As we grow weary of winter weather, one of the most delightful perennials to have for your shade garden is the helleborus plant. They are commonly called Lenten rose. These plants are native to Europe from Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Greece, & Italy.
Hellebores will thrive in gardens with rich organic soil that is well-drained. Choose a north or east facing planting location (out of strong winter wind) with part to full shade (preferably dappled light). They prefer cool temperatures and are known to flower even when there is snow on the ground. Roots of the plant prefer to stay cool so leaf mulch can be valuable and is advised for winter protection. Their leaves are often evergreen, depending on the severity of the winter weather. As active growth begins in early spring that is the time to cut off any damaged leaves from the winter.
Their flower formation actually begins in the fall when they are actively growing. They prefer even moisture and will be somewhat drought tolerant once they are established. Do not plant them in places that are wet.
Plant size can range up to 2 to 3 feet and clumps can spread to 2 feet wide depending upon the variety. They come in all sizes. Breeders are constantly developing new plants in the group. Many flowers are open white and then fade to pale green. Newer hybrids have flowers that are pink, yellow, purple, magenta, and almost black. Flowers will hold onto the plant for a very long time. The plant will benefit from a side-dressing of compost in the spring and a balanced slow release fertilizer for the growing season. As they develop their flower formation in the fall, they will benefit from some liquid fertilizer at that time (very different from other perennials that are not getting fertilized during this time). It is not recommended to divide this plant. If you need to transplant, it would be preferable to do that in the spring. Hellebores are generally easy to maintain and get very few diseases and pests. Watch for aphids and mites. They can also be subject to downy mildew in certain weather conditions.
This is a plant that can provide beautiful early color in the garden and wonderful leaf texture during the rest of the growing season. They will be of great interest in any shade garden. Visit your local independent garden centers to find these gorgeous early bloomers.
This article is sponsored by McNamara at Sand Point, which has 2 acres of production greenhouses, retail florist and gift shop, as well as retail garden center and wholesale plant business. Contact McNamara by calling 260-747-4131 or visit 4322 DeForest Ave, Ft. Wayne, IN 46809.