What’s the big deal with Hellebores?
Looking for winter and spring color for your garden can be discouraging. So many evergreens lack luster and offer no color. That used to be the case with Hellebores, otherwise known as Lenten Rose. For years Hellebores lacked polishing. They were often ratty looking. You couldn’t count on them for a specific color and growing them on your porch wasn’t even considered. Luckily, breeders recently perfected some old varieties that actually made a huge difference in the Hellebore world. Things have really turned around for them. As a matter of fact, Hellebores might be exactly what your garden (and patio) needs! Yes, gardeners are adding new varieties to their gardens, but they are still embracing the older types too. With so many species to choose from, why not try them all?
Why plant Hellebores?
Envision Hellebores in your garden. You can look out your window on a cool winter day at colorful flowers. They are incredibly hardy so most of them survive even the coldest winters (unless they are planted in South Dakota). Deer won’t touch them. You can plant Hellebores just about anywhere because they are tolerant to both sun and shade. Don’t worry about pH; they prefer alkaline soils, but do just fine in acidic conditions. Feel free to fertilize, but it is not an absolute requirement for them. You will love the evergreen foliage during late fall and early winter when almost no other perennials in the garden seems to have a heart beat. And, if that’s not enough, Helleborus even offer a good source of nectar for bees during late winter and early spring when food sources are scarce.
Pick great companion plants for your Hellebores like Fuchsia, Hosta, Galanthus, Ferns, Epimedium, Ligularia, Hakonechloa, Cyclamen, Ajuga, Vinca, Heuchera. Imagine Helleborus on your porch in your favorite container with violas and pansies that brighten up your entryway all winter long. In the landscape, try groups of three or more together for curb appeal. Consider planting Hellebores under deciduous trees where they will enjoy shade in the summer and bright light in the winter.
Hellebores in my garden
In my Pacific Northwest Garden, the Christmas varieties began blooming in December. Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob was the first to bud. The pure white flowers faded to pink as they aged. Early spring varieties followed the Christmas varieties with overlapping bloom times. Many of them peaked with the transition into spring with deeper color tones than the early varieties. Some are lovable for the foliage alone, like our mystery mutant.
Helleborus Gold Collection® (HGC)
While most Helleborus are commercially propagated from seed, Helleborus Gold Collection are grown from tissue culture, creating clones of the mother plant. Home gardeners, be assured you are buying a plant that looks like the plant in the pictures when buying a clone.
HGC Christmas varieties produce early winter flowers because they have genetics from Helleborus niger bred into them. Growing HGC Christmas varieties in containers began taking off in recent years. Plant them in perennial gardens after they finish blooming. There’s nothing like pure white flowers in the garden at Christmas time!
HGC Early Spring varieties begin to bloom between late winter and early spring. These varieties are some of the first Hellebores to flower after the holidays at the beginning of the new year.
Helleborus orientalis hybrids
Can’t find the Hellebores locally? Check out these mail order sources.