How to Plant and Care for Hellebores (Lenten Roses)
Stunning Variety of Colors
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 RosesClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
- 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