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Stalwarts In The Garden: Hardy Hellebores

Although their early spring blooms are especially treasured, hellebores are stalwarts in the garden during all seasons.

Although their early spring blooms are especially treasured, hellebores are stalwarts in the garden during all seasons.

Long lived, shade loving, deer resistant, hellebores have handsome evergreen or semi evergreen foliage depending on the harshness of the winter conditions.

The palmate leaves have a coarse texture that contrasts well with companion plants that have different textured foliage, such as ferns and hostas.

Care and Growing Conditions

A sheltered site that is protected from winter winds helps to keep the foliage at its best, but in very cold climates the battered leaves have to be removed each spring to showcase the intact green leaves and thus keep the plant looking its best.

I find that it is satisfying to cut off the leaves that have winter damage to spruce up these plants in the spring when gardeners are eager to be outdoors but when it is too early for some other tasks.

Most hellebores are hardy zones 5-8. Once they are planted hellebores prefer to be left undisturbed.

Dig self sown seedlings in spring or summer and relocate them to increase the number in your garden or to give to friends. They will take a few years to grow big enough to flower, but, in my opinion, one can never have too many of these rewarding perennials.

Hybrid Varieties

The hybrids bloom in shades of cream, greenish white, mauve and purple and are usually referred to as Lenten Roses because they bloom in Lent.

Helleborus niger is a low growing species that can bloom earlier, thus its common name of Christmas Rose. Now there is also the Hellborus Royal Heritage Strain providing us with plants with up to 5 months of continuous bloom and there is also a compact H. ‘Ivory Prince’ with burgundy buds that open to out facing white flowers.

Plant breeders are giving gardeners so many additional options that the new helleborus varieties will enrich shade gardens forever.

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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