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.