A Must Have in the Shade Garden-The Japanese Painted Fern

The color and texture of Japanese Painted ferns makes it one of my favorite in the shade garden. The fronds seem to glow in the shade and attract your eye down to take in the beauty of this hardy and colorful fern. It will grow for most in zones 4-9 along with your other shade garden favorites of Hosta, Astilbe, Coral Bells, Toad Lilies, Foam Flower, and other ferns and shade plants. It is one of the first shade plants to come up here in zone 7 and spreads at a medium to fast rate. In 5 seasons I have divided the plants multiple times to spread throughout my shade beds and to share with others.
It likes a moist area but not wet and can grow in morning sun or late afternoon sun so long as it does not dry out. I have several plants on the north side of my house where they see no direct sun and then I have some in another shade bed that received dappled sun along with a spurts of direct sun in morning or later afternoon. This beauty will adapt to its environment with little care and no pest problems (from my 10 years experience propagating and growing it).
The Japanese fern spreads and allows you to divide it with ease. This beauty can be pricey at the garden centers but one plant can eventually yield you many (last count I have 12 or more plants and have shared at least a dozen or more over the last 5 years!) so I highly suggest adding this beauty to your garden this year and by next spring you should be able to divide and add 2 more more to your gardens.
This was taken this morning in the rain and look how the colors just POP! I love this against any color hosta or other shade plant
I wear a size 10 and this plant was a start last summer. In zone 7 they grow fast and spread beautifully
To divide these beauties, you need to look for how the stems are growing and you can work with separating new plants without causing the shock of dividing and planting that happens if you just slice through it with a shovel.

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 questions
  • Sandra
    on Apr 27, 2016

    Do these shade loving plants gtow well under pine trees ?

    • I would think they would. the original plant I started with grew under a Holly bush and mine grow near Oaks. You may have to water until they are established and in times of drought but they are a beautiful fern in the shade. good luck

  • Win2617696
    on Jun 22, 2016

    Do you have a suggestion for shade plants that does like "wet feet?"

    • Hi Donna- here are suggestions: Turtleheads (Chelone obliqua) which bloom July August; Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'), golden variegated sweet flag (Acorus gramineus 'Ogon'); there are a couple ferns-sword fern (Polystichum munitum), ostrich fern ( Matteuccia struthiopteris ), American turkscap lily (Lilium superbum) and one of my favorite Colocasia Black Magic which love to be in the wet (and tolerate part sun here from the run off of my air conditioner. These are just a few recommendations. colocasias (Elephant ears love wet soil) and Japanese Primroses are a few to start in the shade. good luck

  • Ram32103986
    on May 13, 2018

    When is the best time to seperate to new one?

Join the conversation

4 of 30 comments
  • Cyndi Neumann
    on May 5, 2016

    This is a fabulous fern! Thanks for sharing it, I don't have any at this time but will follow your answers about it! Smiles, Cyndi

  • Patricia Linn
    on May 14, 2016

    CyndiNeumann - Yes and I got mine for $1.00 when they were put in the "bone pile" or as my husband says, when we went "dumpster diving". Nearly ALL the flowers we have planted this year are "reduced" from Lowes and I think the most expensive ones were $6.00

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