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Deer-Proof Hellebores

Common names for these wonderful plants are Christmas rose or Lenten rose, depending on the species and time of bloom.


Hellebores are long lived and bloom from late winter through spring.

The flowers look lovely in a float bowl where you can look down on the blooms and appreciate their subtle colors and markings. The flowers have five sepals that look like petals, and these remain attractive on the plant for up to 4 months, during which time the seed capsules form.

Plant hellebores in light to full shade in rich, well-drained soil.

Hellebores have leathery evergreen to semi-evergreen leaves, but these are sometimes brown and tattered after a hard winter. If they look unsightly, cut them off in the spring and new leaves will appear. Also, a sheltered site will protect the leaves and minimize the damage.

These plants are easy to care for once they are planted and will thrive for years undisturbed. The easiest way to get more is to dig up any self-sown seedlings in the spring or summer.

All parts of this plant are poisonous so deer avoid them, and rabbits too. I hesitate to say anything is deer proof, but in my garden they have been so far.

In the past, most of the flowers in the 15 species in this genus were single and cream, dusty mauve or light green, but the hybridizers have been busy and now a range of new colors and interesting combinations are available. I can’t wait to add to my collection, as I can never have too many reliably deer-resistant plants that flower.

The common names are Christmas rose or Lenten rose, depending on the species and time of bloom.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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