Plant of the Month
Botanical name: Helleborus
Common name: Christmas rose
Hellebores are great for providing winter interest in any garden. These perennial plants have a long flowering period, lasting well into spring. Mainly evergreen with handsome leaves, they thrive in shadier parts of the garden.
Cup-shaped flowers (double in some cases) grow directly from upright stems that sprout from a woody base. The flower colours ranges from white to yellow, pink to blackish–purple, often with exquisite internal markings. The leaves are toothed, leathery, often marbled, largely evergreen and held on stiff stems. Most will grow up to 45cm (18in) tall but some, such as Helleborus argutifolius and Helleborus foetidus, will reach up to 1.2m (4ft) tall.
Hellebores prefer fertile, evenly moist soils in light shade, though they will do well in most soils. Some can be planted in a sunnier spot as long as the soil is not prone to drying out. Helleborus foetidus (the stinking hellebore) will grow in deep shade.
Hellebores dislike extremes. Very wet or very dry soil is unsuitable; as is a position in full sun where the leaves are likely to get scorched in summer. In particular Helleborus thibetanus, Helleborus lividus and Helleborus niger can be damaged by winter cold or wet.
Did you know?
Though their common name is the Lenten or Christmas rose, as they flower from late winter until spring, hellebores are not related to roses. They belong to the buttercup family (Rannunculaceae).
Wear gloves when handling hellebores to prevent potential skin irritation.