The 2004 choice is Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ or Japanese Painted Fern. Like most ferns, it prefers a shady or part shady location (morning, not afternoon, sun) as well as moisture and an organic soil – well-rotted compost is just fine. This fern is fairly compact, reaching only 12 inches (30cm) tall and wide. It has elegant olive green and silvery fronds on deep burgundy stems that arch gracefully.
A. niponicum is a great addition to a woodland garden, planted among spring bulbs, primulas, hostas and astilbes, and can brighten up a dark corner. It can function nicely as an accent plant, a space filler or a background plant. It even does well in a pot (but protect it over the winter). Japanese painted ferns are hardy to zone 4, and pests and diseases rarely bother them.
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