Hellebores for Winter Color

hellebore Christmas rose

Christmas rose

I’ve had Hellebores growing in my garden for many years, but they have not been the most colourful varieties. More often, they have been a subtle shade of green, and it is this subtlety that makes them so attractive, especially when mixed in with other plants.

The other day a friend gave me a beautiful hellebore in a pot, (Helleborus niger the Christmas Rose) with pure white flowers. In spite of harsh frosts and low temperatures it has made a splash of freshness during the dank days. This has got me thinking about planting more hellebores, because they can survive the really harshest weather and flower during late winter. You can get them in a variety of purples, pinks and greens, many with freckles!  The flowers of the oriental hellebores (Helleborus orientalis) tend to droop down and hide their beauty.

hellbor Christmas rose

Christmas rose

The easiest to grow are Oriental hybrid hellebores, also called the Lenten rose. Hellebores don’t mind shady areas and will keep coming back year after year. They can be grown from seed or by division. They may sulk for a while after they are transplanted and it is best to transplant with as big a root ball as possible. Be prepared for some failures. Plant the seeds in the autumn so they get a prolonged chilling period for successful germination. Plant in light shady soil or in a greenhouse which is shady and cool. Give them plenty of water when they are growing, but they must be in soil that drains well as they will die if waterlogged.

All parts of the hellebore plant are poisonous, so take care to keep children and pets away.

Fascinating fact from Wikipedia

Hellebore was used to poison the water supply during the Siege of Kirrha (ancient Greece 585 BC). The defenders got the trots so badly, they could no longer defend the city.

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