Personal Garden Coach

The Motivational Gardener at Large

Winter Gardening – Rhapsody in Hellebore January 25, 2010

No matter whether you call them Lenten Rose, Winter Rose or Christmas Rose, these are NO delicate flowers that require tons of fawning and attention. Hellebores are THE perfect plants for sensational flowers in January and some will bloom all the way into spring! Hardy to zone 4 or 5, hellebores are also ideal for outdoor container combos or entry gardens where they can be enjoyed up close. It’s entirely possible to have many hellebore’s blooming in sequence from November to April, with a large assortment of bloom colors, styles and foliage textures.

Helleborus niger under glass

Helleborus niger under glass

Helleborus niger in the early morning light.

Helleborus niger in the early morning light.

If you think you can’t have winter flowering plants in your cold climate zone, you might think again. Independent garden centers like my go-to nursery Molbaks Garden and Home are bursting with magical early blooming hellebores like the ones from Skagit Gardens Gold Collection now. On a recent visit to this wonderful grower in the lovely city of Mt. Vernon Washington, the early hellebores were furiously being shipped out to nurseries all over the Northwest. The top two varieties at the moment being: ‘Jacob’ and ‘Josef’ from the Gold Collection.

The large flowers on hellebores are also well suited to indoor arrangements for the holiday months and then planted outside to continue blooming as long as April and May. Arrange them in a basket or other decorative container with cones, boughs and ribbons for an eco-friendly display that provides long-lasting value in the garden too. Be sure to visit these links for additional detailed info on the care and design uses of ALL of the many Hellebore options available to start collecting!


The early season hellebores are long-lived, not fussy and a reliable source of interest for garden styles from modern to old-fashioned. The smaller scale cultivars make an undeniably hardy ground cover. Most of them have evergreen foliage that fit nicely into an area where other perennials share the space with well-drained soil, protection from wind and partial to full shade. It’s helpful too, to make sure you mulch them a bit to retain some consistent moisture in summer. As a huge bonus, they are also not a favorite meal of deer.
One short note on culture. Be sure to cut back old foliage in the early winter as you see them bud up. If there are any issues with diseased foliage in your zone, this will keep it at bay. You can also add a layer of charcoal, crushed lime or other small gritty mulch around the base of the plant and this will also help minimize any potential for disease as well. Helleborus niger


‘Josef’ Lemper blooms pure white, transitioning to a pale green

Also seen blooming at about the same time or slightly after in sequence is the ‘Ivory Prince’ hellebore and ‘Cinnamon Frost’ hellebores with all the same fabulous characteristics as their cousins above. Cinnamon Frost comes on subtle and rich at first with coloring that is a pale buff or butter shaded with a soft spice tone, until it turns a deep rich rose later. Very elegant indeed!

Rouge pink on the back side of the bud is exquisite

Rouge pink on the back side of the bud is exquisite


The world of the Hellebore is vast and too much to cover in just one post, but one that you definitely do not want to miss if you have the chance to grow them, is the incredible ‘Double Queen Mix’. This charming mix boasts a gorgeous range of colors. There are an exquisite number of fluffy, multi petaled options in hellebores to choose from these days!
Hellebore - Double Queen

Helleborus orientalis

Helleborus orientalis

Not to be outdone by those glorious flowers that we So desperately need in the drab, gray days of winter, the FOLIAGE! The range of amazing foliage options on the hellebore family of plants is staggering! From showy silvers, to finely cut to speckled and spotted, there is a favorite leaf for everyone. Here are a few of my favorites:

One word- STUNNING!

One word- STUNNING!

'Silver Dollar' hellebore

‘Silver Dollar’ hellebore

Oh the drama!

Oh the drama!

Gold Bears Foot hellebore

Gold Bearsfoot hellebore

A fall container combo with the Gold Bearsfoot hellebore.

A fall container combo with the Gold Bearsfoot hellebore.

This spectacular Bearsfoot hellebore has ruby red highlights!

This spectacular Bearsfoot hellebore has ruby red highlights!

Bearsfoot hellebore in late summer.

Bearsfoot hellebore in late summer

Bearsfoot or Stinking Hellebores waiting to burst open under a Witch Hazel

Hopefully you enjoyed a tour of this wee bit of Hellebore fabulosity. Your garden is most likely in need of some of these if not many, because who could really have enough color in winter, right? A great big THANK YOU to Skagit Gardens for having me up their way and letting me ogle the plants, take pictures and generally “ooh and ah” for the day. Mt. Vernon is also where you would find the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, when it becomes a Horticultural version of Mecca for a few weeks each Spring.

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16 Responses to “Winter Gardening – Rhapsody in Hellebore”

  1. Melanthia Says:

    Such lovely and unique varieties. I adore Hellebores, especially since they’re pretty much a guaranteed year round interest plant. Thanks for the tour.

  2. I have this secret love affair going with Hellebores. It was one of the first plants I grew, thanks to being enlightened by my mother. I’ve got ‘Ivory Prince,’ but I want the others, especially those doubles! Yum!

  3. MrBrownThumb Says:

    Wow, this is so awesome. Mine almost bloomed this winter, but then chickened out.

  4. melanie Says:

    They’re beautiful. I wish I could grow them, But it’s way too cold in zone 3.

  5. Catherine Says:

    I’ve seen so many pretty doubles lately, last year I resisted, this year I don’t think I can.

  6. Gorgeous pictures! I have several in my garden, but they’re still just a few years old and haven’t filled in quite yet…so far my personal favorite is the Corsican Hellebore – they do really well here under Oaks (loving the dry shade)…

  7. Kat Says:

    Gorgeous. I fell in love with Hellebores about two years ago. Such a unique flower.

  8. Hi Christina,
    You are right! Hellebores is a great performer during the cold season when so little is on display. And what a display!
    I enjoyed your beautiful photos and tips on Hellebore care.
    Shirley Bovshow
    Garden World Report

  9. Come hellebore or high water…How did such a gorgeous flower got such a mundane name?

  10. Luscious Hellebores and photos! I too am a fan of Hellebores – their leaves are large. dark green and tropical while their colors range from subtle to juicy. I think of them as a classy plant and they add so much to a winter garden. We use them here in the Bay Area (California) but many people do not yet know about them. I love introducing them to my clients. Brava on the post!

  11. Germi Says:

    SUCH droolworthy plants! I’ve planted corsican hellebores for clients and they do really well here, which surprised me! I MUST have them for myself!
    Could you have taken more enticing shots? I think not! I am planning which hellebores to plant in my garden… you’ve inspired me!

  12. Lovely photos. The hellebore at the end is not Corsican, H. argutifolius, but rather Bearsfoot or Stinking, H. foetidus.

  13. Kerry Says:

    Gorgeous! Fabulous pictures, great post. I’m crushing on hellebores!

  14. […] First up is the elegant Hellebore. The endless options for these alone could have me going on here FOREVER. An absolute must for any garden, period. If you would like to see more of these on my favorite post on Hellebore’s, click here. […]

  15. jsldonly1 Says:

    Do you have any idea where I can obtain hellebore seeds so that I can start some of my own?

    • I believe that they may be somewhat hard to come by as this plant thrives best with the least amount of disturbance. What I see many propagators do is let it go to seed naturally in place, then gently scoop up the babies when sprouted at the feet of the mature plants and relocate them.

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