Athyrium niponicum var. pictum 'Ursula's Red'
Common Name: Japanese painted fern 
Type: Fern
Family: Athyriaceae
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Colorful
Tolerate: Rabbit, Heavy Shade


Easily grown in humusy, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soil in part shade to full shade. Best sited in sheltered locations. Best frond color in light shade. Soil must not be allowed to dry out. Divide clumps in early spring. Naturalizes well by short, branching rhizomes and can form dense colonies in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, commonly known as Japanese painted fern, is a rhizomatous, deciduous fern with an arching habit that typically grows to 18” tall. It features a slowly spreading clump of triangular, variegated fronds to 20” long. Fronds are a soft grayish-green with an overlay of silvery hues accented by contrasting dark maroon midribs. Silvering is best for several weeks in the spring, with fronds becoming greener as hot temperatures arrive.

Genus name comes from Greek athyros meaning "doorless" in reference to the slowly opening hinged indusia (spore covers).

Specific epithet means Japanese.

'Ursula's Red' features central stipes (stems) which are reddish, particularly toward the tip, with a red flush appearing on the pinnae (leaves) nearest the central stem. Pinnae (leaves) are otherwise silvery. This cultivar is clonally propagated, resulting in absolute consistency and uniformity among plants.


No serious insect or disease problems. Rabbits tend to avoid this plant.


Woodland gardens, shade gardens or shaded border fronts. Also effective in shaded areas along streams or ponds.

The attractive foliage and shape of this fern provide color, contrast and texture.