A guide to growing hellebores

Unveiling the Beauty of Hellebores: A Guide to Growing and Enjoying These Enchanting Flowers

Hellebores, also known as Lenten roses, have long captured the hearts of gardeners and plant collectors alike. These resilient and early-blooming perennial treasures offer an enchanting addition to any garden. In this guide, we’ll explore the art of cultivating hellebores, from planting to harvesting.

Why Hellebores? Before we dive into the specifics of growing hellebores, let’s take a moment to appreciate their allure. Hellebores are prized for their early spring blooms, which often appear when the garden is still waking up from winter’s slumber. Their elegant, nodding flowers come in a range of colors, from creamy whites to deep purples, and their foliage remains green throughout the year, providing interest even in the colder months. With their ability to thrive in shade and partial shade, hellebores are the perfect choice for planting beneath trees or adding beauty to those tricky spots in your garden.

Growing Hellebores: Growing hellebores is relatively easy, making them an excellent choice for both novice and experienced gardeners. Whether you’re a cut flower grower, seasoned gardener or just beginning your horticultural journey, growing hellebores is a must! Here are some essential tips to ensure your success:

  • Selecting the Right Location: Hellebores prefer dappled shade or partial shade, although they can tolerate full shade or full sun in cooler climates. Choose a spot with well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, that retains moisture but doesn’t become waterlogged.
  • Planting: Plant hellebores in the fall or early spring, when the soil is still cool. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball and place the plant at the same depth as it was in its container. Water thoroughly after planting.
  • Watering and Maintenance: Hellebores have low water needs once established, but they appreciate regular watering during dry spells, especially in their first year. Mulching around the base of the plant can help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Cold-damaged foliage can be removed once flowers begin to emerge to showcase their beauty.
  • Fertilizing: Hellebores are not heavy feeders, but a light application of balanced fertilizer or aged compost in early spring can promote healthy growth and abundant blooms.
  • Pest and Disease Control: These resilient plants are relatively pest and disease resistant, but keep an eye out for aphids and slugs, particularly during humid weather.
  • Dividing and Propagating: Hellebores can be propagated by division or by collecting and sowing seeds. Division is best done in fall or late winter, before new growth emerges, while seed sowing should take place in spring or early summer. Hellebores can be divided every few years to rejuvenate crowded clumps and propagate (non-patented) new plants. Divide them in fall or early spring before new growth emerges, and replant the divisions in well-prepared soil. Plants grown from seed will not be true to the original parent plant and will take several years to produce flowers.

Hellebore collage

Types of Hellebores: There are several types and varieties of hellebores, each with its own unique characteristics. Some common types include:

  • Helleborus (Lenten rose): This is the most common type of hellebore and comes in a variety of colors, including white, pink, purple, and green. Its flowers have a nodding habit and can add a delicate touch to arrangements.
  • Helleborus (Christmas rose): Also known as the Christmas rose, this variety typically blooms in late winter to early spring, producing white or pale pink flowers. Its flowers have a classic, timeless appeal and can be a lovely addition to winter arrangements.
  • Helleborus × hybridus (hybrid hellebores): This is a cross between different hellebore species, resulting in a wide range of colors, forms, and sizes. Hybrid hellebores often have large, showy flowers in shades of pink, purple, green, or white, making them versatile for arrangements.
  • Helleborus (stinking hellebore): Commonly known as the stinking hellebore or bear’s foot hellebore, this variety has unique, deeply divided foliage and green flowers with burgundy accents. Its flowers can add an interesting texture and color contrast to arrangements.
  • Helleborus argutifolius (Corsican hellebore): Native to Corsica and Sardinia, it has large, bright green leaves and clusters of pale green or yellowish flowers.
Hellebore Early Rose

Helleborus ‘Ice N Roses Early Rose’

Harvesting Hellebores for Cut Flower Use and Extended Vase Life: For those growing hellebores as cut flowers, proper harvesting techniques are crucial  to prevent wilting and maximizing vase life. Follow these steps for a the best success and a prolonged display of beauty:

  • Selecting the Blooms: Choose hellebores with fully developed, mature flowers that are free from blemishes or damage and have no yellow pollen. Flowers that have begun to form a seed pod (as in the photo above) will have the longest vase life and least chance of wilting.  Avoid picking those still in bud or showing yellow pollen.
  • Harvesting: Cut the stems at an angle, ideally early in the morning or late in the evening when the plants are most hydrated.
  • Conditioning: Remove any foliage that will be submerged in water and immediately place the stems in lukewarm water. Allow them to hydrate in a cool, dark area for several hours before arranging.
  • Arranging: Hellebores pair beautifully with other spring blooms like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. They also look stunning on their own. Arrange them in a clean vase filled with fresh water, and change the water every few days to prolong their lifespan.

Hellebore arrangement

Are you ready to add some of these captivating early bloomers to your garden? We are working on offering a curated selection of hellebores, including rare and unusual varieties that you may not find elsewhere. You can shop our current availability HERE

Happy gardening!