The Q&A Archives: Japanese Painted Fern

Question: I bought two of your Japanese Painted Fern's (which I thought were beautiful) but one is struggling horribly and looks as though it is dead and not coming back. It started with the leaves wilting/mushy and then browning and dying. I am watering 3 times a week. What am I doing wrong? They are located on the northwest side of my house and receive shade most of the day. I'm so sad as I love the look of them. Please advise as to proper care of these plants. Should I remove the one that seems to not be doing well? Or is there a way to make it come back?

Annmarie

Answer: Although the site sounds right, the soil may not hold enough moisture to make your Japanese Painted Fern happy. This fern needs a well-drained, compost-rich soil and flourishes where moisture and humidity abound. It grows best in part to full shade. The best frond color results in light shade.

I'd dig the plant, amend the soil with organic matter, replant and then mulch over the soil surface with additional peat moss or compost to help the soil hold moisture. For continued care, add 2 to 3 inches of compost or peat moss to the beds each spring or fall. This fern is extremely reliable when grown in the proper environmental conditions. Its colorful foliage should be vibrant from early spring until frost, when it will go dormant and reemerge with its excellent foliage the next spring.

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