By Nina Sisk and Mary Fowler
We are obsessed with this plant, which is a lovely shade garden plant.  These unusual evergreen plants bloom from early spring to late winter.  They provide beautiful blooms at a time when all other flowers are scarce, and some bloom for several months.  They can be seen blooming even when snow is still present.  They are excellent for cutting and bringing indoors, which is the best way to appreciate those nodding varieties.
Here are the details: dark green, segmented , evergreen leathery leaves.  2-4″ rose shaped flowers are long lasting on the plant, which is 1.5- 2′ high and 1-1.5′ wide.  They come in a range of colors from white to dark plum including pink, cream and yellow.  Newer hybrids include upward facing blooms, double flowers, ruffled edges and heavy speckling.

Planting Conditions:

  • Hardy Zones 4-9
  • Grow best in partial shade or filtered sun in rich, well drained soil with adequate moisture.
  • Water well during extended dry periods, drought tolerant once established.
  • Amend soil with plenty of organic matter.
  • In early spring plants benefit from an application of balanced fertilizer and pruning of brown or dead leaves
  • In addition to providing winter interest leave old leaves on to protect the flower buds from very cold weather and wind.
  • Once established require minimal care

Propagation:

  • Starting from seed is very difficult. May take 3-5 years to bloom. Seedlings from mother plant are not true to cultivar.
  • Autumn is best time to divide and replant. Dig up whole plant, cut root mass in 2-3 sections. Replant amending soil with compost, water well.
  • Wait at least two years to divide.

Pests:

  • All parts of the plant are poisonous so keep children and pets away from this plant. Virtually pest free.
  • Although in some areas slugs and snails can be a problem we don’t normally have this issue in Denver.

Planting Companions:

  • Beautiful with bulbs, ferns, ginger and hostas.

Varieties

  • When buying be watchful as some varieties are only hardy to Zone 6.
  • Helleborous niger: Christmas rose
    Earliest blooming, often begins blooming in late December as the name suggests. Often fragrant.
  • Helleborous x hybridus previously known as Helleborous orientalis: Lenten Rose
    Widest range of colors.
  • Helleborus Foetidus: “Stinky”
    Patel shade of green, unusual fragrance, considered stinky by some
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