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Athyrium filix-femina (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Athyrium filix-femina (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Zone
Zones vary by species.
Partial SunNo Sun
Partial, Shade
Ample WaterRegular Water
Ample, Moderate

Athyrium

Polypodiaceae
Ferns

Fronds of most types turn brown after repeated frosts. Leave dead foliage on plants through winter to provide mulch and to shelter delicate emerging fronds in early spring; cut back after new fronds have appeared. Species described here prefer rich, damp soil and will tolerate considerable sun if grown in constantly moist soil. Propagate by dividing old clumps in early spring.

Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Athyrium filix-femina

Native to much of North America. Grows to 4 ft. or taller, 2–3 ft. wide. Thin, finely divided fronds. Rootstock rises up on older plants to make a short trunk. Vertical effect; narrow at bottom, spreading at top. Specialists stock many varieties with oddly cut and feathered fronds. Vigorous root system can be invasive.

Athyrium niponicum pictum ‘Silver Falls’ (photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.)
Athyrium niponicum pictum ‘Silver Falls’ (photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.)

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Athyrium niponicum pictum

Fronds grow to 1–1 1/2 ft. long, making a tight, slowly spreading, foot-high clump. Leaflets are purplish at the base, then lavender, then silvery greenish-gray toward the tip.

Athyrium ‘Ghost’

Popular hybrid between Athyrium niponicum pictum and A. filix-femina. Upright growth to about 2 1/2 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide, with silvery gray fronds and dark purple midribs.

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