BOTANICAL NAME: Most of the Hellebores available today are sold as Helleborus hybridus and are hybrids or cultivars of Helleborus orientalis crossed with other species of the Genus. They are members of the Ranunculaceae or Buttercup family and originate mainly from the open meadows of the Balkans and Central Europe.
COMMON NAME: Lenten Rose, Christmas Rose
Hellebores (pronounced ‘heh-luh-baws’) are the introverts of the shady garden – where Clivia loudly announces its colourful glory and Mackaya bella covers itself in veil upon veil of stylish white bells, Hellebore quietly invites you to come closer, lift its shy face and discover its true beauty and quiet elegance.
Hellebores go to flower during mid- to late winter, when we’ve just about had it with the cold and dreariness of the cold season. They lift the garden and the spirit in doing so, announcing that spring is on its way! All the while their attractive, fan-like foliage provide interest all year round – a winner in gardens big and small.
HELLEBORUS FAST FACTS
PLANT TYPE: Rhizomous perennial
HARDINESS: Very hardy
PLANTING POSITION: Semi-shade / Dappled shade
SIZE: ± 400mm high x 400mm wide
GROWTH RATE: Medium
GROWTH HABIT: Clump-forming and spreading with attractive hand-shaped leaves, decorated by nodding flowers
FLOWERS: Shades of white, cream, yellow, pink, purple, green, slate and a dark, almost black, purple. The flowers have very interesting stripes, spots and colour variations. They are available in a single or double form. Flowers last up to 3 months on the plant, during which time they subtly change colour, after pollination, to shades of green and mauve.
FLOWERING SEASON: Mid- to late winter and early to mid- spring, depending on the variety.
Helleborus are low maintenance, undemanding and easy-to-grow and they will withstand the coldest of winters.
Hellebores require a rich, well-drained, loamy soil. Avoid peaty or waterlogged positions. They don’t mind a slightly acidic soil, but prefer a more neutral pH.
Plant them 350mm apart in holes about 400mm deep. Add a good measure of compost and a handful of bonemeal to the soil. Plant the plant at the same depth as it was in the bag or pot you bought it in.
Apply a good layer of mulch around the plants and top up as needed.
Although they are regarded as shade plants, Helleborus prefer a position with ample bright light to ensure prolific flowering. Too much shade would reduce the number of flowers. The ideal situation is in the dappled shade of a deciduous tree, where they would receive adequate sunlight during their flowering season in winter and protection from the harsh summer sun.
Once a year, in autumn, apply an organic, slow-release general fertiliser to provide sustenance for beautiful winter blooms and healthy foliage. Plants in containers need to be fed more regularly with an organic, potassium-rich fertiliser or a balanced, liquid fertiliser.
Once established, Hellebores are very waterwise and can withstand drought, but they do really thrive if watered regularly and kept moist during their active growing season from autumn to spring.
Towards the end of autumn, just as the new growth starts to push through, cut down old, tattered leaves. This will tidy up the plants and provide space for the new leaves and flowering stems. It will also help to reduce any potential diseases of the leaves.
Hellebores are relatively pest-free apart from the occasional slug or snail, which can be manually controlled.
USES IN THE GARDEN:
- They look stunning clustered together in groups along borders and in front of shrubs and taller perennials in a mixed bed.
- They are a great, low-maintenance addition to small gardens.
- They can be grown successfully in pots and other containers on bright patios and cooler balconies. Ensure good drainage.
- Plant Hellebores en masse as groundcovers in troublesome areas of the garden.
- They will attract pollinators like bees and butterflies to your garden.
- Helleborus can be used as cut flowers by snipping them off close to the bloom and floating them in a bowl of water.