Lenten Rose (or Hellebore) is one of the earliest blooming and lowest maintenance perennial flowers in the shade garden. Learn just how easy it is to grow, fertilize, prune and care for.
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 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.
|More Shade Perennials|
|Ground covers for shade|
|Blue and purple perennials for part shade|
|Shade loving vines|
|Shade companion plants for spring bulbs|
But then the miracle happened. They not only grew in that super shady spot…they THRIVED! They 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!
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.
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.
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 flower options to choose from!
There are single flowers.
And even black (okay, really dark purple) ones!
With all of this selection, it’s almost impossible to stop at just one!
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 :)