What Is A Ghost Fern – Lady Fern Ghost Plant Info

Ghost Fern
ghost fern
(Image credit: skymoon13)

For a compact, interesting plant for a small shady corner of the garden, look no further than the Athyrium ghost fern. This fern is a cross between two species of Athyrium, and is both striking and easy to grow.

What is a Ghost Fern?

Ghost fern (Athyrium x hybrida ‘Ghost’) gets its name from the silvery color that edges the fronds and turn a little bluish as the plant matures. The overall effect is a ghostly white appearance. Ghost fern grows up to 2.5 feet (76 cm.) and remains narrower than its height. The upright, compact shape makes it a great option for a small space.

Also known as the lady fern ghost plant, this is a cross between two species: Athyrium niponicum and Athyrium filix-fimina (Japanese painted fern and lady fern). In warmer climates, above zone 8, ghost fern will likely grow throughout the winter. In colder zones, expect the fronds to die back in winter and return in spring.

Growing Ghost Ferns

One of the most important aspects of ghost fern care is ensuring the plants don’t get too much sun. Like most ferns, they thrive in shade. The delicate silvery coloring will turn brown, and the entire plant may die in a sunny spot. Aim for light to full shade.

Unlike many other ferns, ghost fern can tolerate some dryness in the soil. However, don’t let the soil dry out completely. It should stay at least a little moist at all times, another reason to plant it in the shade. In the heat of summer your ghost fern may get a little brown or tattered. Remove the damaged fronds for appearance sake.

Once established, your ghost fern should be hands-off most of the time. Water in a drought if needed. There are few pests that will bother the ferns and if you have rabbits that like to munch greenery, they’ll likely stay away from these plants. If you want to propagate the fern, simply dig it up in early spring and move clumps to other areas.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.