Hellebores – Shade Perennials
Hellebores are commonly referred to as Christmas Roses (Helleborus niger) and Lenten Roses (Helleborus orientalis), Hellebores are primarily native to Europe. They only produce new growth in cool weather (spring and fall) and are slow growing compared with many other perennials, but they should grow into a sizable clump of 15 to 24 inches wide in a few years. Well worth the wait.
Hellebores are perennials that prefer moist, but not wet, organic, well draining soil. They can tolerate a lot of sun but prefer a dappled shade location. Very dense shade may reduce flower production. Hellebores benefit from fertilizing and I recommend adding the granular certified organic Gaia Green 4-4-4 All Purpose Fertilizer every couple of weeks in the spring until the weather starts to warm up. Hellebores have evergreen, leathery green foliage, but in our cold Canadian climate the foliage looks “tired”, so I cut the foliage down to the ground in very early spring before the new growth emerges. This method makes the flowers more visible and allows the plant to regenerate new, fresh leaves after the flowers have emerged fully.
Hellebores have very few pest or disease problems. Deer never take a bite. They make wonderful companion plants for Tiarella (Foam Flowers), Epimediums (Barrenwort), Pulmonaria (Lungwort) and Hostas. It’s hard to find a more exquisite, easy-to-grow perennial that is an exciting highlight to the early spring shade garden. Helleborus are an essential perennial for the savvy shade gardener.
Hellebores have large, colourful flowers that usually droop down on a 45 degree angle. The drooping habit is a survival mechanism that is the plant’s natural defense against bad spring weather protecting it from snow, sleet and rain that kills the pollen grains, resulting in non-pollination.
An artistic way to display the flowers is to cut them with about an inch of stem and float them in a bowl of water. They can last for weeks as they slowly fade into completely different colors.
Hellebores can be propagated by division. The best time of year is in early autumn. Dig the plants and hose off most of the soil so that you can see where to make your cut. Use a sharp knife that has been dipped in alcohol and then rinsed in water. Try to make a sizable clump with at least two buds on each rhizome. Some plants may not flower the year following division, but don’t be concerned as they may need time to recover.
The Hellebores shown below are available this year (2020) at Plant Paradise Country Gardens. Members of The Gardener’s Club at Plant Paradise Country Gardens receive discounts and wholesale pricing. (mail order is available to Canadian residents).
Click on the plant name for more information about each Hellebore.
Join The Gardener’s Club at Plant Paradise Country Gardens to receive great deals on these rare and unique shade perennials.