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Blooming Plant
of the month


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Helleborus orientalis (Hell-ah-BOR-us or He-LEB-oh-rus oh-ree-en-TAL-ihs)
Lenten rose, Hellebore
Helleborus niger (NY-ger)
Christmas rose, Hellebore

Hellebores are an increasingly popular potted blooming plant. They are known for their thick, shiny green foliage and five-petaled flowers that resemble wild roses. As many as 50 or more flowers per plant can be expected. Bloom forms include semidoubles, doubles and some with edgings like fancy stitching.


Bloom colors range from pure white to a deep plum bordering on black and include hues of pink, rose, magenta, cream, pale yellow or green. They often show intricate contrasting spots inside each cup-shaped bloom. Some varieties also display earthy hues of green inside the blossoms.


With proper care, hellebores can flower for two months or longer, followed by attractive seed pods. The plants can last for years.


Hellebores generally are in bloom and available between December and March although some begin earlier and others continue into April and May.

LIGHT Advise customers to choose an east, south or west window to provide the correct light levels. Do not allow direct sunlight to hit the plants.
WATER Keep the potting mix evenly moist.
TEMPERATURE Hellebores do best with indoor temperatures of 65 F or warmer. Daytime temperatures of 70 F are ideal.
HUMIDITY Humidity levels should be high. This can be achieved in the home by placing the plants in pebble trays. Misting frequently is also beneficial.
FERTILIZER Use a balanced fertilizer on these plants, and feed them every two to three weeks.
SOIL Hellebores perform best in a well-drained base containing plenty of organic matter.
GROOMING Remove individual flowers as they fade. If lower leaves turn yellow, they can be removed without damaging the plant.
TOXICITY Hellebores are considered highly toxic. Be sure to warn customers to keep them away from children and pets. Use gloves when processing them because contact with the leaves can cause mild dermatitis in some people.

DISEASE A condition called “hellebore black death,” believed to be a virus, can cause damaged tissue. There is no treatment, so quarantine and dispose of suspect plants immediately.
PESTS Aphids can infest newer growth on hellebores. Wash them off with a solution of insecticidal soap.

TRADITION The “Christmas rose” (H. niger) long has been associated with Jesus Christ. In Germany, these plants are the floral emblem for Christmas, and tablecloths, napkins, wrapping paper, Christmas cards and floral decorations feature this flower more than any other. Another species of hellebores, H. orientalis, is called “Lenten rose” because the plants flower in early spring in some areas.
FAMILY Hellebores belong to the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family. Other members include Ranunculus (Persian buttercup), Delphinium, Aquilegia (columbine), Clematis, Consolida (larkspur) and Nigella (love-in-a-mist).
ORIGINS Hellebores originate from the European Alps.
HONORS Helleborus x hybridus (syn. H. orientalis) was named the 2005 “Perennial Plant of the Year” by the Perennial Plant Association.

Some information provided by:
Royal Horticultural Society,
The Garden Helper,
Green Beam Plant Picks,

Photos courtesy of Yoder Brothers, Inc.

You may reach “Blooming Plant of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD, at or by phone at (415) 239-3140.

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