Flower description / bloom time
Ferns are non-flowering plants.
Foliage interest—color and texture
Ghost fern with its soft silvery gray fronds and dark maroon midrib is a cross between Athyrium nipponicum var. pictum (Japanese painted fern) and Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern). It exhibits the silver coloration of Japanese painted fern and the upright character from its lady fern parentage. The fronds of the Ghost fern start out silvery in the spring, and age to a grayish green as the season progresses.
Habit and growth rate observations
The plants have a mature height of 24 to 30 inches and a spread of 18 to 24 inches. It is this fern’s more upright habit that makes it different in the Japanese painted fern world.
Site preference: soil / light
Ghost fern does best in partial shade with moist, rich, loamy soil but is tolerant of full shade.
Successes and possible drawbacks—how to overcome them
This deciduous fern was rated Good by the perennial evaluators for habit, foliage and overall effect. Although the Ghost fern was introduced as an improvement over Japanese painted fern, the evaluators didn’t necessarily see this as better, but its habit and leaf color does provide a slightly different feel in the garden.
Notes from growers / retailers
There were varying reports from growers: Two and one half inch plugs finish in 8 to 10 weeks which are then potted in June for sale the following year. Another grower uses a four and one-half inch plant as a liner in order to get a full plant. And yet another grower reported inconsistent vigor for this fern being slow to fill a one-gallon container.
Brunnera macrophylla, Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’, Viola labradorica, Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’
Parting SHOT —the overall evaluation results were Good ***
Athyrium ‘Ghost’ overall received a Good rating from evaluators. Despite not being so different from other Japanese painted ferns, one evaluator suggests that Ghost fern still has a place in the shade garden. Any plant that brings color into the shade garden has value! But most of the Evaluation Team said they would not recommend this fern over Athyrium nipponicum var. pictum.