Godzilla Painted FernAthyrium niponicum x filix-femina 'Godzilla'
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Athyrium niponicum x filix-femina 'Godzilla'
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
The Godzilla Painted Fern is the largest variety known of the popular Japanese painted fern. It quickly develops fronds that are 3-feet long, and a clump that is 6 feet across. The large triangular fronds grow new each year, and they are divided into many narrow segments. They are colored striking shades of silver-green with dark-red markings. It is a wonderful specimen for shady places, alongside water or in a damp rock garden. Grow it beside large-leaf Hosta plants for a stunning contrast and a knock-out garden.
Partial to full shade is best for the Godzilla Painted Fern, as it will scorch easily in full sun, especially in hot zones. Plant it in rich, damp soil, but not in flooded ground. Water regularly as this plant is not drought resistant. It needs no particular attention, isn’t bothered by pests, diseases or deer. Cut down the dead fronds in winter and feed with dilute liquid fertilizer in spring once or twice.
There is no doubt that growing ferns can easily become an addiction – but at least it won’t damage your health. Once you catch the bug you will always be looking for the next hit – and here it is. You don’t have to run and hide, but you will need to give the Godzilla Painted Fern plenty of room, because this plant is a long way from your regular painted fern. The Japanese painted fern is one of the most sought-after ferns, with its unique coloring making it a real stand-out in every garden. Regular versions are not much more than a foot tall, but one day a certain plant chose to have a fling with a much larger lady fern, (a close relative too, but we won’t go there). The result was several giant offspring, and Godzilla is the biggest of them all. This hybrid fern has lots of vigor, and the fronds reach a barely-believable 3 feet in length, forming a spreading clump that will soon be 6 feet across. If you like big plants, this is the one for you – a magnificent and colorful specimen in silver and dark-red, that will look great beside your biggest Hosta plants, or other large-leaf perennials. This is one monster you will be glad you opened the gate for.
The Godzilla Painted Fern is a deciduous perennial fern, each year sending up many large fronds 2 to 3 feet in length, and forming a clump of many fronds that is 5 to 6 feet across. It expands slowly by sending out short creeping underground stems. Each frond is shaped like a long triangle. It has a long central stem, with triangular side branches, each again with a central stem carrying long, slender segments. The side branches become smaller higher up the frond. The fronds are colored an amazing silvery blue-gray color, with darker red shades at their base, and the stems are black-red. Young fronds emerge like hands, uncurling as they expand. A clump soon has many fronds, creating a wonderful mound of unique coloring that really stands out. Ferns don’t flower, but underneath the fronds you will sometimes see clusters of brown spores, which in this sterile hybrid plant will not grow into new ferns.
Your shady areas will be transformed when you plant the Godzilla Painted Fern in them. Grow it in damp, shady places, alongside water or in a shady rock garden. It looks great everywhere, and fabulous when mixed with large-leaf Hosta plants, particularly in contrasting colors. Use it in woodland areas, to fill a corner in a shady bed, or anywhere you want a stand-out plant feature.
This plant is usually listed as hardy only to zone 5, but we are confident it will grow in zone 4. After all, one parent is hardy to zone 2, and the other to zone 4. In an outdoor planter it will only be hardy to zone 6 or even 7.
More than a little direct sunlight will easily scorch the fronds of your Godzilla Painted Fern. Grow it in partial shade, particularly with protection from the afternoon sun, or in light full shade. It won’t grow so well in very deep shade, such as underneath large evergreens, but otherwise it’s a terrific choice for shady places. The soil should be rich in organic material and always moist – regular watering is needed for this plant, which is not at all drought resistant. Some changes to the color patterns on fronds can occur during the season, and during hot periods they may tend to be more green. Don’t worry, it’s only temporary.
This plant is not bothered by deer, and it has no significant pests or diseases. Virtually no maintenance is needed, but do pay attention to watering. If it should become too dry, the fronds may burn partially or completely. If it doesn’t happen too often, don’t worry, as new fronds soon grow up, unless it has been completely dry for a while. Trim back the fronds to ground level once they die down in late fall, and otherwise there is nothing to do. You can use half-strength liquid fertilizer suitable for evergreens a couple of times in spring, or a fertilizer blended for ferns, but don’t over-feed.
The Japanese painted fern, Athyrium niponicum, is found growing wild in forests, beside streams, and on damp mountain slopes. It grows naturally across a wide area, from India, Nepal and Vietnam through much of China, and in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Most wild plants have green fronds 1 or 2 feet long, but the variety ‘Pictum’ (sometimes listed as a botanical variety, but more likely a garden selection) has more silvery leaves and red markings. When first introduced it was very rare, but today it is widely grown.
At the Juniper Level Botanic Garden in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the 1990s, an unusual plant grew from a batch of spores. The growers realized, because of its large size, that it was probably a hybrid, and most likely one between a plant of Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ and a plant of Athyrium filix-femina, the lady fern. That fern grows all around the Northern Hemisphere, and with its attractive 3-foot fronds it is widely cultivated in gardens. Other hybrids between these two species were already known. Because of the impressive size of this new plant, it was given the name Godzilla when released in 2009 by Plant Delights Nursery Inc, the nursery division of the Juniper Level Garden.
Since its release the Godzilla Painted Fern has become super-desirable with both fern enthusiasts and regular gardeners, who are in awe of this beautiful monster. We know it will be gone almost as soon as we post it as available, so order now – it won’t be here when you come back.