Even if the weather is getting increasingly cold, that doesn’t mean that you have to postpone your gardening activities until spring and summer. There are plants that you can grow in the cold season as well, and they usually provide your garden with a lovely look in times when nothing else will. For instance, have you ever heard of hellebores? They’re also called Christmas roses, precisely because they thrive in winter as well. They are many people’s option for winter flowers, and you’ll understand why after going through today’s guide. We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about hellebores and how to grow your own.
There are multiple types of hellebores that you can choose from, depending on your needs and desires. For instance, if you want a type of rose that blooms early in winter and comes in a large variety of colors, then you should opt for the Helleborus orientalis, also called the Lenten Rose.
Another interesting option is the Helleborus foetidus. This one is also called bear foot, or the stinking, due to its specific fragrance. A lot of people dislike it, which explains the nickname of the plant. Still, other people prefer it due to its gorgeous foliage and pastel green flowers. Its leaves are serrated and segmented, and they can become deep red when the weather is extremely cold. The edges of the flowers also have a deep red color sometimes.
If you’re interested in white flowers, you might want to consider the Helleborus niger. Finally, the Helleborus argutifolius has lime-green flowers and evergreen leaves which have a leathery texture. This one is quite easy to maintain, but it requires more sun than other varieties.
One of the things which make hellebores so attractive is the fact that they come in a myriad of colors. Even though most of them form clumps and are evergreens that grow quite low, their flowers can range from metallic black to dusty pink and lime green. They are shaped like a cup, and they last for months on end. You will mostly encounter single blooms that have 5 petals each, but you can also come across varieties that are double-petalled. Many gardeners breed hellebores to create even more spectacular colors, and these hybrid hellebores are extremely sought after.
Since hellebores grow perfectly well in shaded areas, they are great for gardens or backyards that are filled with trees. You can plant them under trees, or even next to your house, and not worry that they won’t be able to grow without enough sunlight. You can even plant hellebores in pots, especially those varieties that you most want to protect. Furthermore, try combining hellebores in your garden with other types of perennials, such as anemone, hosta, begonia, or aquilegia. Another great idea is to plant them in between shrubs that have a complementary color, thus providing your garden with a lovely matching flower and foliage display.
Growing Hellebores Tips
The first thing you should know about hellebores is that they prefer a well-drained soil that is rich in nutrients. If your soil is very dry, the plants might not be able to grow properly. You should also be careful to shelter the plants from cold winds and provide them with mulch annually. If you notice that the plants are not developing as they should, you can fertilize them with a general-purpose fertilizer in spring.
Another thing that most hellebores prefer is shade, and this is especially true in the afternoon. While your plants are still developing, you should keep them constantly moist. After a year, the hellebores become more drought-tolerant, which means that you don’t have to water them as often. If any leaves become damaged or burnt, you can cut them off in autumn. This allows for new ones to grow and provides your plants with a more beautiful look.
One of the greatest things about hellebores is the fact that they are not as sensitive to pests as other plants. In fact, because of their rough leaves, you don’t even have to worry about slugs or snails invading them. This doesn’t only mean less maintenance for you, but also healthier and more gorgeous flowers.
The hellebores flowers are really small, and their massive leaves tend to overshadow them. Which is why removing old leaves just when the blooms are starting to take shape is a great idea. Especially if you notice the foliage has signs of disease, you should remove it immediately, if you want to prevent the rest of the plant getting affected as well.
Pruning doesn’t only help keep diseases at bay. It also makes sure that you expose your flowers to insects that help with pollination. Insects also help your plants develop more seeds, which in turn ensures that you will be able to enjoy new plants soon enough.
You can increase most species of hellebores in early spring by division. If you’ve never done this before, then you should know that the process is rather simple. All you have to do is split the clumps into reasonably sized pieces. The trick is for every clump to have one growth point. Then, you have to water them until they find their place in the soil. If you notice them growing slower than usual, or if the blooms are scarce next year, don’t worry. This is absolutely normal. Eventually, the plants will settle properly once their roots develop more.
How to Care for Hellebores According to Season
Hellebores require a different type of care according to the season. Even though the instructions don’t differ that much, if you want your plants to thrive, you should follow them to the letter. For instance, early spring is the perfect time for you to apply a fertilizer with slow release. This will provide the plants with nutrients for a longer period of time. Pruning is also most desirable in early spring. Spring is the time when new growths are beginning to take shape.
In mid-spring, there isn’t much you have to do to take care of your hellebores. Still, if the weather is especially dry, you’re going to want to water them accordingly. If your plants are to be invaded by pests, then late spring is the time when this is most likely to happen. Which is why we advise you to keep an eye out for any signs of damage that could be caused by pests. In late spring, some stems will also start to decline, so you should remove them. If you don’t want any seedlings, you can also deadhead your hellebores.
In the summer, it’s time to move your seedlings to a more permanent location. Separate unwanted seedlings from desired ones, and move the latter in the place you want your future plants to grow. Summer is also the season in which you should groom your plants. This mostly implies getting rid of any dead leaves or yellow ones which are about to dry off.
Fall is the season when you should assess the quality of your soil and make sure everything is perfect for your future hellebores. For instance, your soil’s pH level can tell you whether or not you have to balance its acidity. The best soil for hellebores is neutral, sometimes even alkaline. On the other hand, an acidic soil is never good for your plants.
Further Resources for Growing Hellebores
Even though growing hellebores is not difficult if you’re familiar with most perennials and if you’re a gardener with some experience, people who are just getting started with gardening can find the task a bit too challenging for them. Luckily, there are resources that can provide you with a more detailed guide to growing hellebores. For instance, Graham Rice’s book, “The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Hellebores” is a great collection of useful tips and tricks that can help you understand these plants better.
You can order the book on Amazon for $23.99 and you’ll get practical advice on how to cultivate and propagate hellebores. Not only that, but the book also provides readers with some of the most well-known varieties and what they can do to grow them themselves. Plus, you get an entire chapter of tips on how to associate them with other varieties of plants and make the most of this design.
Summing It All Up
If you’re interested in plants that grow in the cold season as well, we hope we’ve managed to convince you that hellebores are some of the best options. These beautifully colored plants can provide any winter garden with a dash of magic. So if you’re tired of seeing your garden lose its beauty in the cold season, you should definitely consider planting some hellebores. One of the best things about these plants is the fact that they will last for a very long time, as long as you take proper care of them. Thus, this winter season, don’t hesitate to plant some hellebores!