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Japanese Painted Ferns

  • Subject: [ferns] Japanese Painted Ferns
  • From: Duane Petersen dpetersen11@cox.net
  • Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 09:39:32 -0500

It seems that the Japanese Painted fern (A. niponicum) and it's cultivars have received allot of criticism on fernnet in the last year. In my experience, the Japanese Painted is the most reliable fern for beginning growers. I feel that much of the criticism is because of the misconception that to get the best color with this fern, you must raise it in shade or deep shade. Here in the middle of Kansas, to get the most vigorous plant, we have found that some direct sun is beneficial. At the present time my most vigorous group of Japanese Painted are on a East facing wall, with direct sun all morning long. I also have a great group of green cultivars (these occur naturally from spore about 2% of the time) on a west facing wall in full sun all afternoon. I don't think I have to tell you what kind of heat and sun we get during the summer in Kansas. I have about 20 locations in my garden where I have planted Japanese Painted or it's cultivars. In all cases, as the shade gets more dense, the plant gets weaker and smaller. Here in Kansas, the worst thing you can do to this fern is to place it on a north wall on in deep shade, precisely where most retailers will tell you to put them.
One reason for this, I believe, is that most retailers grow their hardy ferns inside in a greenhouse. In order not to have the ferns burn immediately when they are placed in the garden, they tell their customers to place it in the shade. That way the customer is not back on their doorstep the next week with a severely sunburned (read damaged) plant and the customer does not blame the retailer for the weak plant they have received. As to cultivars, I have found from my experience in raising many of them by spore, that many of them not only breed true, but do have a truly different look in the garden. True, some "cultivars" have been sold which are not consistent in coloration, but much of this may be due to the tremendous genetic variability in the gnome of the Japanese Painted fern itself. If the workers don't goof, you can get more reliable cultivars from tissue culture than you can from spore because of this genetic variability. Duane Petersen

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