My first Hellebores

rouge21_gw(5)August 18, 2013

A family member unexpectedly brought by these 3 very large hellebores to me. (She had dug them up from her garden this past week). We are in the middle of our only dry spell of the summer and so I know this isn't nearly the best time to be moving plants but I had no choice. As these are the only hellebores I have I wasn't going to look these gift plants in the mouth.

Although she didn't know the exact varieties she labelled them according to the colour of the bloom (from left to right it is purple, pink and white)

I know hellebores are some of the earliest bloomers. What is your experience as to how early in the spring (zone 4) I might see the first flowers.

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I have not grown hellebore until this year. I also received donations from my sister. My understanding is that they can bloom when there is still snow on the ground, but can be quite finicky about blooming at all. Many people find them carefree and beautiful, others wonder if they ever bloom. I would get them in the ground ASAP somewhere shady with decent drainage and water them deeply at least every week until cool, moist fall weather arrives. You have received a wonderful gift. Good luck with them.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 10:01AM
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In zone 5, my orientalis usually are in full bloom mid-April or so. Nigers are earlier (by 2 -3 weeks?). I LOVE hellebores - the foliage looks great most of the year, and the early flowers are fun.

I just transplanted some, and if kept watered, they'll be fine.

What a nice surprise to get - enjoy!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 10:02AM
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Mine generally begin flowering from late March to early April and on into May (they may try to bloom during mild spells in winter but cold temps typically put an end to that).

So maybe late April would be when you see the first flowers, weather permitting.

I have started to really enjoy these plants, both the unusual flowers and the foliage which looks good all season long. Plus they have reseeded for me and I'm curious to see what the young plants do in the future.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 10:04AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I'm in zone 6, and mine start blooming in April to May, depending on the variety and the location. Those that are in the most sun seem to bloom first. I really enjoy my Hellebores and they are one of the plants I collect more of, whenever I find a good variety. They are pest and disease free in my garden for more than 5 years so far.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 10:15AM
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You guys are the best. So often with quick feedback having great info.

Can I ask if you have a favorite variety?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 10:50AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I have liked even the very common ones that I've picked up at local plant sales for $4. But I did buy some new doubles as small starts a few years ago. One called 'Yellow Mellow' is blooming in it's second year and one called 'Golden Lotus' bloomed for the first time this year.

'Mellow Yellow'.....

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 11:00AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

This one is called 'Golden Lotus'. It needs to mature but I'm encouraged that I really do like the flower, so it should be good when it is a mature plant. There are SO many new varieties, I'm planning on adding more.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 11:02AM
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Your pictures are always of such high quality 'pm2'.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 11:33AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

LOL. I have no idea what is a "normal" time for them to bloom. My only real Hellebore experience is with 'Metallic Blue Lady'. She is blooming NOW!! I got her maybe four years ago in Seattle and she has never bloomed in early spring, always in summer. Go figure. I could understand it having a different bloom pattern maybe the first year in (especially since our climates are so unlike), but it is baffling why it is still doing it. Not that I'm complaining! I'm more likely to enjoy it now I think.

I started some 'Black Beauty' from seed a year or so ago and also picked up a couple from the Winter Jewels series this spring from the Lowes sale rack. I'm very curious to see if they have similar off bloom times or not.

Just so y'all don't think I'm crazy...pic below of the Hellebore blooming. Note the Monarda in the corner ;-)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 11:56AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks rouge21, I just have a Canon point and shoot camera set on automatic. It also has a swivel LCD screen, so I can take shots from a different angle with less trouble. I take a lot of shots and manage to get a few that I'm happy with and I try to use the one tip I learned about photography, to stay out of the midday sun and go out either early morning or late afternoon. That photo of 'Yellow Mellow' surprised me how clear it came out. I had the camera supported on something for that one, because my hands aren't steady sometimes and I get a blur. I just can't be bothered with a tripod either.

Hi CMK, that is so strange your Hellebore is blooming now. I think that is the first time I've heard of that. Yours looks just like the one I have that blooms in the spring too. Wouldn't it be interesting if you grow seedlings from it and they all bloom now? Maybe you have a money making new hybrid there! :-)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 1:35PM
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LOL!! Actually not as strange as one might think :-) Winter or very early flowering plants can often "throw" flowers out of season, like late summer or early fall, depending on weather and other growing conditions. Rhododendrons and azaleas can sometimes do this as well as hellebores - I've even seen it with witch hazel! We have several hellebores in stock at my nursery that are showing flowers now. It is not the "typical" bloom season, doesn't produce the abundance of flowers a more typical, seasonal flowering would and should not prevent the plant from producing flowers at its more normal bloom time.

The flowers and plants discussed above are all varieties of what are referred to as oriental hybrids, Helleborus x hybridus. Much like columbine, these plants are able to cross pollinate like crazy so any named forms (like 'Mellow Yellow') are produced by tissue culture only. And because the hybridization is so complex, offspring from even a named form may look nothing like the parent plant.

But there are many other types of hellebores besides the oriental hybrids, some which may not be as suitable for colder locations. In my rather mild location, I usually have hellebores in bloom for Christmas (Helleborus foetidus) and from then on until late March or early April when they start looking a little funky.

Hellebores are one of my specialty plants - hard to have too many :-) And they are not nearly as demanding of shade as many think, in fact they are only shade tolerant, not shade loving and several types would prefer to grow in a lot of sun. Although it's not very busy at this time of year, the Hellebore forum here on GW is an excellent source of info on these plants. And a former GW member has a marvelous hellebore website that is a wealth of information.

Here is a link that might be useful: Joseph Woodard's hellebore website

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 2:58PM
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I only discovered Hellebores soon after moving to this garden and am loving the ones I've added the past few years. I bought all but one of mine on sale from Santa Rosa Gardens and they've been exemplary specimens soon after being planted in my part sun sandy loam bed that faces east.

The common name is Lenten rose because they tend to bloom very near the season of Lent. According to my garden notes, my 'Regal Ruffles' bloomed March 20 last year while 'Cinnamon Snow' bloomed in January.

My guess would be that in Zone 4 your plants would bloom considerably later than my own but since I'm no Hellebore expert, I could be completely wrong in that assumption. Might be interesting to revisit the question a few months from now.

Congratulations on the generous gifts you received & I wish you success getting them established in time for them to adjust to their new home. I'm guessing they'll be well worth the wait.

As an added bit of information, my plants were all amazing this year, likely due (at least in part) to the unusual amount of precipitation. 'Regal Ruffles' had so many buds & blooms I gave up trying to count them.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 7:44PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-gardengal, good to know. I've seen it happen where spring bloomers with flower again as it cools in fall (mimicking spring conditions), but not summer! It should be interesting to see if it ever does start blooming when it "should"....

-PM2, I rather suspected it was a 'cycle fluke', but still rather hoped in some way it was a strange new summer blooming Hellebore!!! It would be awesome to have a plant on the market that originated in your garden, wouldn't it?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 7:57PM
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My hellebores are all hybrids and bloom starting in mid-April and continuing well into June. My results agree with gardengal's comments on aspect; I find mine do best with at least half day sun, much better than full or almost full shade.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 8:45PM
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Ispahan Zone6a Chicago

Ah, yes, hellebores! It is hard to think of a more elegant garden plant.

I think I read somewhere that hellebores are only actively growing (above and below ground) when soil temperatures are on the cool side, below a certain key thermal point but above freezing. This means most growth happens in early spring or late fall.

As long as you don't expect immediate growth, your new plants should settle in just fine. Definitely plant in more sun than shade for the healthiest, most floriferous specimens. And give your plants several years before passing final judgement. They grow slowly but steadily and often grow into incredibly beautiful clumps.

My favorites so far include 'Ivory Prince', 'Pink Frost' and the old 'Mrs Betty Ranicar', but I really do love all I have grown.

The only one that has failed for me has been 'Cinnamon Snow'. A quart-sized specimen planted this spring rotted away by June. I am still not sure of the cause. In any case, I replaced it with another 'Ivory Prince'.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 11:02PM
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My results agree with gardengal's comments on aspect; I find mine do best with at least half day sun, much better than full or almost full shade

Love hearing that real world experience but I am disappointed that they aren't as shade thriving as I had hoped as even part sun locales are hard to come by on our property.

This post was edited by rouge21 on Mon, Aug 19, 13 at 2:47

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 2:45AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

CMK- yes, IâÂÂm sure gardengal is right, itâÂÂs probably just a fluke, but it was fun thinking about how famous you were going to be! ;-)

NHBabs, holds true in my yard too, which is perfect because I have half day sun more than anything else. I always love any plant that loves my garden.

ispahan, I have âÂÂIvory Princeâ too which was only in itâÂÂs first season last year, but I think that will be a favorite for me too. I like the different coloring on the foliage.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 3:19AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

My first hellebore was Ivory Prince which I got for a quarter at Lowes six years ago. It was on the clearance rack with three others. Wish now that I had gotten all four. In 2009 it bloomed on May 8. It is planted at the base of a locus tree facing southwest and gets early shade and afternoon sun. This is next to the driveway entrance to the house and deeply covered with snow during the winter as we shovel the entry area, one of the last piles of snow to melt in the spring. So, depending on the weather blooms April/May for me in Z:4 MN.

This spring I picked up an NOID at the MN Arboretum Spring sale. Looking forward to seeing it bloom next year.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 5:20AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Rouge- don't worry about the shade just yet, I find they adapt to a range of exposures and tolerate shade as well as full sun. Right now mine are so dry they're nearly flat on the ground.... So they tolerate drought as well once established. Even if they don't bloom heavily in shade, I think they have great foliage, so it will still look presentable.
Since others gave you calendar dates, I'll just say mine start blooming around late crocus time, just before the hyacinths and daffs really explode. They last a good month.
If you don't mind an all-out hellebore love fest, I'll see if I have any of my own pictures!
Those plants look great btw. Don't overwater until they've had a chance to settle in! They're tough plants and I'd worry more about rot in this warm weather than I would about transplant shock.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 12:53PM
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Great info 'kato' et al. I guess it will be an experiment re the hastily chosen locations of my plantings (very much shade).

What may help is that 2 of the transplanted 'bores' are in significant shade due to surrounding deciduous trees. These will not be leafed out until well into April. This may allow the plants to get ahead of the curve...fingers crossed.

I hadn't considered root rot given that right now we are in the midst of the only drought period all summer. I will now hold back on more water.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 3:23PM
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Deciduous shade is fine - this allows the hellebores to set flowers before the trees fully leaf out and the shade becomes more intense. We tend to have more evergreen shade here in the PNW so a sunnier location is better :-))

Cinnamon Snow and Ivory Prince are very different from the oriental hybrids (H. x hybridus). The oriental hybrids have separate flower and leaf stalks....termed "caulescent". The mixed hybrids like Cinnamon Snow, Ivory Prince, Pink Frost (and a number of other hybrid forms - sternii, ericsmithii, ballardiae, nigercors) are generally acaulescent or producing flowers and foliage on the same stem. They also tend to have more toothed and patterned foliage and are pretty much fully evergreen, whereas the x hybridus plants benefit from cutting back seasonally in late winter.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 6:36PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Thanks for the info on the difference, ggal. I noticed right away that the foliage of my new plant stands higher than the Ivory Prince and has a different texture. Also good to know about not watering too much so they don't rot as they settle in, Kato.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 2:33AM
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I have only the color of the 3 hand me down hellebores. But after seeing all the enthusiasm for this species I actually picked up another one (of course much smaller). It is a PAINTED DOUBLES.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 6:10AM
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amy1717(TX 9)

Rouge - thanks for steering me to this thread, all helpful & interesting information! And those were some nice looking gift-plants; how are they faring now, a month later?

I've just discovered the Hellebores today, and have been enjoying learning about them in these forums all morning. I haven't tried tracking down a place to buy them in my area (central TX) yet, but hope I can find some when the shade garden I'm planning is ready for planting.

Sooo, when IS the optimal time to put hellebores in the ground?

And on a tangential note, reading about christinmk's off-season H. bloomers reminded me of my confused bougainvilleas -- I have five large ones of different colors, and a few of them kept blooming all last winter in our warm plant house. It was enjoyable and lovely at the time, but since I moved them back into the open sunshine this spring, they have barely put off a handful of blossoms each. Curious!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 2:02PM
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how are they faring now, a month later?

When I planted them over a month ago we were in the midst of a heatwave with no rain :(. They limped through that trying time and now with the cooler temps and some wet weather they all seem to be doing fine.

Sooo, when IS the optimal time to put hellebores in the ground?

Now TX is for sure another world as compared to mine but in my z4 right now can be a perfect time for planting i.e. cooler temps with more rain should allow newly planted materials to thrive prior to everything shutting down with the real cold temps of say.... November and beyond.

This post was edited by rouge21 on Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 15:12

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 3:01PM
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amy1717(TX 9)

Hmm, guess I'd better get moving on tilling up & amending soil then! I just finished putting in a corner bed yesterday, though, so I'm having an "armchair gardener" day today :) Maybe next week end...

Glad to hear your H's made it through the drought! We, too, have finally gotten some much-needed rain and cooler weather over the past week after a long, hot, dry summer (typical TX), which does renew the urge to get out and play in the dirt :)

Do you happen to know if fall is also the right time to plant other shade plants, like brunnera, pulmonaria, and beauty berry?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 3:41PM
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amy1717(TX 9)

(Just noticed my message got posted twice somehow -- not sure how to just delete the duplicate so typing this over it!)

This post was edited by amy1717 on Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 16:43

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 4:37PM
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