Hellebore: Gorgeous Blooming Winter Flowers

Hellebore: Gorgeous Blooming Winter Flowers


Photo Compliments of Cath Walker

When you are in the nursery dig just a little deeper to understand which hellebore is on display. This is because Helleborus is a fairly large group of very beautiful and interesting, evergreen or deciduous (leaf-losing) perennials. These plants belong to the Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. They grow upright from 12 to 18 inches high. Hellebore plants go by several common names in the nursery such as hellebore, Christmas Rose, and Lenten Rose.

H. purpurascens has deciduous, dark green leaves that are divided into 2 to 6, lance-shaped segments. In early spring, clusters of large, nodding, cup-shaped flowers are produced. They are deep violet-purple to maroon outside, sometimes shaded with green inside. H. cyclophyllus has bright green, palmate leaves divided into 5 to 9 lance-shaped leaflets. In early spring, small, swaying, cup-shaped flowers are borne in clusters of up to 7. They are greenish-yellow with noticeable cream-colored stamens. H. niger variety Potter’s Wheel has dark green leaves and stunning white flowers with a green center, in the winter and early spring. H. orientalis subspecies Guttatus has light to dark green foliage and nodding flowers in clusters of 4 to 6 in late winter and early spring. They are white- or cream-colored with reddish-purple speckles covering the center of the petals. H. orientalis variety pink has green leaves and drooping, cup-shaped flowers in late winter and early spring. They are pink, sometimes spotted with a darker shade. Other types will be mentioned below in the varieties section. The hellebore has gained in popularity over the past several years because of the rising number of colors, the toughness of this plant, and the fact that it blooms so early giving beauty to your garden and yard during the late dreary days of winter.

The hellebore is a clump-forming, late winter-blooming perennial which typically grows 1 to 1.5 inches tall. The hellebore features large, cup-shaped, rose-like, usually nodding flowers (3 to 4 inches across) with center crowns of conspicuously contrasting yellow stamens. Flowers usually appear in clusters of 1 to 4 on thick stems rising above the foliage. Flower color is extremely variable, ranging from white to pink to light rose-purple, frequently with interior spotting. Palmate, serrate, leathery, 8 to 16 inch wide, glossy, basal, dark green leaves (7 to 9 leaflets) are evergreen (my zone is 8 and mine are evergreen) in warm climates but deciduous in extremely cold winters. Plants will remain evergreen in moderate winters, but may become scorched and tattered in extremely cold weather, particularly if not insulated by snow cover. Blooms in late winter (sometimes when snow is still present) and continues into spring, with a long, 8 to 10 week bloom period. Leaves, stems and roots are poisonous.

How To Make Your Hellebore Thrive

Hellebores are very tolerant and will grow well in most soils as long as the ground is not extremely dry or stagnantly waterlogged, although they usually survive even those conditions. The best location has soil that is organically rich, humusy, and well-drained. They prefer to be sheltered in semi-shade locations (dense shade can reduce flowering) and protected from long harsh winters. If possible, it is desirable to plant hellebores on a sloping bed, both to improve drainage and also to make it easier to look into the flowers, which naturally nod. New plants can typically be obtained from division of the clumps (best in spring) as well as from seedlings which grow up around the plants as a result of self-seeding. All hellebores are deer proof.

Soil Type

Although very tolerant of soil type, hellebores are deep-rooted and to flower at their best, they appreciate plenty of nutrients and adequate moisture. They will benefit from being planted in deeply dug soil improved with plenty of humus, in the form of leaf mold, compost, or old manure. I mulch once a year. If you follow this practice be careful to not bury the crown of the plant with mulch.

General Hellebore Information

Disease and Pests

Hellebores are generally trouble-free and easy-to-grow plants. Some of the occasional problems that you may experience are fungal diseases, aphids, and slug, or snail damage. My practice is to not use sprays so I remove plants that show weakness to disease.


Hellebores typically do not need to be divided for the health of the plant, but if you wish to transplant, or divide a hellebore, that is best done in September or October. Dividing is best accomplished by digging the whole plant, washing the crown free of soil in order to make it easier to see what you are doing, and then cutting between the growth buds with a sharp knife. If you leave at least three buds in each division, the plant will recover more quickly.


Remove the old faded flower stems so that you encourage next year’s developing new growth. Remove all foliage from hybrid hellebores and the deciduous species in December or January. This is done to improve the appearance of the plant (the old leaves eventually die, slowly), making it easier to see the flowers and also prevent the spread of any existing disease to the newly emerging flower stems and leaves.

Garden Uses

Clumps of Lenten rose blooming in February are true harbingers of spring. Locate plants near a kitchen window, patio or walkway so that the early bloom may be enjoyed to the fullest. Group in shady locations under trees or large shrubs, woodland gardens or border fronts (do not plant in direct sun spots). You might want to also consider incorporating them into a naturalized area where clumps will slowly spread through self-seeding or you can mass them to form an attractive ground cover.

Quick Facts

  • Family: Ranunculaceae
  • Common Name: Hellebore
  • Leaf: Evergreen, deciduous in colder harsher climates
  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 4 to 9
  • Height: 12 to 18 inches
  • Spread: 12 to 18 inches
  • Bloom Time: March to April
  • Bloom Description: White to pink to rose-purple with yellow stamens
  • Sun: Partial shade to full shade (avoid direct sunlight)
  • Water: Medium
  • Maintenance: Low
  • Tolerate: Deer, Heavy Shade, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil, Air Pollution

Photo Search

Flicker – Hellebore Photos

Google – Hellebore Photos

Be Social

Follow me on Twitter @kirklander61
Like me on Facebook
Enjoy the Seattle Trekker Pinterest Gardening Boards

Tags: , ,


  1. Hellebores have to be some of my favourite plants, they look so exotic for something that blooms so early in the year!
    rusty duck recently posted..It’ll Be Dark Soon..My Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge