Hellebores; what’s Not to Love?

   Helleborus or Hellebores, also called Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, is one of the most attractive and longest blooming perennials for the part shade to full shade garden, and they thrive in DRY shade. Hellebores are the harbingers of spring. Their common name is Lenten rose because they bloom around the beginning of Lent.

And as long-blooming, low-maintenance, basically evergreen perennials that tolerate even dry shade, these plants have few equals in the garden. They are deer resistant, great for mixed beds and borders, hardy in zones 4-9, evergreen, and late-winter to early spring flowering. In my garden they usually start blooming Feb. and will hold the blooms for a good 3 months. The color of the blooms does fade over time, but how many perennials will have blooms for 3 months!?!? The colorful parts of a hellebore flower are actually bracts,

  Mature clumps are about 12-24” tall and 24-30” wide, and may have 50 or more blooms per plant. Flower color ranges from white to plum, with in between shades of pink, rose, magenta, cream, yellow, and green. There are both single and double forms available. Flowers are usually cup or bell shaped and either outward facing or drooping.

  The leaves are thick and sturdy, resembling leathery umbrellas, adding nice texture to the garden and a perfect backdrop for bulbs and other perennials. Winter conditions can make the leaves rather tattered by spring, just prune old leaves to the ground in late winter. The blooms and new leaves will then look their best. Some species have stems that rise from the ground, with leaves all along their length, others have leaves that arise directly from the growing points at ground level. 

  Established clumps may produce lots of seedlings. These usually appear in early to mid-spring and may be moved while small. The seedlings may take 2-3 years to bloom and may flower in shades different from parent plants. This is caused by cross-pollination by insects. Mature plants may be divided in spring or fall, but they resent it and are slow to recover.

   This is the perfect plant for naturalizing in woodland areas where its extensive root system will spread as far as it is allowed.

Helleborus Niger, or the true Christmas rose, bears white or pinkish-green flowers, and blooms in late fall, winter, or early spring depending on the climate.

 Myth has it that an angel gave a Christmas rose to a young shepherdess who had no present for the infant Jesus. The genus is an ancient Greek name for the plant.

H. foetidus, stinking hellebore, has deep green spidery leaves and nodding, tube-like green flowers with a red-brown edge is the native species.


Zones: Hellebores are hardy in Zones 6 to 9.

Exposure: They tolerate almost full sun to almost full shade but prefer partial shade. Dense shade may reduce flower production.

Soil: Generally, they enjoy slightly neutral to acidic soils. Don’t plant them in a spot that’s too wet as this encourages rot.

Planting depth: The crown should be just covered by the soil. As with peonies, planting hellebores too deeply inhibits flower production.

Care: They value a yearly application of well-rotted manure or compost to encourage strong growth but will forgive you if you forget for a year or two. To better view their flowers, remove the past year’s foliage in late January or early February before the buds emerge, to avoid damaging them. Don’t throw the old leaves in the compost heap because it takes more than a year for them to decompose.

Pests: They are largely untroubled by diseases or pests, including deer.

Propagation: They rapidly self-sow. You may want to discourage this tendency, not only to keep the garden tidy but also to prevent seeds from sowing themselves in the crowns of other plants. Don’t expect seedlings to be true to parent type. Although division isn’t necessary, it is the best method for creating an exact duplicate of a particular plant. In spring or late summer, simply pull the crown apart with your hands. Keep the plants sufficiently watered


The double-flowered Hellebores WEDDING PARTY™ series debuted in the 2014-2015 season, an effort of years of work from Walters Gardens, Inc. hybridizer Hans Hansen. In his breeding work, he selects for plants with notable vigor, showy floral displays with large numbers of blossoms per plant, and rich flower colors. Exciting new colors join the series for 2015-2016, including a double mix. Don’t miss!

A mixture of color strains custom blended at the plug level for a more evenly distributed mix. Colors in the mix include black, mauve purple, white, yellow, and pink.

**‘True Love’ bears rich maroon red, 3-3½” double flowers.

True Love

**‘First Dance’ bears 2-2½” double flowers that range from bright yellow to yellow with a maroon picotee edge and veining.

First Dance

**Blushing Bride bears 2-2½” double white flowers with raspberry pink veining and picotee edge.

Blushing Bride

**Dark and Handsome bears 2½-3″, near black to black-purple flowers.

Dark and Handsome

**Wedding Crasher bears 3″, soft pink flowers are liberally covered with darker pink spots.

Wedding Crasher

Others in the Wedding Party Series are:

Flower Girl bears 2½-3″, double blush to light pink flowers.

 Maid of Honor ranges in color from light to dark pink, bearing 2-3” double flowers

Wedding Bells bears clear white, 2-2½” double flowers.

Maid of Honor ranges in color from light to dark pink, bearing 2-3” double flowers.

Black Tie Affair bears 3″, double black flowers with a lighter center.

Mother of the Bride has 3″, double apricot flower with a light pink picotee edge.

Shotgun Wedding bears 3″, double white flowers a very heavy concentration of burgundy spots. Compared to ‘Confetti Cake’, flecks are thicker, more pronounced and concentrated at the centers.

Confetti Cake has 2½-3″ double white flowers with burgundy speckling concentrated toward the center of the petals.

Dashing Groomsman bears 3″, double slate gray to dark purple flowers

There is also a HONEYMOON™ Series feature the equally lovely single-flowered selections from Walters Gardens, Inc. hybridizer Hans Hansen. This series includes: Sandy Shores, French Kiss, New York Night, Paris in Pink, Rio Carnival, Rome in Red, Spanish Flare, Tropical Sunset, Vegas Nights, and Romantic Getaway.

** our give away plants