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How to grow Hellebores – Planting and care guide for growing Christmas Rose
Last Updated on March 26, 2020 by John
Hellebore plants, commonly referred to as Christmas rose are known for a great deal of colour and attractive foliage, as well as winter interest with flowers often appearing above the snow-covered ground, that’s how hardy they are.
There are many types of hellebores out there that provide a range of colour options for the flowers including things like purple, pink, yellow, and white and some even have decorative spotting on the inside of the flowers. Some of our favourites include Helleborus niger and some of the Helleborus x Hybridus varieties also commonly known as Oriental hybrids.
Picking the right variety
There are different varieties some of which we have already mentioned, some are easier to grow than others and it’s important to know which one you are selecting for your garden, most need well-drained soil to thrive, if you have this then you got a head start already.
The helleborus hybridus, sometimes known as Oriental hybrids as we have mentioned, is one of the more popular varieties for easy maintenance because they are very simple to grow. They live a long time and can take a lot of abuse, along with a little basic care of course. The foliage is dark green and very bold but the colours for the flowers will vary so make sure you know what flower shape and colour you want most.
If you are looking for very attractive foliage and flowers, the helleborus sternii is just one of many hybrids and cultivars that enjoy a lot of sun but are short-lived.
The one that most people know and love is actually the helleborus niger. This is probably the most popular variety but it’s also the most difficult to grow in an outside garden because you need to make sure your garden has ample drainage throughout the winter which can be particularly challenging in the UK if you live in an area with a lot of rain. That being said, there are many ways to improve drainage which we covered in this guide.
When to plant hellebores
You should ideally plant your Christmas Rose between Autumn and spring. You should be able to buy flowering plants ready for planting directly in the late spring at most well-stocked garden centres and nurseries, failing this many online stores also sell them including Amazon which has a range of specialist growers now selling on there. It’s best to avoid planting them during the summer when it’s too hot but if you have no choice, just remember to keep them well-watered.
Where to plant hellebores
Because they add a lot of visual interest in the winter at the beginning of spring, most people like to add them to border gardens but they also grow well in containers.
But make sure that you pick a position that has light shade and full sun for the majority of the day. Your soil needs to be rich with organic matter so dig in plenty of leaf mould or garden compost and have a lot of drainage. The popular Helleborus niger variety prefers a position that has more shade than it does sunlight and is very easy to grow in containers or raised planter beds.
How to Plant hellebores
Helleborus thrive in moist soil that doesn’t get waterlogged so you have to make sure that you dig the hole and add garden compost to improve the soil condition before you plant your hellebores. If drainage is an issue add some grit to improve drainage too. Also make sure that when you place the plant in the hole, the top of the root ball or where the container ends up level with the soil surface. You don’t want to plant it too deeply as this can cause them to rot off.
If you are planting more than one, make sure that you give them about 35 centimetres apart from one another so they have plenty of room to spread.
Mulch around base
Once you have planted them you can add mulch around the base to prevent the soil from drying out and help retain moisture which the like, it also helps to suppress weeds. Make sure that during the first season of planting you water them regularly especially when the weather is dry to help them get established.
Growing in containers and pots
Helleborus are actually more easily grown in a container or pot because you can better protect it from too much water in the winter and give it the drainage it really needs. So if you do grow it in a container, make sure that you give it extra frost protection and prevent it from too much water exposure by moving it against the base of a wall or under some sort of cover, just be careful not to let the soil dry out as it still needs to be kept moist.
The container you choose needs to be one with ample drainage holes, good quality multi-purpose compost, John Innes soil-based compost mixed with around one-third grit is perfect as it will retain moisture while being free-draining. Make sure that you put the plant in the same level in the container as it was in its original pot and don’t plant it too deeply.
Regular Care for the first 12 months
Newly planted it will need a lot of watering during the first season particularly during the Spring and Summer. You can reduce moisture stress by adding Mulch and compost around the base.
Aside from that, if the growth is not doing as well as you would want you can add a general-purpose fertilizer but don’t put too much fertilizer until you have verified that the problem isn’t water-based.
Overwinter, Helleborus needs excellent drainage, as mentioned so just make sure you give it a protected spot. Most of these can last five years or longer and you can encourage regular flowering by pruning back your plant every year.
Helleborus plants can benefit from removing any damaged or disease foliage in the Autumn and removing old flower stems at the end of spring. Other than that you don’t have to do much which is why they are so easy to maintain.
Aphids and leaf spot
Be on the lookout for leaf spot or aphids. These are the biggest issues you will face in terms of leaf spot and pests. Spray with a pesticide to control any bad infestations of aphids and remove any leaves effected with leaf spot which causes black spots on the leaves with a fungicide spray.
Helleborus Black Death
Helleborus Black Death is a much more serious condition and if you notice Black Death on your plant, you will need to destroy it to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts in your garden. it is thought to be caused by the virus Helleborus net necrosis virus (HeNNV), where plants become stunted, deformed and marked by black streaks and netting patterns.