Ghost Fern

Ghost Fern; or,
Lady Fern

"If I could sing the song of the dawn,
The carolling word of leaf or bird,
And the sun-waked fern uncurling there
I would go lonely & would not care!"

-Leonora Speyer


"Ghost Fern" is a garden hybrid of two deciduous ferns, the popular Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum var 'Pictum'), crossed with a Lady Fern (A. filix-femina). The breeder was Nancy Swell of Virginia.

Its upright triangular fronds have bluish to maroon midribs. The overall appearance is of such a light silvery grey-green that naming it 'Ghost Fern' was inspired. The silveriness is most stunning with new spring growth, hardening to blue-green in summer.

It has such a thick rhizome system that once established it can tolerate a surprising degree of dryness, though it cannot abid much sunlight, & moist well-draining soil is best especially when it is getting started.

As a sterile hybrid, it does not produce spoors but is easily propogated by division in spring. Like the Japanese Painted Fern itself, the Ghost Fern can spread to several feet after many years, & will eventually need to be dug up & divided unless there's plenty of room for it to take over.

At one to two to feet height, it is a good choice for beneath tall woody shrubs, & mixes well with large hostas. It is best planted with something with dark green leaves to heighten the impact of its ghostly paleness.

Though it will grow well in fairly deep shade, it has its best color with a touch of dappled sun.


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