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Helleborus (hel-LEB-or-us)

Common Name:  Lenten rose, hellebore

Light:  - Part sun to full shade

Soil:  Average to rich, woodland type, moist but well-drained

Moisture:  Average, slightly dry in summer

Blooms:  Late winter, early spring

Zones:  (3) 4 - 8 (9)


Helleborus 'Pink Lady'

Helleborus 'Royal Heritage Strain'

Helleborus Description and Cultural Information

Helleborus argutifolius, Corsican hellebore. 18". This hellebore has uniquely frosted and speckled, grayish-green and prominently veined foliage. 'Pacific Frost' has pure white flowers. This variety is not quite as hardy as other hybrids and may struggle over tough winters. Zones 6 - 9.

Helleborus foetidus, bearsfoot hellebore. 18 - 24". Bearsfoot hellebore has deeply divided, almost spidery, bright green evergreen leaves. Nodding, tube-like, small greenish flowers are held above the foliage in February and March. Zones 5 - 9.

Helleborus niger, Christmas rose. 12 - 18". The Christmas rose has larger, palmate leaves compared to the bearsfoot hellebore. Pure white flowers contrast nicely against the dark green foliage in winter and early spring. Unfortunately a late hard freeze after flowering will diminish the show. Zones 3 - 8.

Helleborus x orientalis, Lenten rose. 18". The Lenten rose is by far the most common in cultivation and many hybrids exist. Leaves are similar to the Christmas rose, but the large flowers can be any combination of white, pink, rose-red, and purple. 'Royal Heritage' is a seed grown strain with a wide variety in many attractive color combinations. 'Pink Lady' is a nice soft pink, 'Blue Lady' is a deep burgundy. Many, many other varieties are available including double and semi-double flowering plants. Because the blooms can be highly variable, especially among the various seed strains, it is usually best to view and choose plants while they are in bloom. Zones 4 - 9.

How to Grow:  The best location for hellebores is in average to rich, well-drained woodland soil under deciduous trees where they benefit from the spring sunshine and the cool summer shade.

Hellebores are extreme cold season growers. They grow only during cold weather and go dormant in the summer. That means you should avoid watering or fertilizing during the warm summer months. When temperatures moderate in the fall you can resume watering and fertilize lightly. Plants will bloom just as the snow melts in late winter/early spring. The cooler they are, the longer they will bloom. Some plants even have the potential to rebloom during very cool summers.

Try not to disturb your hellebores once established, moving only in the fall or very early spring. Plants often self-sow, but seeds take months to germinate and seedlings take years to bloom, which accounts for the high market prices compared to other production perennials. Be sure to give them room to establish a colony, and make sure other plants don't smother them in the summer since they need some light to survive.

Landscape uses:  Hellebores are wonderful, evergreen plants for the partially shaded garden. Use them with spring wildflowers and early bulbs, or use them as a foundation with deciduous shrubs and ornamentals. They blend nicely with the landscape after flowering.

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