endorse them to friends here who want to try growing ferns. The silvery foliage makes a bright note in dark, shady areas. Japanese Painted Ferns seem limited only by being decidedly deciduous, which leaves bare spots during winter.


On Dec 30, 2008, ronaldv517 from Hillsdale, MI wrote:

I have had incredible luck with this fern,quite by accident.I have planted about 6 under Japanese Maples and an old Suger Maple.The companion plant with the fern is Sweet Woodruff and Irish moss,about 3yrs ago in the moss I started finding tiny silver ferns as I was weeding in the moss and every year now there are more.I am going to transplant some this spring and hope they can be happy all around my other shaded areas.It has truely been the most exciteing gardening excperience I've had.


On Dec 29, 2008, sunnyCA from Livermore, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I like this plant. I like the look that it provides. I have it planted under my redwood trees. I think the roots of the redwood have hampered the growth of the fern as they barely survive all summer long. They are sluggish and don't do well if I don't give them plenty of water. I will transplant the ferns when spring comes and I can find them. Given the slow growth I still love the color and will keep them in my garden, just not under my redwood trees.


On Dec 29, 2008, jachurch from Apple Valley, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

This fern does very well in my zone 4 Apple Valley, MN, shade garden. The soil here is clay aggregate, but I have been adding mulch for many years. The in-ground sprinkler system gives it regular moisture, but the nearby trees keep it from getting too wet. The plant really brightens the dark area of the garden. It behaves much nicer than my other ferns - doesn't run as widely and doesn't get tall and brackish.


On Jul 14, 2007, DebinSC from Georgetown, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

I had these ferns for 3 years. The one in the pic I posted grows nicely, with no special attention in full shade, damp soil with alot of clay in it. I've let them overwinter, in pots the 1st year, and in ground last winter, and they come back nicely (zone 8). Very nice light color for a shady spot.


On Aug 30, 2005, sanity101 from Dublin, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

Pretty, low, spreading foliage. Unlike many other varegated plants, they do not tend to 'green out' in shady locations, but keep their color. Needs plenty of water in order to thrive. They won't wilt if they are dry, they simply don't grow much.


On Aug 26, 2005, flowercrazy39 from Manchester, NH wrote:

Lovely, lovely plant. No fuss. I have it in mostly shade, part late afternoon/indirect sun. I'd like to get the one with the burgundy leaves to join it.


On Jul 15, 2005, ineedacupoftea from Denver, CO wrote:

I have these in several areas of my garden. Absolutely no one in this hot and dry valley seems to grow ferns at all, as the wind and sun will dry , the Alkalinity (7.5-8) and extreme clay prevent most folks from enjoying gardening at all. However, I have found the Athyriums to be the most robust, especially A niponicum v. pictum. When established, it has taken some insane drought, and it actually survived and grew larger in East sun with some minor sunburn to old fronds. (Until I moved it to a better place) . With a little organic matter, a bit of water, and shade, I think this is the toughest fern I know of!


On Jun 24, 2005, PurplePansies from Deal, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant grows easily for me.... but it isn't all that "painted" it was when I bought it so I know its the right plant but it isn't now. Maybe it needs more sun? Perhaps its only "painted" certain times (like the fall?) As such it doesn't thrill me so much and I prefer native ferns.


On Jun 1, 2005, Gindee77 from Hampton, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

This is a lovely fern that adds texture and color interest to a shade garden. It's very hardy in zone 5.


On Jul 14, 2004, bfroberts from Mount Olive, NC wrote:

The PERFECT fern. Absolutely beautiful and not a water hog like most ferns. I have it planted in full shade, dry acid soil under oaks, comes back vigorously every year.


On Jun 2, 2004, Gayle0000 from Bloomington, IL wrote:

Central IL, Zone 5b: I have 2 growing in moist soil (it's a poor drainage area). Soil is moist all the time...even during drought times. One gets morning sun for about 3 hours, then full shade all day. One gets morning sun for 2 hours, then full shade all day. Both are about the same size & growing at the same rate. Coloring is the same despite the sun exposure. They get noticeably bigger every year. These are not delicate plants...more sturdy than they look. Rabbits like to nibble if you're not careful.


On May 28, 2004, angelap from Weatherford, TX (Zone 7b) wrote:

This is one of my favorite ferns. It's a little difficult to keep growing here - zone 8, central texas, very hot and dry. I have it planted in full shade on the north side of my house and I have to be diligent about watering.

Even when it seems to have died completely away, the following spring there will be the tiniest silver leaves coming back! I have to tend them carefully, but by mid summer the plant is large and full again.


On Apr 30, 2004, Laura_Richmond from Richmond, VA wrote:

Zone 7-I found this to be an easy grower with very little maintainence required. In times of water restriction, it came back just a beautiful the next year.


On Apr 23, 2004, TeaLeaves from mecosta, MI (Zone 5a) wrote:

My painted ferns are very robust in zone 5 although I admit to having an irrigation system and mulching. They aren't concerned about crowding in my bed and after one was so gorgeous I had to get another and I'll probably keep right on!


On Apr 22, 2004, KDePetrillo from North Scituate, RI (Zone 6a) wrote:

Probably my FAVORITE fern, but it's delicate -- I lose one or two a year here in Zone 5/6. It requires additional water during drought, and doesn't like encroaching plants. But it's certainly worth the extra work: it's really beautiful when it's happy!


On May 30, 2003, kabloom from Alpharetta, GA (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant is doing well and I haven't babied it at all. Like the shade under my dogwood and the foliage really looks nice with hostas and impatiens.


On Jul 30, 2002, darius from So.App.Mtns.
United States (Zone 5b) wrote:

This is only the second year for this fern in my garden but it's doing well. It does need frequent feeding with a general purpose fertilizer for best growth. I hope to see it spread to form clumps bordering my woodland shade garden.