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How to Plant and Care for Hellebores (Lenten Roses)

Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.

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.

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.

Lenten Roses in New Mexico

Lenten roses grow beautifully here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Lenten roses grow beautifully here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

how-to-plant-and-care-for-lenten-roses

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.

Tips for Successful Lenten Roses

  • Your soil pH should be about 7.
  • The 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

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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Will a cut stem root?

Answer: Yes, absolutely.

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

Answer: 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).

Question: When is the best time to plant Hellebores?

Answer: You can plant them either in early fall or spring.

Question: When should I remove Hellebores blossoms?

Answer: Deadhead your rose regularly throughout the flowering period, which lasts until May in some regions. Clip the flower stalks back to ground level when the blooms fade and the seed pods within them swell and become evident.

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

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

Question: Is there a White Lenten Rose?

Answer: Yes. They are beautiful. Just Google white lenten rose and photos will come up.

© 2011 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

Comments

Nancy on June 23, 2020:

Just received lenton roses about 6 inches tall in pots. It's July, so what do I do with them until time to plant in fall?

Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on August 17, 2019:

It should do just fine in a bigger pot. Just be sure to add some compost or rich organic potting soil to the original soil. Also, make sure to get a pot that drains well. Good luck, and thanks for reading the article.

Cheryl Woods on August 16, 2019:

I received a Lenten Rose from a friend. Will the plant do OK if I re pot in a bigger pot or does it need to go in the ground?

Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on February 27, 2019:

Lime would only help if your soil is too acidic. You would need to check your soil's pH. Thanks for reading.

Anne on February 26, 2019:

I thought Lenten roses liked lime?

Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on May 26, 2018:

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

William Mayne on May 26, 2018:

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?

Barbara Beane on March 31, 2018:

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 on November 24, 2012:

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.

Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on April 21, 2012:

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.

Christine on April 07, 2012:

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.

Sophie on September 03, 2011:

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 from Canberra, Australia on May 13, 2011:

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.