When you desperately want some color in your garden in the winter, you can trust hellebores to deliver. This plant will flower in late winter to mid-spring and is surprisingly easy to grow.
When to plant hellebores: Hellebores is a member of the buttercup family and has gorgeous flowers that are either white or purple-pink in color. While you can grow the plant from seeds, most gardeners prefer more mature plants. You can plant hellebores any time of the year but fall is the best time. Aim to have the plant in the ground six weeks before the first frost date. The ground definitely needs to be soft enough to dig in. Hellebores won’t flower until it is two to three years old but when it does, you will have blooms in either late winter or early spring, depending on the variety and your climate. Hellebores is a perennial and each year it will come back bigger and bushier. You can even find little seedlings hidden under old foliage and transplant them to other parts of your garden. The flowers don’t really smell but they do last longer and are a great addition to a shade garden.
Planting Hellebores in Different Climates
Hellebores is a cool-weather crop and won’t survive the hot temperatures of a tropical climate.
Hellebores may be ok in a dry climate but you will have to monitor the soil conditions in the first few years of life. The plant needs moist soil, especially after first planting.
With a temperate climate, you can actually expect hellebores flowers in mid to late winter. This is a great climate for the plant.
Hellebores do really well in a continental climate. The only consideration is that it will bloom a bit later as the winters will be too cold.
Unfortunately, hellebores will not grow in a polar climate.
Choosing Hellebores Seeds
There are two major types of hellebores and which one you choose will depend on your climate and when you want to see these pretty flowers. If you get confused about the two types, their names will let you know more details.
With lovely white flowers, this is a variety that does better in warmer climates. It will actually bloom in late December, right around Christmas
However, if you have a colder Christmas, this variety will still bloom, just at a later date, usually in early spring.
This variety has flowers that are pink-purple in color. They will bloom between February and April, depending on your climate and how cold your winters get.
How to Plant Hellebores Seeds
One of the best reasons to plant hellebores is that this plant will flower in the early spring. Come March it will start to pop out of its dormancy and you will have gorgeous flowers in April.
In order to get those flowers going, you will need to plant your hellebores a lot earlier. It cannot go in the ground when the soil is still frozen so planting in winter won’t do.
The best time to plant your hellebores is in the fall, about six weeks before the first frost date. This will allow the plant to spread out its roots and take hold.
However, if need be, you can actually plant your hellebores any time of the year, as long as the soil is workable. Just note that your plant might not flower in the spring if this is when you plant it.
If working with seeds, then you will have to wait two to three years for the plant to become established before it blooms. This is why many gardeners prefer to plant more mature hellebores.
Hellebores do well in partial shade or partial sun. However, they can indeed be grown in full shade.
While you can actually plant your hellebores in full shade, their blooms will not be as large or vibrant. Still, if you have a lot of shade in your garden, this is a good option.
Hellebores are cool-weather plants and thus their soil needs are similar to other plants in this category. The soil should be kept moist but well-draining.
They do well with soil that has added compost or manure in it. You can also add leaves to your garden in the fall and allow these to naturally decompose around the flowers.
When you first plant your hellebores, you can amend the soil and add some organic matter to it. After this, you don’t need to do too much with it.
Once a year you can add more compost to your soil. You can also add an inorganic fertilizer to the area once a year.
Areas to plant
If left alone long enough, your hellebores will develop quite the root structure and will become quite bushy. The seeds may even drop down and create smaller sprouts, and these you can remove and transplant to other areas of your garden.
Hellebores pair well with azaleas and rhododendrons. They are a great option if you have a shady area of the garden.
Once the flowers bloom, they will last for a month or two, so this is a great option if you want to color in the spring.
Finally, hellebores are deer resistant. They are an excellent choice for a front garden if you regularly have deer wandering around and looking for a tasty meal.
How to Water Hellebores
You want to maintain moist soil with your hellebores. Although this doesn’t mean drowning the plant, you may have to increase your watering frequency, depending on how wet the spring is.
Adding a layer of mulch will help a lot in keeping in moisture. Furthermore, plants that are in partial to full shade will need less water than those grown in full sun.
As your hellebores become more mature, you don’t have to worry about watering them as much.
How to Grow Hellebores
Inside the paper-looking blooms are dozens of hellebores seeds. Usually, these seeds will drop off and will actually start to grow new plants.
It can be hard to see these new plants at first, as they will be mixed up under the new foliage. However, you can actually harvest these seedlings.
It might take a few years before your hellebores plant becomes mature enough for this cycle begins. However, once it does and you know what to look for, you can transplant this spring flower all over your garden.
Hellebores prefer moist soil. Be sure to add a layer of bark mulch around the flowers. Mulch will keep moisture in the soil and will also cut down on the amount of weeding you need to do.
Add a new layer of mulch each spring, once the plant has started to grow again.
After your hellebores blooms start to fade, you can clean the plant up a bit but it’s best to leave the foliage. This way the roots can still receive important nutrients.
The best time to prune your hellebores is in winter or spring, depending on when the plant starts to grow again.
Timing will depend on your climate but once you see new shoots, you can then clean up the foliage from the previous year. New growth will be light green in color and easy to see around the brown and dark green leaves from the last growing season.
Another reason to love hellebores is that they are not affected by many insects or diseases. The most common pest is aphids but if you live in a cooler climate, you won’t have to worry too much about these bugs when your flowers are blooming.
Because you will be planting your hellebores in at least partial shade, you might have to worry about fungus-like powdery mildew. Make sure your plant has enough breathing room and you don’t let the foliage become too wet.
How long do hellebores take to grow?
Once you plant your hellebores seeds, they will sprout up in about a month. However, this plant needs quite a while to establish itself.
You won’t see flowers on your hellebores plant until it is two or three years old. For the most natural growing cycle, plant your seeds in the fall, at least six weeks before the first frost date.
Are hellebores poisonous?
While most of the hellebores plant is not poisonous, the roots are. They are black in color, which is why the plant is sometimes nicknamed ‘black death.’
If you touch the roots, you won’t automatically get sick but it is a good idea to wear gloves if you are transplanting it. Also, if you have pets or children, you should make sure they don’t get too close to the hellebores’ roots.
Hellebores is a gorgeous, early spring flower that can bring some real color and character to your garden. You should plant in the fall so that it has time to settle in and bloom in late winter or early spring.