Hellebores, from the genus Helleborus, are low-growing, shade-tolerant, evergreen perennials that bloom in a range of colors in late winter or early spring with long-lasting flowers. Perfect for containers or the landscape, with careful selection, hellebores can bloom in your garden from November to April!

Hellebores are often called “Winter Rose” or “Lenten Rose” because of their flowers’ similarity to a classic rose. Hellebores thrive in dappled shade, are deer-resistant and rabbit-resistant, are relatively drought-tolerant once established, and have very few pests or disease issues making them a great addition to any garden.

Hellebore Flowers

Hellebores possess a range of characteristics that make them great garden and container plants, but the primary reason to add one to your garden is the outstanding blooms that make their debut when most of the garden is asleep.

The color of a Hellebore bloom depends on the cultivar and range from clear white, to muted pastel shades, through to pinks, maroons, and even black. Each flower lasts for several weeks and often goes through subtle color changes, typically starting out lighter and ultimately fading to green as the flower matures.

Flower forms are single, semi-double, or double, and most flowers have slight nodding habits and are borne just above the foliage. However, several new introductions have been bred for longer stems and outward-facing blooms, like those found in the ‘Gold Collection’, ‘Winter Jewels or ‘Ice N’ Roses’ series. Not only do these new varieties provide showier blooms, they also bloom at different times of the year, further extending your winter display.

Helleborus HGC Ice N' Roses 'Frosted Rose'

Helleborus HGC Ice N’ Roses ‘Frosted Rose’

Helleburus HGC 'Diva'

Helleborus HGC ‘Diva’

Helleborus 'Mother of the Bride'

Helleborus ‘Mother of the Bride’

See the chart below for examples of different bloom times for some common Hellebore cultivars.

Hellebore Chart

Hellebores in the Garden

Hellebores are low-maintenance, evergreen plants that offer exciting blooms when most plants are dormant, making them a stellar addition to any landscape. Hellebores are an excellent choice for naturalistic gardens and wooded areas, as they are both deer-resistant and rabbit-resistant.

During late spring and summer when Hellebores are not in bloom, their foliage is leathery and mid-to-dark green, and many newer introductions have unique silvery veining (Frost-Kiss Series) or mottled variegation (Snow Fever). Being mostly evergreen, their large, textured, dramatic leaves provide structure and color year-round.

The foliage of Hellebores combines beautifully with patterned leaves of Hosta or other wonderful woodland shade garden companions like ferns, Brunnera, Bleeding Hearts, and Epimediums.

How to Enhance Hellebore Flower Displays in the Landscape

The previous year’s leaves can be removed to maintain a tidy appearance during the winter as flower buds start to appear. Cut off all the old leaves or those in the worst condition, which will enhance the floral display without the distraction of foliage. Removal of any diseased Hellebore leaves helps reduce fungal disorders in the coming season.

Helleborus Ice N’ Roses ‘Red’

Helleborus x ballardiae HGC ‘Cinnamon Snow’

Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’

Hellebores in Pots & Containers

Hellebores are an ideal addition to winter container combinations, both for their foliage and for their sparkling flowers. We adore Hellebores paired with the ruffled foliage of Heuchera and accented with the cheery blooms of primroses and violas.

Hellebores can either be left in the pots all year-round for a low-maintenance container garden, or can be lifted and transplanted out into the garden when pots are refreshed in the late Spring.

Hellebore Needs, Care & Maintenance

Soil: Hellebores are ideal understory plants and thrive in woodland conditions. In the landscape, they prefer deep, fertile, humus-rich soil but are tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions. Ensure plants have good drainage, as soggy soils may cause fungal issues. Once established, most hellebores require very little supplemental water in the summer.

Sunlight: Dappled shade like that found under deciduous trees, or east-facing aspects with morning sun, are ideal for optimal Hellebore performance of both flowers and foliage. Plants may flower poorly or produce smaller blooms if grown in deep shade or potentially show stress and sunburn in the hot sun. Cold-hardiness depends on species with some hardy to -20°F.

Planting: Plant or transplant Hellebores in spring, winter, or fall. Mature plants can be divided in early-autumn, but generally Hellebores resent being divided. Some older varieties may reseed near the parent plant, and seedlings can either be left to mature or be lifted and transplanted.

Fertilizing: Apply all-purpose, organic fertilizer annually in late winter to early spring to keep plants growing strongly. Mulch around the plant with compost in early winter, but keep away from the crown to prevent rot.

Helleborus Winter Jewels ‘Cherry Blossom’

Helleborus HGC ‘Monte Christo’

Helleborus Winter Jewels ‘Picotee Pearl’

Pests & Diseases Common to Hellebores

Hellebores have few problems with disease, but they are susceptible to black fungal rot. Keep the crown free of mulch, and remove any leaves with black patterning, indicative of fungal presence.

Slugs and snails are also known to attack young growth and new flower buds, so bait with Sluggo in the fall and winter before new growth begins.

Keep an eye out for aphids in the Spring as new growth emerges and treat with neem oil or insecticidal soap, or rinse off bugs with a strong blast of water.

Other Winter Gems

Late winter/early spring flowering trees and shrubs: Edgeworthia, Daphne, Sarcococca, Magnolia, Viburnum, Camellia sasanqua, Witch Hazel, Winterhazel, Mahonia, Azara, Forsythia, Fothergilla

Perennials: Epimedium, Cyclamen coum, Bleeding Heart, Euphorbia, Pulmonaria, Bergenia, Hardy Primula, Heaths & Heathers, Evergreen Clematis

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