Hellebores: The Captivating Flowers That Bloom Early and Long

Hellebores signal the approach of spring, blooming for six weeks or more beginning in late winter.  They are often flowering during the Christian season of Lent, from which they get their common name, Lenten Rose. The “blooms” (which are actually sepals that protect the true flowers) last for several months, from February until May, and the foliage is evergreen in all but the coldest regions.  This is the perfect plant for naturalizing in moist, woodland areas where its extensive root system will spread as far as it is allowed. Hellebores are amazing plants with a long season of spring bloom and evergreen foliage.

  • Common name – Hybrid Lenten Rose        
  • Hardiness – Zones 4 to 9, evergreen in 6 to 9 
  • Bloom time – February – May 
  • Bloom size – 2” to 3.5”
  • Height/Spread – 18-24” tall x 24” wide
  • Site – Partial shade, well-draining soil ·       Characteristics – Low-maintenance, deer-resistant (toxic foliage)

Planting & Caring for Hellebores

  • Tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions, hybrid hellebores perform best when sited in partial shade in rich, mist, but well-drained soil. Hellebores are quite easy to grow, and since they are perennials, will continue to bloom for a number of years.        
  • Planting tips – when planted on a hillside or in raised flower beds, it is easier to enjoy the naturally downward facing blooms.  
  • Since the introduction of the outward facing bloom type hybrids, Ivory Prince was one of the first; It has been easier to enjoy the beautiful flowers. 

  • When transplanting hellebores directly from their nursery containers, be sure to shake off the potting mix and free up any bound roots. 
  • Be careful not to plant the hellebores too deeply as this can hinder the flower production. Make sure that the crown of the plant is just slightly buried beneath the soil. 
  • Plant with companions such as snowdrops, crocus, muscari, daffodils, phlox, trillium and bleeding heart. 
  • Hellebores contain toxins that are harmful to pets and humans, so keep them out of reach.

In late Winter or early Spring, as the new growth stalks are emerging, prune back any old or damaged foliage to the base of the stalks. Apply an annual dose of organically based fertilizer, like Dr. Earth Rose & Flower Fertilizer in mid-April to help boost the growth of the hellebores.

  • Provide plenty of water during Spring and Fall when they are actively growing. Ease up on fertilizer in the summer because heat causes hellebores to go dormant.

With improved breeding techniques there has been a seemingly endless array of new varieties in recent years. The most exciting treands right now include truer and more unusual colors (from amber to almost black), increased plant heights, outward facing blooms and more exotic patterns of speckling, veining and picotee edges.

Chalet’s Favorite Hellebores

Molly’s White
Penny’s Pink
Anna’s Red
Pink Frost
Ivory Prince
Honey Hill Joy
Spanish Flare
Peppermint Ice
Picotee Pearl
Metallic Blue
Onyx Odyssey
Cherry Blossom
French Kiss
Red Sapphire
Paris in Pink
Rome in Red

The fact that Hellebores can be successfully grown in most hardiness zones; are low-maintenance and deer-resistant, enhances their high appeal. They are an indispensable plant for any serious gardener. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Do Hellebores spread? Yes, Hellebores will self-sow. Allowing to do so may result in unexpected hybrids if you grow multiple types in close proximity. Thin out any new seedling that are too close to mature plants. (Do not expect self-sown plants to flower until 3 years of growth.) 

 2. Do Hellebores need to be divided? No, it is not usually necessary for the health of the plant, but if you wish to divide them, it is best done in the Fall. Hellebores can be fussy bout being dug up and moved. It is generally best to leave them be.

Jennifer Brennan

Horticulture Information Specialist, advising and coaching gardeners at Chalet for over 30 years