How to Plant the Lenten Rose


The original Lenten rose was a white-flowered hellebore native to Turkey, Ukraine and the Caucasus, and is rarely found in American gardens today. Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus) has become the name for a group of hellebore hybrids that bloom from the late winter to early spring. Flowering when the landscape is still bleak, they add muted reds, purples, pinks and white to the garden and often have spots or veining on the petals. Lenten roses are evergreen in warmer climates, long-lived and easy to grow.

Step 1

Choose a site in partial shade. Hellebores can tolerate the full sun, but try an eastern exposure.

Step 2

Dig approximately a foot deep into the soil to accommodate the Lenten rose's root system and turn the soil over well. The soil should be well-drained but able to hold the moisture. If necessary, add sand for drainage. Add a planting mix high in organic matter or use compost. According to hellebore expert Graham Rice, the use of organic matter when planting Lenten roses is essential. He also recommends adding 1 to 2 ounces of lime per plant. Work organic matter and the lime into soil.

Step 3

Dig the planting hole large enough to accommodate the rootball of the plant, with 5 inches added to either side. The hole should be approximately 12 inches deep. Add the organic planting mix into the hole and mix it with the existing soil. Water the material in the hole.

Step 4

Take the plant out of its nursery container. Wear your gloves when you handle the hellebores, as the sap causes skin irritation. If the plant is tight in the pot, gently loosen the roots and shake off some of the potting soil. The roots need access to water in order for the plant to establish well.

Step 5

Set the plant in the hole. Backfill the hole with the soil, adjusting the plant to accommodate the addition of the soil. Tamp the soil down lightly. The plant should be planted at the same soil level as it was in the pot. The crown of your Lenten rose (just above where the roots begin) should only be 1 inch below the soil surface. Water the plant well.

Step 6

Water your plant every few days for the first week.

Tips and Warnings

  • All parts of Lenten roses are poisonous. Planting too deep prevents the flower from blooming. A disease called hellebore black death causes dark streaking on the leaves and stems. No cure exists, and gardeners are advised to destroy these plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade or small shovel
  • Lime
  • Organic planting mix
  • Container for water
  • Lenten rose
  • Garden gloves


  • Growing and Propagating Hellebores
  • Hellebores: Soil, Siting and Planting
  • North Carolina State University: Poisonous Plants of North Carolina: Helleborus orientalis
  • Plant Delights Nursery: Hellebores, Hellebores, Hellebores
  • Helleborus: Hellebore Black Death

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Announcing the Perennial Plant of the Year-Lenten Rose
  • Perennial Plant Association: Helleborus x hybridus
Keywords: Lenten rose, Helleborus x hybridus, Helleborus orientalis, planting Lenten roses

About this Author

Janet Belding has been writing for 22 years. She has had nonfiction pieces published in "The Boston Globe," "The Cape Cod Times," and other local publications. She is a writer for the guidebook "Cape Cod Pride Pages." Her fiction has been published in "Glimmer Train Stories." She has a degree in English from the University of Vermont.