How to Plant and Care for Hellebores (Lenten Roses)

Updated on May 20, 2018
Casey White profile image

Dorothy McKenney is a former newspaper reporter turned researcher. Her husband, Mike, is a professional landscape/nature photographer.

Stunning Variety of Colors

Winter-blooming lenten roses.  Although the flowers are gorgeous, the roots of all Hellebores are strongly emetic (causing you to vomit) and can be fatal if ingested.
Winter-blooming lenten roses. Although the flowers are gorgeous, the roots of all Hellebores are strongly emetic (causing you to vomit) and can be fatal if ingested. | Source

Looking for Winter Blooms? Lenten Roses Are Perfect!

If you have been scurrying around searching for winter-blooming perennial plants, why don't you buy yourself some Lenten Roses? Smack dab in the middle of winter, these great flowers will begin to open and the cool weather can help keep these blooms around for a couple of months.

Here's what to look for in a winter-blooming perennial Lenten Rose plant.

  • My first suggestion is for you to buy an already-established plant because these plants seem to take forever to get started, and there's just no need to put yourself through that frustration if you don't have to. Even if you do buy one that's large and already established, you will still have to give it a couple of years before it begins to flower. Patience, grasshopper.

  • They are great under trees like the Japanese Maple, which has low-spreading branches offering great shade for the roses. Make sure, however, that you plant them on the east side of your home (when possible) because the morning sun and the afternoon shade are the perfect environment for the Lenten Roses.

  • Also, make sure that you plant them in well-drained soil. Keep them away from soil that is wet continually, and also away from clay soil. Your Lenten Rose plant will reward you well if, in the spring, you place a few inches of compost (or mulch if you don't have any compost) at the base of the plant. The roots need to remain cool and moist and the compost should do the trick nicely.

  • You can expect them to bloom in colors ranging from light pink to a deep wine color, and some may even be speckled. The only way you'll be able to choose the colors of the bloom would be to purchase the plants from a nursery while they are blooming.

    Fortunately, these flowers have no serious pest problems (like most of their fellow hellebores) and they are deer resistant as well.

If your seedlings are not identical to their parents, don't be alarmed, as there is a great deal of cross-fertilization when they seed.

Beautiful Colors of Lenten Roses

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The lenten rose is beautiful in any color.  This is another hybrid called the Helleborus x hybridus.  It closely resembles the night coaster lenten rose and the black diamond lenten rose.This is a double yellow-spotted lenten rose.  These helleborous flowers are so named because they bloom around the time of Lent.This is a hybrid variety of lenten rose called the Helleborus x hybridus, a bee-friendly flower.This lenten rose is a helleborus double green picotee.
The lenten rose is beautiful in any color.  This is another hybrid called the Helleborus x hybridus.  It closely resembles the night coaster lenten rose and the black diamond lenten rose.
The lenten rose is beautiful in any color. This is another hybrid called the Helleborus x hybridus. It closely resembles the night coaster lenten rose and the black diamond lenten rose. | Source
This is a double yellow-spotted lenten rose.  These helleborous flowers are so named because they bloom around the time of Lent.
This is a double yellow-spotted lenten rose. These helleborous flowers are so named because they bloom around the time of Lent. | Source
This is a hybrid variety of lenten rose called the Helleborus x hybridus, a bee-friendly flower.
This is a hybrid variety of lenten rose called the Helleborus x hybridus, a bee-friendly flower. | Source
This lenten rose is a helleborus double green picotee.
This lenten rose is a helleborus double green picotee. | Source

The flowers of hellebores are usually shaped like either cups or bells (outward facing or drooping). They have a ring of petal-like sepals ranging from white to green through pink and red to a deep purple color. Very rarely are they ever yellow.

Divide for More Plants

If you want to increase the number of your plants, divide them in the late summer or very early fall. You will probably see blooms in the spring because the flower buds have already formed for the next year. When seedlings start popping up (and they will) remove them immediately or they will become invasive in a hurry.

Tips for Successful Lenten Roses

  • Your soil pH should be about 7.
  • The Lenten Rose plants are cold hardy in USDA zones 4-8.
  • You can expect your plant to grow about 18" tall and 18" wide.
  • If the evergreen leaves begin to look like they are dying, simply cut them off before the flower stalks begin to stretch.
  • These plants are light-shade lovers and they enjoy the leaf-mold and the slight dampness that are typical of shady areas. They don't particularly need the damp to survive, but it will keep them at their best.

Hybrids, Hybrids, Hybrids

There are so many hybrid varieties of hellebores that they are almost impossible to keep up with. Some of the older varieties with softer tones have been replaced by darker, richer, deeper tones of blues, blacks, and burgundy. In addition, many of the species interbreed and people are dazzled by the resulting blooms of flowers that are cross-fertile between sections.

References

  1. Leese, Timothy (1999). Designing With Perennials. Courage Books (An Imprint of Running Press, Philadelphia, London

Questions & Answers

  • When is the best time to plant Hellebores?

    You can plant them either in early fall or spring.

  • Can hellebores be divided? If so, when is the best time to do so?

    The best time to divide them is in early fall, around September or October.

  • Do I need to feed Hellebores (Lenten Roses) anything special?

    After they begin flowering, you can put powdered chicken manure around them or well-rotted manure, although any type of complete fertilizer is suitable (liquid, powder or pellets) if it contains the three main nutrient elements (N, P, and K).

© 2011 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

Comments

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    • Casey White profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike and Dorothy McKenney 

      7 weeks ago from United States

      Check out this link and see if it helps: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/en...

    • profile image

      William Mayne 

      7 weeks ago

      Our Hellebores is totally in the shade and did very well when we planted them 2 months ago. They both have a lot of new growth but recently they leafs that are turning yellow and drying. Parts of the plant look healthy. What should we do to help the plants?

    • profile image

      Barbara Beane 

      3 months ago

      I love the pictures of the Lenten Roses, especially the Blue, which I have not seen before. I have a white Lenten Rose which I had for 20 or more years. And love that its blooming when nothing else does, I recently bought some rental property and one area of the yard has 60 or more Lenten Roses, white and pink and they are beautiful, I am transplanting some of these to other areas and to my home. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      5 years ago from the short journey

      Glad to learn more about Lenten Roses. I need to clean ivy out of 2 stands so we can enjoy the upcoming blooms! I wish they would invade the ivy rather than the reverse. :) Really nice photos.

    • Casey White profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike and Dorothy McKenney 

      6 years ago from United States

      Christine, plants are my passion, but they remain a mystery to me since I moved to Washington state. My Christmas cactus, which is "supposed" to bloom in about December, is in full bloom (April 20). I guess I'll just try to enjoy it now because I know that it will probably not be blooming in the winter. Mother Nature continues to baffle me.

    • profile image

      Christine 

      6 years ago

      I love growing lenten roses because they have attractive evergreen foliage. My oldest plant started blooming in January and here it's April and it's still blooming.

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 

      6 years ago

      I am not so sure that I will find Lenten roses in my part of the world, but I wanted to say that you have some excellent pictures and description in there :)

    • jennifersbenson profile image

      jennifersbenson 

      7 years ago from Canberra, Australia

      I have no talent for gardening but this makes it sound fun and easy. I like the fact that they can look pretty in the winter too. Thank you so much for sharing this with me.

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