Hellebores: Growing and Care Guide

Hellebores are one of the first flowers to bloom in your garden. They’re easy to grow and available in many flower colors and types.

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One of the first flowers to bloom in your garden, sometimes peeking through snow, Hellebores are a welcome sign that spring is on the way.

hellebores
Hellebores nod against Bearded Iris leaves.

Hellebores (pronounced hel-eh-bor’us ) are also known as Lenten Rose because their nodding, rose-like flowers appear in late winter or early spring around the Christian holiday of Lent (the season of Easter). As one of the earliest flowers to bloom in your garden, it’s a welcome reminder that winter is on its way out.

Despite its nickname, hellebores are not a member of the rose family. These herbaceous perennials grow low to the ground in clumps usually no more than one – to one-and-a-half feet high and have distinctive leathery, dark-green leaves. They need little care, aren’t too fussy, and the foliage is evergreen in all but the coldest regions. You’ll enjoy them in your garden for many years, with little effort. Deer and Voles don’t like them either, so this is one flower they won’t eat.

Hellebore flowers

Hellebore flowers are cup-shaped and rose-like (hence the nickname) and appear in a vast array of colors. The flowers are 2-4″ in diameter, may appear in single or double form, and in clusters that either face upwards or nod downwards. Old-fashioned varieties flower in shades of white and green. Newer hybrids include shades of pink, purple, yellow, red, gray, and black, and there are even some spotted and striped varieties.

When the flowers bloom is largely dependent on snow cover and temperature. They typically appear from very early winter through early spring, for a period of 8-10 weeks, when few other flowers are in bloom. In my garden in Pennsylvania, they bloom from March through May. Bees and other pollinators love them as they’re rich in nectar and few flowers are in bloom as early as Hellebores.

Hellebores are bred for a specific flower type and most are hybrid varieties. If you wish to maintain consistency in the flowers, remove the seed capsules each year or plant different varieties at opposite ends of your garden. They seed prolifically, and the self-sown plants may appear in unexpected combinations of flower types or colors (the flowers of the offspring of hybrids are not true to the parent). To prevent self-sowing, remove the spent flowers before the seed pods open. Self-sown plants will bloom after 3 seasons.

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