How to Grow Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese painted fern is a foliage plant mostly grown for its colorful leaves. This is an ornamental plant grown indoors or outdoors by many gardeners.

The plant is very much different from the fern that many gardeners are familiar with. True to its name, the painted fern has triangular, silver leaves similar to the dusty miller.

If that does not excite you, it also shows greyish-green and purplish midribs, making them one of the best-variegated ferns.

Here, you’ll learn how to grow and care for Japanese painted ferns. After reading this guide, you can confidently grow Japanese painted ferns.

Japanese painted fern

Japanese painted fern 

Before moving further, let’s know more about Japanese painted ferns. The scientific name of Japanese painted fern is Athyrium niponicum, it is a species of fern native to eastern Asia.

The plant grows about 18 inches taller and wider in ideal conditions. Japanese painted ferns have many cultivars and hybrids that are widely cultivated and are popular garden plants. 

According to Chicago Botanic’s study Athyrium niponicum var. pictum was The Perennial Plant of the Year in 2004. Many gardeners prefer to grow them in shade gardens, woodlands, and near the streams and ponds. If you’re interested in growing foliage plants; Here are the 20 Most Beautiful Foliage Plants To Grow Indoors Or Outdoors.

Quick guide

Common NameJapanese painted fern
Scientific NameAthyrium niponicum
Plant TypeDeciduous fern
Mature SizeAbout 18 inches in height and wide depends on a variety
Sun ExposurePartial shade to Full shade
Soil TypeAny average, humusy, well-drained soil
Soil pHVery acidic or neutral or slightly alkaline
Bloom TimeNon-flowering
Flower ColorNon-flowering
Hardiness Zones3 to 8 USDA
Native AreaEastern Asia

When to plant

Japanese painted ferns is a hardy plant that takes years to mature. In the beginning, it’s essential to give them the right conditions to thrive. You can start planting between late winter to early spring.

During this period plant gets a chance to spread its roots so that it can grow rapidly in growing seasons. When planting in a pot you can begin one or two weeks before late frost indoors. Inside the plant gets shelter so it does not get too affected by winter, after the winter brings pot outdoors.

Where to plant

Japanese painted ferns are colorful foliage plant that is often used as an ornamental plant. You can plant it in a medium-size pot or a garden. Japanese painted ferns are invasive naturally, but it takes years to get mature. If you’re a low-maintenance garden, this plant is great because it remains happy with occasional pruning.

How to grow Japanese painted fern

You can grow Japanese painted fern from both cuttings and division. But, the division is a fast and effective way to propagate. Below are steps to division:

  • Toss out a mature plant from the soil with the help of a gardening shovel.
  • Shake the plant to loose soil and locate the root ball.
  • Cut the root ball with the attached stem into different sections using gardening shear.
  • You can divide a mature plant into three to four divisions during the spring season.
  • Plant these cuttings in multiple places, you can grow many ferns using one mature plant.
  • Large root clumps should be planted in garden soil whereas small root clumps can be planted in pots.
  • Water the soil to keep it moist, if you live in a hot region spread mulch around the plant’s base to retain water.

Care for Japanese painted fern

Although Japanese painted fern is a low maintenance plant. But, it needs ideal conditions to thrive and grow continuously. They are proper conditions you should give the plant for good growth.

japanese painted fern


Soil is one of the major factors to thrive in plants. Japanese painted fern prefers average, well drainage soil. Using damp soil will cause root rot which leads to a plant growth stunt.

Do not use common ground soil because it is often full of sand, and stones. This unfertile soil when water gets converted into clumps of dust obviously does not support living plants.

Use garden soil or potting mix soil. You can also mix a small proportion of sand or perlite in the soil for good drainage.


Japanese painted ferns are considered to be planted in full shade or partial shade areas. However, it depends on where you live. At the southern end, this plant will grow well in full shade. Northerners can have it anywhere. Still, the plant shows the best color in the north if grown in partial shade. 


Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Water only when the upper soil of the plant looks dry. In the beginning, Japanese painted ferns need more water, but when they mature, it requires less water and can survive a few weeks without water.

When watering does not wet the part of the plant. Wet leaves and stems might attract fungal diseases and pests. Water directly in the base of the plant. If your plant is suffering from fungal diseases; Read how to get rid of powdery mildew.


If you amend organic matter (used tea, banana pill) into soil occasionally, additional fertilizer should not be needed. But, if you prefer commercial fertilizer, feed them balanced fertilizer in the spring carefully. Do not amend lots of fertilizer, excessive fertilization will damage the plant’s root.

Did I Miss Anything?

Now I’d like to hear from you: which tip from today’s post are you going to try first? Or maybe, I didn’t mention your favorite plant growing tip. Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

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