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Hellebores commonly known as the Christmas Rose make for a wonderful display of flowers and are perfect for winter interest when the availability of winter flowering plants is somewhat limited. They’re a great source of food for any pollinating insects at the beginning of spring, especially bees which need all the help they can get and very they are also popular because of the attractive evergreen, sometimes silver or marbled leaves some varieties have.
There are many different types out there that offer a range of flowers that come in shades of purple, pink, yellow, or white. Some varieties even have decorative spotting on the inside. There are plenty of varieties that are very easy to grow with bold foliage and very little care. The Helleborus niger and Helleborus x Hybridus also known as Oriental hybrids are the best-known variety but can be challenging to grow because of the amount of drainage that’s required in the winter but this can usually be overcome following our steps on how to improve drainage here.
However, if you already have this variety and it’s doing quite well in your garden, you might consider propagating from the parent plant so that you can have multiple plants that may be to give away as gifts to your friends or to simply fill other areas of your garden with these stunning perennials.
Hellebore propagation by dividing plants as you can most perennials and sowing seeds
There are two ways that you can propagate this plant, the first is by dividing an existing plant which is the easiest way and most instant in terms of results and the second is by buying or collecting seeds which you can then sow.
If you don’t deadhead Helleborus argutifolius, Helleborus foetidus and Helleborus × hybridus, they will self-seed freely so deadhead to avoid masses of Helleborus in your garden.
Most hellebores can be propagated by division as you can with most perennials, we recommend doing this in autumn but it can also be done in spring after flowering.
How to divide
Carefully dig around the plant you want to divide being careful to ensure you get as much as the root as possible. You can then divide this plant into 2 or 3 pieces. Each piece should have around 2-3 growing shoots at the top.
Carefully plant these new pieces in your desired positions, often planting in clumps can be effective.
Growing from seed
You are able to collect the seeds as soon as you see the seed pods are opening.
- To do this you want to collect the seeds on a day that’s otherwise dry as soon as the seed head opens. You might notice that the seed heads change colour right before they open so this will give you some indication as to when you should get prepared.
- Pick the seed head and lay them out on a dry, warm window sill or inside of an airing cupboard. This will help you to more easily extract the seeds.
- You should be able to gently crush them and have them open if they aren’t already open.
- Collect the individual seeds, wash them, and leave them out to dry on paper towels for a few days.
You should plant seeds immediately but store seeds in the fridge can greatly help to preserve them
It is best to sow new hellebore seeds immediately because regular storage will reduce their viability and lower your success rate. However, you might need to store a surplus in which case you should:
- Place the dry seeds in a labelled individual packet or envelope that is airtight and has no moisture. You can even use calcium chloride materials or silica gel to keep all moisture out.
- Store them in the refrigerator at 5°C until you need them.
How to sow seeds
You should sow your seeds between the middle and end of summer, and do it outdoors. It can be very difficult to germinate seeds that get stored because they require warm periods followed by immediate cold periods. To do this successfully you need to keep the sown seeds at between 15 degrees C and 18 degrees Celsius for 6 weeks and then directly expose them to winter cold or otherwise keep them at around 5 degrees Celsius for 6 weeks.
It’s best to collect and germinate as many seeds as you can during the stage because the germination is often sporadic and it can take up to a full year to be successful.