Winter Flowers That Last for Months
Common Name: Hellebore, Lenten rose, Christmas rose
Botanical Name: Helleborus
Form: coarse, rounded
Species: numerous species, varieties & cultivars
Plant Type: broadleaf evergreen herbaceous perennial Mature Size: 20-30ft (6-9 m), x 15 to 20ft (4.5 - 6m)
Origin: Great Britain, Europe
Hardiness Zone: USDA Zones 3 to 9
Foliage: dark green, leathery, thick, compound & palmate with pinnate leaflets, serrated margins
Stems: all stems, including flowers, arise from a central crown.
Flowers: nodding flowers with 5 bracts, not petals, surrounding prominent yellow stamens in November to April. Bracts linger after ‘flowers’ have ceased.
Fruit: follicles in green, brown in June to May encase viable seeds
Exposure: part shade to sun (with moist soil)
Soil: evenly moist, well-drained, humus rich, organic soil and mulched
Propagation: seeds or division
Uses: garden beds, containers, cut flowers, shade gardens, woodlands, perennial and shrub borders, raised beds and slopes so you can see the flowers.
Problems: black spot disease prone in wet soils, slugs, snails, stems and roots are toxic if ingested
Hellebores are well-loved winter plants associated with Christmas because that’s when they flower. There are many types of hellebores but only one actually claims to be the Christmas rose (H. niger). They flower from November to February with white to light pink blossoms. They are also referred to as Black hellebore, maybe because of their dark green to bluish foliage.
This long blooming plant continues to treat us with their exquisite flowers well into the spring. The plant itself is composed of a circle of large evergreen bold leaves composed of leaflets joined in the centre. Their attractive evergreen foliage look good all year even without their pretty flowers, making them a versatile plant for partially shaded gardens.
Starting in November at the earliest, leafless flower stalks appear from the centre of the plant. Flowers vary in size, up to 4 inches wide depending on the variety. Most varieties have 5 single petals with many long yellowish stamens protruding from the flower’s center. Their blossoms also nod, hiding their beauty to protect them from rain and snow. Breeders have developed new varieties that keep their flowers more upright such as Helleborus x hybridus, but there are many different types to choose from. Some flowers are spotted, striped, doubled, have wavy petals with coloured edges; there’s so many to choose from.
Helleborus Leaf Spot
Scientific name: Microsphaeropsis hellebori (syn. Coniothyrium hellebori)
This is a common fungus that attacks hellebores leaves and stems. The Christmas rose (H. niger) is especially susceptible, however, the Corsican hellebore (H.argutifolius) is much more resistant.
This disease is spread by rain and wet conditions, so provide hellebores with good draining soil and where they will not be dripped on by overhanging plants and structures.
Symptoms: Round, brown, dead patches appear on leaves and stems. The foliage often appears tattered as the dead tissue is prone to fall out, whilst infected flower stems collapse resulting in a very sad and distressed plant.
Controls: Remove all infected foliage from the plant and the ground asap and discard them, don’t compost. Be careful when handling hellebores as the infection is spread by spores that develop on the undersides of the foliage. Disinfect all tools used on or around lenten roses. Wash your hands after each plant, or change your garden gloves to prevent spreading the disease.
Remove infected foliage throughout the year as soon as you spot any. Finish off the year by removing all the foliage in autumn. Provide plants with a 3 inches of organic mulch on top of the soil inbetween plants. This reduces the spread of the spores that splash up from the soil during rain.