Head over Hellebores

Head over Hellebores

I can’t say enough about how I much I ador-us my helleborus. Ok, I know, I know … enough already. But really. There’s so much to like.

  • Evergreen? Check. An asset to the garden year-round.
  • Winter blooming? Check. A delightful range of flowers, right when we need them most.
  • Shade-loving? Check. A classic addition to the woodland garden.
  • Easy care? Check. These tough plants can take a variety of conditions, thriving in our clay soils, and are quite drought-tolerant once established.

In my mind, they’re one of the plants that announce the start of the gardening season – and I say, let the games begin!

I’m not alone in my hellebore-happy ways. Helleborus hybridus, aka the Lenton rose, is listed in the very popular and extremely useful, Great Plant Picks, which I’ve blogged about before, and it was selected by the Perennial Plant Association as the Perennial Plant of the Year in 2005.

Here’s a few tips that I hope will help you get the most out of this great garden plant.


Remove last year’s foliage

To better observe the emerging flowers of Helleborus hybridus, cut away last year’s tired foliage as the new flowering stems start pushing from the base of the plant.  In my garden, this is beginning to happen right now.

The foliage of hellebores is susceptible to black spot. By using this simple management technique, I’m able to keep the disease at bay and get the most enjoyment from the plant while it’s flowering. As the flowering wanes, the plant will generate new foliage. The newly renovated foliage will remain evergreen until removed early next year — and so the cycle continues; keeping the foliage fresh and (fingers crossed!) disease-free.

Select while in bloom

Helleborus is a flower of many faces. Colors range from white, yellow, and pink, to purples so deep they read as black. Single, semi- and double-flowering selections are each a unique character, as a result of widely variable spotting and vein coloration. 

Shopping in the Marketplace at the Northwest Flower & Garden ShowDouble-flowering selections have been all the rage for the last several years. Not so long ago, adding the doubles to your collection was painful to the pocketbook. But with greatly increased production in recent years, the prices of the doubles are now quite reasonable.

Figuring out what the flower will look like on a non-flowering Helleborus hybridus is kinda like trying to tell the sex of a chicken — next to impossible. Selecting while its in bloom allows you to see what you’re getting. Fair warning, though: they’re all so beautiful and unique; it’s hard to choose just one. There are sure to be lots to choose from at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show’s Marketplace — growers galore, you’ll find hellebores and lot more, all under one roof.

Cut & enjoy

Hellebores are known to be somewhat shy, their faces nodding downward. In the garden, I am constantly tilting their faces up so that I can truly appreciate them. To get a better view, bring them indoors. I float them in a bowl to better observe their smiling faces and celebrate their individuality. If you leave a short stalk on the flower, it will last for days – easy peasy. Warmer, too.

Hellebores floating in bowl

For more great gardening tips, visit Jasmine’s San Francisco Flower & Garden Show blog.

  • Mary Margaret
    Posted at 13:43h, 10 January Reply

    My house is on a hillside with raised beds. The sidewalk to the backyard runs along one of these beds. At one end it is almost a ground level and at the other, waist-high. It is a great place for shade-lovers I want to see up close. I have hellebores (dark purple) and several types of cyclamen planted under hydrangeas.

    Which reminds me: Cyclamen also look good all year but in winter their leaves sparkle under deciduous plants. In a winter garden, where colors are subtle, the bright blooms really shine. (I have several different species which bloom at different times throughout the year. Different leaves, too.)

  • Barry Glick
    Posted at 07:32h, 11 January Reply

    For more about Hellebores:


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