Hellebores or Lenten Rose

This plant, once hardly seen in American Gardens, can now be found in many catalogs and nurseries. The flowers come in a wide range of colors from creamy white to green to a purplish brown, either with or without contrasting speckles inside. Breeders have been very busy hybridizing hellebores over the last decade or so, which explains the broader range of colors and they have also created double or ruffled flowers. While most original or ‘wild’ hellebores plants had flowers which hung down (nodding flowers), now you can even find varieties with their flower turned up.

hellebores 1These are tough plants with leathery leaves which persist through the winter. However, once the flowers appear you can cut off the old (and usually tattered) foliage as new leaves appear. When you go to the nursery, you will usually find these plants in a shady nook together with ferns and other shade loving plants. Nevertheless, this plant can take sun and often does better in some sun. Once established they are drought tolerant, especially when they have some dappled shade during hot summer days. Over time they will continue to increase in size and as a bonus you will find baby plants around the parent. I like to dig up these baby plants, pot them up for a year or so to allow them to grow into a bigger plant before putting them in a new location. These baby plants will not flower immediately but one spring a year or so after being planted in their new location you will be surprised by a few flowers.

hellebores 4If you have different hybrids in your garden, you may even find yourself with new and different colored flowers. After all, Mother Nature likes to surprise us with new combinations.hellebores 2

The hellebores is a carefree plant, but it does have certain soil requirements. Heavy clay, which does not drain well during wet periods, would cause the plant’s roots to rot. If you have heavy clay in your garden, amend the soil to make it lighter and drain better. In my own garden which is nothing but heavy clay, I added topsoil and mixed it in with the clay. As the years progressed (over 12 by now) grass clippings, mulch and shredded leaves were added. Over time it all decomposed, adding valuable nutrients and turning the clay into better draining loamy clay, much preferred by most plants including the hellebores.

Hellebores at pondNow, each spring I eagerly await the first flowers on my hellebores plants which will last for many months. Once you bring a hellebores plant home for your garden, more will probably follow as you witness the virtues of this plant.

For additional information, check out www.hellebores.org