Made up of around 20 species the Helleborus, or Hellebore, family originates in Europe and Asia. Related to the Ranunculaceae family (buttercups) rather than the Roseaceae family its common names, Christmas Rose, Lenten Rose and Winter Rose, would suggest. To boot many Helleborus species are in fact poisonous.

The ‘flower’ is in fact made up of 5 ‘petal-like’ sepals surrounding a ring of small cup like nectaries which are in fact the petals. The great thing about the sepals is that they do not fall, as petals do, and consequently stay on the plant for much longer periods, often many months, sometimes changing colour as they fade and eventually die back.

Much valued as a winter flowering plant with strong evergreen foliage the Helleborus family can have  a very long season of interest from mid winter (H.niger) to late spring (H.orientalis or H. x hybridus). Tolerant of shade and poor soils they grow happily under tree canopies.

The most commonly available and therefore used are H. argutifolius – Corsican hellebore; H. foetidus – stinking hellebore, H. niger – Christmas rose, H. orientalis and H. x Hybridus – Lenten rose

H. thibetanus is rarer and consequently more pricey but well worth establishing in the garden if you have the time and funds.

  • H x hybridus

Requiring very little in the way of maintenance they are a tough and rugged plant, keen to propagate themselves and blend in with the neighbors. We cut our foliage all the way back in mid winter (January) to allow the flowers to be the focal point  of the season.

Remove and destroy (do not compost) any blackened or damaged foliage at any time of the year as it can signal Hellebore leaf spot, a fungal disease infecting the leaves and stems, flowers can also be rounded and dead with brown spots. Also affecting H.orientalis and H.x hybridus is hellebore black death which causes stunting and streaked black foliage. Dig out the entire plant and roots and destroy (do not compost)

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  • Phoenicia

    At last, I can leave a comment! How interesting that there is a plant whose petals do not fall offThis has always been an issue for me – that and failing to water my plants regularly!

    This summer, I would like to invest in my garden or at least hire a gardener!
    It makes such a difference.

    • A good gardener is well worth the investment they can literally transform you spaces within a short space of time. Happy gardening

  • I love the deep purple helleborus – I can just imagine how beautiful that would look under a tree. I’m going to have to check and see if it will grow in our zone 5 – I hope this one is not a ‘stinking’ one because fragrance is one of the big attractions for me. Thanks for the info on this one.

    • It’s not the stinking one Lenie, though scent is not strong in them either

  • I really know very little about flowers and living in the tropics the flowers I am familiar are quite different that those you describe. Still I love and enjoy flowers so it’s always nice to see and learn about different types.

    • The scale and vibrancy of tropical plants and vegetation is something that has struck me on my ravels in such areas. Might have to look out some close cousins that can bear our climate for comparison.

  • A winter blooming plant looks pretty interesting. Are they dangerous for pets? I have a dog who patrols the backyard and has been known to eat a thing or two.

    • They are poisonous if eaten, that said I have a client with two retrievers who has masses of Hellebore and neither dog has ever shown interest in eating them.

  • I love that there are flowers that bloom in winter and the Helleborus is very pretty. I like the purple hybrid.

  • I never heard of these plants, the flowers are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • William Rusho

    Great post, especially this time of year.
    I am gearing up to re-start my garden, and information about plants really helps me.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Thanks to this post I got to learn about some lovely flowers which we do not find in this part of the world.
    Thank you

    • Where abouts are you Tuhin?

      • I mean here in eastern part of India, we hardly get to see these beautiful flowers..

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