February 07, 2011

Plant of the month: Hellebore

Plants, like people, enter our lives in stages. Some are with us seemingly from the beginning. For me, Peonies, Roses, Pansies, and Lilacs are intertwined with memories of caring relatives who watched over me as a child.

Other plants appear at later stages and become like dear friends so quickly that we find it hard to believe we didn’t know them earlier. The Hellebore (Helleborus L.) is such a plant for me.

I can’t even explain exactly what attracts me to Hellebores. Many factors add to the allure, including that:

  • Rabbits don’t like Hellebores (see previous post, A story about Peter Rabbit);
  • They bloom in early spring—in my garden, just after the Crocuses;
  • They’re perennials that grow well in a shady (but not too shady) garden; and
  • They’re very hardy and easy-care plants that established quickly.

But I think the main reason Hellebores are a personal favorite is just because of the unique form and color of the plants themselves. New growth emerges from the center of the previous year’s arching foliage, which can be cut back as the new plants unfurl. The buds are fascinating even before the flowers fully bloom—pointing downward from the tops of their stems.

The flowers vary in color (purple, red, near black, white, green, pink, and yellow) and pattern (solid, speckled, variegated). As the flowers age, many become more green-tinged.

I found a spot for my Hellebores that appears to suit them perfectly—at the base of a stone wall, interplanted with Hostas, Roses, Lily-of-the-Valley, and Daffodils. The Daffodils and Hellebores take center stage first, followed by Lily-of-the-Valley, and then Roses and Hostas. And the foliage of these plants is complementary.

Several fellow garden bloggers have recently posted excellent photos and information about Hellebores. Among them:

    Obviously, Hellebores aren’t currently blooming in my Wisconsin garden, which is covered with two feet of snow. But they are emerging quite readily throughout the northern hemisphere, and will continue to do so from south to north, and from now until late May.

    I can't wait to see these new "old friends" again!


    1. Thank you so much for linking to my hellebore post. You have some great photos of what is obviously one of my favorite plants.

    2. I can't wait to see my hellebores..these are beautiful...let's hope for an early spring so we can see them soon...

    3. Your hellebore are gorgeous! I love this plant for they bloom in winter in my garden and they are so hardy.

    4. Hellebores sound like a great addition in my shady yard and I'll be on the lookout for them this spring!

    5. I know why I love Hellebores, they are gorgeous, though havent seen them in real life before, wish I could plant them here!

    6. Hi Beth
      I'm in Hellebore heaven looking over these luscious specimens! Thanks for the mention.
      aka Bay Area Tendrils

    7. Dear Beth, Although you say that you have come to Hellebores rather later than other plants, I can guarantee that they will rapidly become addictive. New colours to collect, singles and doubles, spots and plain....the list is endless so a larger area in the garden for them will be needed before long!!

    8. I don't have Hellebores in my gardens but I am convinced that I must plant them this Spring. I think if they will survive in Wisconsin then maybe they will survive here. I'll give it a try.

    9. Gorgeous hellebores. I planted some the very first year I had a garden...promptly put them in full sun! Haha! Needless to say, they were lovely until they died. I'd love to get more, but I don't have any shade. Just have to enjoy others! Thanks for sharing!

    10. @Carolyn: Your post reminded me again how much I love Hellebores. Thanks.

      @Donna: Yes! And hopefully the heavy snow (and its approaching demise) will encourage healthy plant growth.

      @Karin: Thanks! You're lucky you get to see them in winter. Mine don't bloom until April.

      @Chris: Yes, they are great shade garden plants!

      @p3chandan: I'm surprised that you can't grow Hellebores in Malaysia. Is it just too hot?

    11. @Alice: You're lucky Hellebores are blooming for you now. I'm enjoying all your posts about California plants and travels!

      @Edith: I believe you are correct. I'm picturing a spot right now!

      @Carolyn: Yes, I recommend them. They don't bloom here until April, but they have re-emerged several years now, so they're amazingly hardy.

      @Hanni: I envy your sunny garden. I had sun at my last location, and the veggies grew like weeds. I miss that!

    12. Hellebores have come into my life later too. I just added my first ones a couple years ago. I don't know why I didn't do it much sooner. You have some really beautiful ones.

    13. Wonderful plants, aren't they? I love the variety of flower form and colour, and the way you can get seedlings so totally different from the parents - a little like aquilegias in that I suppose. I love your deep purple one, in fact I rather covet it!

      Thank you for the link.

    14. @Kathleen: We'll have to compare information as we learn more and add more Hellebores.

      @Janet: Yes! I'm looking forward to seeing photos of your Hellebores in full bloom -- it looks like that will happen soon!

    15. Beautful! Love your postings. Love the Hellebores in all colors and hope to plant some this Spring!

    16. What a lovely opening sentence to a very nice post. Hellebores are growing on me though my garden does not seem to grow on them as much as I'd like. Normally do not like the dark ones but that last image has converted me.

    17. Beautiful post! I just noticed the other day that my hellebores had borne "babies" all around their base. I'm looking forward to spreading them around in my shady spots. :)

    18. I've never seen hellebores in person, but I planted some last fall. I'm hoping they will come up for me. Beautiful photos.

    19. @Debbie: Thank you! Yes, Hellebores will bring you a lot of joy!

      @Laura: Thanks! Because I have two very different ones, I'm more curious than ever and can't wait to try more. Good luck this year with your Hellebores.

      @Eliza: I'll look forward to seeing posts and photos about your "baby" Hellebores.

      @HolleyGarden: I hope your Hellebores survive and thrive this year. Good luck!