What is Helleborus?

Overview

The evergreen shade-loving hellebore was named the 2005 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. Its common name, the Lenten rose, refers to the fact that it blooms very early in the spring and has single or double flowers that resemble roses.

Description

Hardy in zones 4 to 9, the hellebore is unique in that it prefers shade, but will tolerate dry conditions once it is established. The flowers are exceptionally long-lasting and can be found in white, pink, yellow, red and plum. Plants form clumps 18 to 24 inches high and 24 to 30 inches wide.

Classification

The hellebore is a member of the buttercup family and was formerly classified as Helleborus orientalis. It is now called Helleborus x hybridus.

Care

Hellebores like a well-drained humus-rich location where they are shaded by deciduous trees. Good drainage is essential, so planting on a slope is ideal. Hellebores may cause skin irritation, so gardening gloves are recommended.

Uses

The hellebore can be used to brighten woodland areas, and makes a good companion for other spring bloomers such as epimedium, ferns and bleeding hearts.

Propagation

Seed germination is slow and it may take four to five years to produce a plant of flowering size. Established clumps may be divided at most times of the year; however, plants take a long time to recover from division.

Fun Fact

A mature plant may have as many as 50 flowers, and each flower may last two months. The evergreen foliage is by itself ornamental with leaves resembling leathery umbrellas.

References

  • Perennial Plant Association
  • University of Illinois Extension
  • University of Vermont Extension
Keywords: hellebore, helleborus, lenten rose

About this Author

Gwen Bruno has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009, with her gardening-related articles appearing on DavesGarden. She is a former teacher and librarian, and she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Augustana College and master's degrees in education and library science from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin.