Helleborus – Lenten Roses

Hellebores (sometimes known as Lenten Roses) are evergreen, winter and early spring blooming perennials that typically grow to one – one and a half feet tall and wide. These plants have a very long life span and grow well in filtered shade with winter sun. The plants are drought tolerant, deer-resistant and require little care. The blooming period can last as long as 3 months and come up when little else is blooming.

Hellebores come in shades of cream, white, lavender and pink. The spotted ones are heirloom plants. They grow slowly but multiply rapidly.

helleborus lenten roses-2

Drainage with these plants is critical. They will not survive in an area with poorly draining soil. Do not plant them any deeper than they were originally in the container. They prefer some shade, filtered sun, alkaline soil and rich, hummus soils when possible. When started from seed they take about 3- 4 years to bloom. They grow in zones 4-8. Plant 18” apart.

Hellebores will start sending up new leaves and flowers before winter is over. October or fall is the best time to fertilize. When they get their new blooms, cut back all of the old leaves (last year’s dark leaves) as they will be getting all new ones. Getting rid of the old leaves promotes circulation and air in the area and prevents fungus problems. In the winter and early spring, when most plants are dormant is when Lenten Roses go through their major growth period.

When the plants have finished their blooming cycle the flowers start to acquire chlorophyll and turn greenish in color and the center of the flower will become full of seeds. The seeds will eventually turn black and the seed pocket will open and spill the seeds out. You can gather some of them and spread them around or just let them fall to the ground and they will germinate under the parents next spring. The seeds need to go through a cold period (like winter) in order to germinate the following spring. They need to be planted fairly quickly or they will not germinate.

Note: If you do not want any baby plants just cut off the flowers early in May before the seeds drop.

This article and pictures were reprinted with permission from Mary Wenger. She grows these beautiful Hellebores in her Hall County, GA garden.

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