Hellebores are the 2005 perennial of the year. Evergreen, long-lived, with blossoms that last for up to two months, these beautiful plants deserve a special place in your garden.
Hellebores are native to eastern Europe and Asia. They first appeared in literature about 1400 years before Christ. Originally believed to have medicinal properties, they were later discovered to be toxic.
Depending on the climate zone, Hellebores bloom from late fall to early spring. In my zone six garden, they bloom in mid-April and usually last until mid-May. There are twenty different species of Hellebores. The most common is the Helleborus Orientalis (Lenten Rose) with its light pink, white, and light green-apple colored blossoms. Also common is the pure white Helleborus Niger (Christmas Rose) which blooms in late February, early March. Individual blossoms can be up to 3″ across and droop slightly, like large buttercups.
Hellebores require a degree of patience. Although very long-lived, they take from three to five years to become established and to bloom. They prefer a well-drained, amended soil and full to light shade. They will adapt to all but the most extreme parts of The United States. They are relatively free of pests, and deer and other wildlife avoid them. Clumps of mature Hellebores grow to be 18 to 24″ in diameter.
Hellebores can grow happily without being divided. Mature Hellebores, however, can be propagated by division, preferably in the early spring or late fall. Try to leave at least two buds on each division. You will probably have to wait a year for the plant to bloom after replanting.
Wear gloves when handling Hellebores and keep these plants away from pets and small children as the roots and leaves are toxic.
Hellebores are available via mail and online from many nurseries including Wayside Gardens and Spring Hill Nursery.