In Nov 2018, I had to remove a large dying 30 yr old spruce tree from my south facing back yard. I had a lot of shade, but now the garden is almost full sun. Under this spruce tree, I had solomon’s seal, hosta’s and bleeding hearts, as well as a beautiful ghost fern which was largely protected from the sun. This past week, I have relocated the solomon’s seal to a shady, acidic soil area. For the ghost fern, it has grown quite big (base is approx 12 inches) – how is it best divided and does it need anything special for it to thrive after replanting? I will likely replant on the north side of my house.
Ghost Fern (Athyrium‘Ghost’) is a beautiful plant. It’s a cross between Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum) and contains the best traits of each parent. It sounds like you have an outstanding specimen. The Toronto Master Gardeners have an online gardening guide to Hardy Garden Ferns which you can find by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post. In the list of ‘Ferns that prefer shady locations’, you’ll find the Ghost Fern included as a hybrid of Japanese Painted Fern.
As outlined in the gardening guide, clump-forming ferns such as Ghost Fern can be divided every 3-4 years. You’ll know it’s time to divide it if the plant starts to look congested and raised above soil level. Spring is a good time for dividing your fern. Divisions can also be made in the fall. Dig up your plant and using a sharp knife cut into several pieces. Replant in a prepared hole and back fill with amended soil. These are woodland plants which thrive on rich, moisture retentive soil so amend your soil with lots of organic matter such as compost or composted sheep manure. Water in well and provide some regular water until the new divisions establish.
Your Ghost Fern should do just fine in it’s new home.