Hellebore Care: How to Grow Shade-Loving Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose is one of the earliest blooming and lowest maintenance perennial flowers in the shade garden. Learn just how easy Hellebore care is with these tips on growing, fertilizing, and pruning Christmas Rose.

Hellebore Care: How to Grow Shade-Loving Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose (also known as Helleborus orientalis or Helleborus x hybridus) is one of my most favorite plants…although to be honest, this wasn’t always the case.

I think it’s because most of the time when you see the plants in the store, they look kind of scraggly. They can also be more expensive than other perennials and I couldn’t figure out what all of the hype was about.

Then I picked up a couple of Hellebores that were on the clearance table at one of the big box stores, just because I needed some plants that would grow in the shade and they were on sale.

I planted them in a spot that is definitely full shade. North side of the house under Camellias and facing the side of my neighbor’s house (which blocks out any remaining light that might have come through). I still thought they looked pretty scraggly. And I wasn’t really sure they would survive in that location.

Hellebores growing in full shade
Hellebores growing in full shade

But then the miracle happened. They not only grew in that super shady spot…they THRIVED! My Hellebores started blooming really early in the spring (around the end of January here in SC, a little later in colder climates). And they kept blooming all the way until early summer.

Add on that the leaves are evergreen, the plants require very little maintenance, and they have very few pests (deer don’t every like them!)…and I finally got it. There’s a reason why so many people are Hellebore fans!

Planting Hellebores

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Purple lenten rose

Zones: 3 – 9
Light: Part Sun to Full Shade
Bloom Time: Winter to late spring
Height: 15″ to 18″
Spread: 18″ to 24″

As I mentioned above, Hellebores are really easy to grow. However, they are a little finicky about being moved, so when you are planting them, try to choose a site that will be their “forever home”.

Hellebores will spread once they are established so leaving them some room to expand will make sure you don’t have to move them later.

They do also self-seed. The new plants may not be true to their parents in flower color and take 3 to 5 years to start blooming (I guess that’s why the plants can be expensive!). If that concerns you, then you will want to pull out the new seedlings (I don’t bother unless they are getting too crowded).

Plant Lenten Rose so the crown is just below the soil. Make sure not to plant them too deep or they won’t produce as many flowers.

As with a lot of shade plants, they like moist organic soil that isn’t too wet. However, I have found that after they are settled, they survive dry conditions pretty well, too.

Fertilizing Hellebores

Double flowered lenten rose

To be honest, I never fertilize my Hellebores.

They get an annual dressing with ground bark mulch and that’s about it.

However, if you like to fertilize your plants, mushroom compost, well-rotted manure or a balanced fertilizer that isn’t too high in Nitrogen will work. As with most flowering plants, too much Nitrogen will produce lots of leaves but limit the number of flowers.

Pruning Hellebores

Hellebore doesn't require much pruning

The only Hellebore pruning I do is to remove damaged leaves when I see them.

Since the Lenten Rose leaves are evergreen, you don’t even have to cut the plants back in the fall.

Some people say that removing some of the foliage in the spring makes it easier to see the blooms, but I have never done that. My gardening motto is always the less work the better 🙂

Lenten Rose Varieties

Once I was converted into a Lenten Rose fan and actually started looking for them, I realized another reason why so many people like them. There are a lot of different Hellebore flowers to choose from!

Single flowered pink Lenten Rose
Single flowered pink Lenten Rose

There are single flowers.

Lenten Rose with spotted flowers
Lenten Rose with spotted flowers

Spotted flowers.

Hellebore with picotee flowers
Hellebore with picotee flowers

Picotee flowers.

Double-flowered Christmas Rose
Double-flowered Christmas Rose

Double flowers.

Purple (or Black) Hellebore
Purple (or Black) Hellebore

And even black (okay, really dark purple) ones!

With all of this selection, it’s almost impossible to stop at just one!

Beautiful Hellebore flowers
Beautiful Hellebore flowers

Plus, once they get going, they don’t look so scraggly any more 🙂

Where Can You Buy Hellebores?

Since Lenten Rose has become very popular, they are a lot easier to find than they used to be. You can even find them on Amazon* these days, although be careful that you are getting a potted plant rather than seeds, unless you want to wait 3 to 5 years for them to bloom 🙂

To be sure that you are getting good quality plants that are true to color, order from my favorite online nurseries — Wayside Gardens and Spring Hill Nurseries*.

Have comments or questions on how to grow Lenten Rose? Tell us in the section below.

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9 Responses

  • I live in south Arizona, hot temps, summer 110 to 115, is posible to have that kind of plants?question, where can i get them?

    • Hi Joseph…I haven’t tried growing Hellebores in temperatures quite that high (we average in the mid-90’s where I am), but they are pretty tough plants…so you might want to try one to start with and see how it does. I have bought most of mine from Wayside Gardens, but they should have some at your local nursery.

  • I planted one this spring and it did ok, but now it seems to have either died or gone dormant. Do they do that like poppies, bleeding hearts do?

    • They don’t usually go dormant like bleeding hearts, but I have seen them die back in the summer if they get too dry or too hot. Hopefully it will start growing again once the weather cools down a bit.

  • I began a shade garden 8 years ago and hired a landscaper to bring in good soil, recommend and purchase the plants, and her crew planted them. She planted two Lenten roses. The plants are still alive, but I have never seen them bloom. Do you think they might have planted them too deep? I remember the landscaper saying how much I would enjoy those two plants, but without them blooming, they’re not special at all!

    • Hi Karen…that could be the problem. Hellebores usually don’t take much effort to get them to bloom, and they’re not that particular about their growing conditions. Sometimes, it can take them a little while to get going, but since yours have been there for 8 years, that shouldn’t be the problem. If you have acidic soil, you can try sprinkling some lime around them which might help. As you mentioned, the planting depth is the only other thing I can think of. The crown should be at or just a little below the soil line. And you’re right…they’re not that pretty to look at if they don’t bloom 🙂

  • I just purchased 50 healthy lenton rose starts, I was not able to put in ground right away, so i potted all of they up in container and they are sitting in shade. They look really good. My question is should I just wait now until fall to put in ground since that is the best time to plant plus it gets pretty hot here in the summer

    • Hi Eliza…If you’re good at keeping the container watered, then waiting until fall is the best bet. If not, then it’s probably better to put them in the ground now since they’ll be less likely to dry out.

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