Helleborus are long-lived and very tough perennials that bloom with big, beautiful flowers in the winter. Also called “Lenten Roses”, they are known for being the first plant to do much of anything in the very early spring or, in some areas, the middle of winter. Yes, often even before spring flowering bulbs. Hellebores are quick to send up thick stalks and bloom when the days start to get longer and the sun barely warms the soil. Blooms will last a long time too – often a couple of months. Cultivars offer blooms from white to almost black, and every color and many pretty patterns in between. Their foliage stays evergreen. They do well in shade and don’t get big. People who have added hellebores to their gardens quickly fall in love with them and are often the beginnings of garden plant collections!
Most garden zones of 5 to 8 and are able to enjoy the full range of available hellebore cultivars. The best types for temperate gardens are the hybrid types, which come in most of the colors and forms that you see. More northern climates are limited to the species ‘helleborus niger’ which are generally white-blooming, but they are still lovely. Hellebores pair lovely in the shade garden with other typical shade plants, like astilbe and hosta.
Helleborus originate from Asia and Europe and have been in cultivation for a long time. Lots of myths and stories originate from these plants, centering on their toxicity. It used to be associated with witchcraft and was sometimes used during ancient Greek times as a cure for insanity. The plant itself is not palatable, but when planted in the garden great care should be taken to make sure kids and pets don’t eat it.
Hellebores aren’t necessarily new. Gardeners who enjoy branching out from the normal selections often have groups of hellebores in their gardens- but they’re not very common in most landscapes. Thankfully, we are carrying the best performing and beautiful hellebore cultivars now priced affordably so they can be planted in a wider range of gardens.