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Japanese Painted Fern Care

All of the varieties of the Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum) are stunningly beautiful in their silver and burgundy splendor. Choose from the silvery foliage of the ghost fern, the more intensely colored Burgundy lace, or a painted Japanese fern like the Silver Falls with coloring in the mid range. Japanese painted ferns are delightful additions to your fern collection both indoors and out. Japanese painted fern care is simple with great results. You’ll love growing them!

These ferns make striking plantings in woodland gardens, shade gardens or shaded border fronts. They are also gorgeous alongside shaded streams or ponds.These ferns are wonderfully low maintenance once established in your ornamental beds or containers.

Indoors Japanese painted fern care is also simple. These lush, colorful ferns have fronds that may extend 18 inches to up to three feet long. This makes them a terrific statement plant in a properly placed hanging basket, high shelf or pedestal pot.

Japanese Painted Fern

The Joy of Gardening With Japanese Painted Ferns

Does the Japanese Painted Fern spread? Yes. overtime these ferns naturalize and grow in clumps. This results in beautiful colonies of ferns. But don’t worry. they are slow spreaders, non invasive and easily managed.

Is the Japanese painted fern hardy? Yes. These ferns will grow outdoors even down in zone 4. You might want to keep them out of the coldest arctic winds and mulch them well if your area gets down into the low 20 degree F range or colder. I’ve had mine for years and they survive short bout into the teens and even into single digits.

What is a companion plant for Japanese painted fern? Hostas are a great companion plant for Japanese painted Ferns. together they form a lovely backdrop and fill in shady areas. Great for shady foundation plantings.

Since Japanese Painted Ferns thrive in partial to full shade, they are also well-suited for growing under the canopy of trees and in other dappled shade areas.

The light, vibrant colors of the silver Falls and Ghost varieties are particularly good for providing a nice contrast to darker shaded areas like under the branches of large trees, or in dark areas of your yard that need an elegant touch.

How do you care for a Japanese painted fern? Read on for information on propagation and the simple care tips for growing these lovely ferns both indoors and outdoors.


For the home gardener, division is often the easiest and most practical method of propagating Japanese Painted Ferns (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) and many other ferns. Division allows you to create new plants from an established parent plant and is less labor-intensive compared to propagating ferns from spores, which is both challenging and time-consuming.

Here’s how to propagate Japanese Painted Ferns through division:

These tips apply to both indoor and outdoor grown plants. both in pots and in the ground:

  1. Select a Mature Plant: Choose a mature Japanese Painted Fern that has been growing for a few years. It should have a well-developed rhizome system. Look for root bind if grown in a pot.
  2. Spring or Early Autumn: The best time to divide ferns is in the spring or early autumn when the plant is actively growing. Spring is usually the preferred time because the fern is putting out new growth. Wait to see new fronds emerging in spring before division.
  3. Prepare the Plant: Water the fern thoroughly a day or two before dividing it to ensure it’s well-hydrated. This makes the roots easier to work with.
  4. Dig Up (or unpot) the Plant: Gently dig up or unpot the entire plant, taking care not to damage the roots and rhizomes.
  5. Divide the Rhizomes: Use a sharp, clean knife or garden shears to separate the fern into smaller sections. Each section should have its roots and several fronds.
  6. Replant: Plant the divided sections in well-prepared, well-draining soil in the desired location. Make sure the fronds are at the appropriate depth and keep the soil consistently moist after replanting.
  7. Care for New Plants: Water the newly divided plants regularly to help them establish themselves. Once they are well-rooted and actively growing, you can treat them like mature Japanese Painted Ferns.

Division is a reliable method for propagating Japanese Painted Ferns and is generally successful when done with care. It’s simple to do and way quicker than propagation by spores.

japanese painted fern

Preferred Outdoor Growing Conditions For Japanese Painted Ferns

Outdoor Growing ConditionsRecommendations for Japanese Painted Ferns (Outdoor)
Preferred Garden ZonesUSDA hardiness zones 4-8
UsesShade gardens, woodland settings, borders, and containers
SoilWell-draining, humus-rich, and slightly acidic soil
TemperatureCool to moderate temperatures, withstands cold winters
FertilizerApply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in spring
Light ConditionsPartial to full shade, dappled or filtered sunlight
Athyrium niponicum -silver falls
Silver Falls with the characteristic silvery foliage with burgundy highlights of all Japanese painted ferns

Deciduous Fern Care:

Japanese Painted Ferns (Athyrium niponicum) are deciduous ferns. This means they naturally go through a period of dormancy and lose their fronds during the winter months.

Do Japanese Painted Ferns come back every year? Yes. this means the fern top foliage will die back outdoors once the cold winter months hit. In spring, the frond will emerge and sprout lovely top growth to enjoy all through the growing season.

Indoors: While this characteristic isn’t necessarily messy indoors, it’s important to understand what to expect, otherwise you’ll think there is a problem with your fern. Here is what happens:

  1. Seasonal Leaf Drop: As deciduous ferns, Japanese Painted Ferns will naturally shed their fronds during the winter. This is a normal part of their growth cycle. The fallen fronds can be trimmed or removed if you find them unsightly.
  2. Maintenance: While the leaf drop isn’t particularly messy, it may require some maintenance. You may need to tidy up the area around the plant by removing the spent fronds. Trimming or cutting them back keeps the plant looking tidy.
  3. Rejuvenation: In the spring, as the growing season begins, new fronds will emerge, and the fern will return to its lush and attractive appearance. Since these ferns do well in low light and cool conditions you may want to set them in a back bedroom for the winter months until they perk up in Spring.

The fern’s beauty and unique foliage make it a wonderful choice for indoor gardens. Many indoor plant parents find that the maintenance is not a big deal and enjoy growing the lovely Japanese painted ferns indoors.

Shop Japanese Painted Fern on Etsy Here!

Care Conditions For Japanese Painted Fern Indoors:

Other than dropping foliage when dormant that may need some cleaning up, Japanese painted fern care is really quite simple indoors. Here’s what they need in a nut shell.

Growing ConditionRecommendations for Japanese Painted Ferns
LightPartial to full shade, protect from direct sun
TemperatureCool to moderate (60-75°F or 15-24°C)
HumidityMaintain high humidity, mist regularly
SoilWell-draining, humus-rich soil
WateringKeep soil consistently moist, avoid waterlogging to prevent root rot
Potting/ContainerUse containers with drainage holes
FertilizationApply balanced, slow-release fertilizer during growing season
PruningRemove damaged or yellowing fronds
Pest ControlWatch for pests and treat as needed

Are Japanese painted Ferns Toxic to Dogs and Cats?

Japanese painted ferns are non toxic to dogs and cats. Your pets are safe with these plants. Which is great since they are likely to attract a nip or two from your curious critters.

Burgundy Lace
Burgundy Lace is a deeper colored variety of painted Japanese Fern.

You really can’t go wrong with these ferns. They are easy to maintain, do well in light or dappled shade, look great standing alone or mixed in with your other favorite shade loving plants.

Indoors these ferns will make a lovely accent to your home with little trouble. Enjoy!

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