3 Mar

Hellebore (Helleborus) 1- 2.5 ft., clusters of white, pink or greenish nodding flowers in late winter, good cut flower, deep shade to dappled shade.

Distinctive, long-lived plants that add color to the garden for several months in winter and spring, hellebores are also appreciated for their attractive foliage. Each leaf consists of a long leafstalk ending in large, leathery leaflets grouped together like fingers on an outstretched hand. Flowers are usually shaped like cups or bells (those of Helleborus niger are saucer shaped), either outward facing or drooping; they consist of a ring of petal-like sepals ranging in color from white and green through pink and red to deep purple (rarely yellow). Flowers of all hellebores persist beyond the bloom periods listed, gradually turning green.

Helleborus argutifolius

From Corsica, Sardinia. Erect or sprawling, to 2–3 ft. tall and wide. Substantial enough to use as a small shrub. Blue-green, 6–9-in. leaves are divided into three sharply toothed leaflets. Leafy stems carry clusters of 2-in., pale green flowers from winter into spring. Best hellebore for Southern California; more sun tolerant than others.


Helleborus foetidus

From western and central Europe. To 2 1/2 ft. high and wide, the stems are clothed with dark green leaves divided into seven to ten narrow, leathery leaflets to 8 in. long. Clusters of inch-wide flowers are light green with purplish red edges, bloom winter to spring.

Plant parts are malodorous if crushed or bruised (don’t smell bad otherwise). Tolerates sun in cool, humid areas. Self-sows freely where adapted.

Helleborus hybridus

Leaves have no obvious stems. These hybrid plants generally resemble principal parent, Helleborus orientalis, but flower color range has been extended and superior parents selected for seed production. Some are sold under the breeder’s name, such as Ballard’s Group, which has flowers in several colors. Others are sold as color strains, such as Sunshine Selections (white, pink, yellow, or red flowers), Royal Heritage strain (pink, purple, maroon, or white blooms), and Winter Queen mix (white, pink, maroon, or spotted flowers). Others are grouped according to form, such as Party Dress Group, which has double flowers

Helleborus niger

From Europe. Leaves have no obvious stems. Elegant plant to 1 ft. tall,1 1/2 ft.wide, blooming Christmas time into spring. Often planted in warm-winter climates but seldom thrives there. Plants of H. orientalis are often mislabeled Christmas rose. Lustrous dark green leaves are divided into seven to nine lobes with a few large teeth; they seem to rise directly from the soil. White, 2-in. flowers appear singly or in groups of two or three on a stout stem about the same height as the foliage clump. Blooms turn pinkish with age.

Helleborus orientalis

From Greece, Turkey, the Caucasus. Leaves have no obvious stems. Much likeHelleborus niger in growth but more tolerant of warm-winter climates. Basal leaves with 5–11 sharply toothed leaflets; branched flowering stems to 1 ft. tall,with leaflike bracts at branching points. Blooms in late winter and spring; flowers are 2 to 4 in. wide, in colors including white, pink, purplish, cream, and greenish, often spotted with deep purple.

Helleborus x nigercors

Hybrid between Helleborus niger x H. argutifolius. Grows 10 in. tall, with 1-ft. tall, sterile white inflorescence.

Helleborus x nigersmithii

Hybrid of complex parentage, with foliage like that of Helleborus niger. Grows 1 ft. tall, 1 1/2–2 ft. wide,with red buds opening into ivory white flowers that take on rose and chartreuse tones as they age.


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