Also known as Lenten Roses and Christmas Roses, Hellebores are wonderful winter and spring blooming perennials that feature elegant flowers and attractive foliage for shady areas. They are typically evergreen to semi-evergreen with attractive foliage with flowers in a range of colours and as either single or double flowered varieties.
Most have flowers that nod or droop, but many newer varieties stand more erect. Christmas Roses, also known as Helleborus niger get their name from the fact that given the right conditions, they will bloom right around Christmas time. Lenten Roses, or Helleborus orientalis generally bloom later in the winter or early spring.
Some of our favourite varieties this year include:
Helleborus x hybridus ‘Peppermint Ice’
This striking hellebore hybrid features large, double flowers that are light pink with a rim of darker pink edging. Its dark pink on the backs for added appeal. A delight for the winter garden. Shade tolerant and deer resistant. Grows to a height of 14 inches and spreads to 2ft.
Helleborus x hybridus ‘Berry Swirl’
Berry Swirl Hellebore is another double flowering variety with orchid colours, some with a creamy-white centre kissed with orchid shade edging. Grows to 14 inches in height and 24 inches across.
Helleborus x hybridus ‘Rose Quartz’
Rose Quartz Hellebore is a double flowering variety that has every white petal edged in rose. It’s a taller variety that grows to 24 inches in height with a 12 inch spread. A delight in the winter garden that is both shade tolerant and deer resistant.
Helleborus x hybridus Spring Promise ‘Mary Lou’
One of the Spring Promise Hellebore series, Mary Lou features single, soft pink blooms with red spots on each petal atop of evergreen, leathery foliage. These blooms appear in late winter to early spring. A great addition to a shady, high profile area.
Helleborus Winter Jewels Golden Lotus Strain
This charming hellebore features golden, lotus-like flowers. Many of these double yellows will have red edges and some will have red streaking on the backs as well. A wonderful part of the shade garden where the yellow flowers will lighten up otherwise dark areas.
Helleborus ‘Silver Dollar’
This Hellebore offers silvery, holly-like evergreen foliage with creamy green blooms. Petal backs are mauve with a rosy pink blush. Ideal for shady areas and woodland gardens. Grows 24-30 inches in height and up to 24 inches across.
Helleborus Winter Jewels ‘Harlequin Gem’
This variety represents a whole group of double flowered plants with very complex colours; the inside colour contrasting with the outside. Can be streaked with red, green or yellow, the outside is black, purple or red.
Helleborus Frost Kiss ‘Penny’s Pink’
This hellebore is a beautiful selection with fantastic foliage that heralds spring with hot pink veined leaves held on purple petioles. Purple buds open to pink and chartreuse flowers that deepen as they mature. Summer foliage has bright, emerald green veining. Exceptionally long blooming. Naturalizes beautifully in woodland gardens. Grows 18-24 inches high and wide. Spreads slowly forming a nice clump.
How to Grow Hellebores
Hellebores prefer shady areas with rich, moist, but well-drained soil. They dislike the extremes of very dry or waterlogged soil. Some shelter from the cold winter winds is also recommended. Apply a layer of mulch each year to add further protection and preserve moisture. They are light feeders and don’t need much in the way of extra fertilizer, but a dose of all purpose fertilizer in early spring never hurts. To encourage more blooms, choose a fertilizer with a high middle number.
Caring For Hellebores
Hellebores benefit from a yearly pruning and cleanup. For most varieties, simply deadhead (remove) spent flowers after they bloom and trim away any foliage that is dead, damaged or diseased. Doing this is particularly important for diseased foliage as Hellebores sometimes suffer from leaf spot and the foliage can serve as protection for unwanted overwintering insects. For Hellebore foetidus and H. argutifolius you may also want to cut off the flowered stems at the ground level.
We recommend that you avoid moving Hellebores once planted as they resent root disturbance and tend to sulk. If you move them or damage the roots, expect it to sit there and do little for the next several months.
Note About Hellebore Availability
Please note that quantities of specialty Hellebores like the ones mentioned are limited. If you are seeking a specific variety, please call ahead, 604.882.1201, to confirm availability. At the time this article was written (mid-March), many varieties have already finished blooming; so while this years show may be over, it is still an excellent time to plant them for next year.