Athyrium 'Ghost'

ghost lady fern    Perennial of the Month-- October 2015 Perry caricature


Common name: Ghost lady fern

Family:   Woodsiaceae (syn. Athyriaceae, often incorrectly listed in Dryopteridaceae), one of the 35 fern families 

Height x width: 2-2.5ft x 1.5-2ft

Growth rate, habit: moderate, upright in slowly-spreading clumps

Foliage: silvery (more in early season), grayish green, dark red midribs (rachis); triangular shape;  bipinnate-pinnatifid (finely cut)

Flowers: non-flowering

Hardiness: USDA zones 4-8 (average minimum to -30F in winter)

Soil:  organic, moderately moist, well-drained; more tolerant of dry soil than others in this genus

Light:  part to full shade

Pests and problems:  none significant, deer and rabbit resistant

Landscape habit, uses:   wildlife gardens (cover for ground birds), woodland, shade, near streams and ponds, massed as groundcover, borders for its formal effect, cut foliage in arrangements; combines well with blue-leaved hostas, dark-leaved coralbells, Japanese painted fern,  red-flowered small bleeding heart, hellebore, variegated Siberian bugloss, ornamental ginger (Asarum);  planted under red-stem dogwood, black-snakeroot

Other interest: a hybrid of A. niponicum var. pictum and A. filix-femina; originally from the Virginia garden of Nancy Swell

Other culture:   if stems damaged or dry out, cut back for new ones to emerge; low maintenance

Propagation:  spring division

Sources:  many online and local specialty nurseries

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