Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum' , more commonly called, Japanese painted fern, is a wonderful fern that may appear white or may show the colors of the rainbow when the sunlight hits it just right. I am pleased that this fern was chosen as the 2004 perennial plant of the year. I’ve grown it in my shade gardens, both in ground, and in containers for several years without suffering any winter loss. Visit the Perennial plant association’s page on this fern to see two photographs of it.
Grow this fern in any part to full shade location that maintains some moisture during the hottest months of the year. The soil should be well drained even though it remains somewhat moist. An annual topdressing with compost is helpful. The individual fronds may reach up to 18” in length and the plant will frequently reach 2 feet in width. The fern will die back to the ground each fall. After 3 years, it has faithfully re-emerged each spring even when grown in a rather shallow container (about 8 inches deep).
I’ve grown the fern in a perennial shade border where it thrived alongside Astilbe, Campanulas, Hosta, primroses, and other shade garden plants. My friends and neighbors seldom fail to mention how nice this fern looks, particularly when it is gleaming in the early morning or late evening light.
The fern is widely available at garden centers everywhere. You should find even larger stocks of it this year because it is the perennial plant of the year.