What do you think of Hellebore and where to plant?

paulsiu(5a)September 28, 2011

I was looking at Hellebore as a possibility in my inlaw's garden in zone 5a. The soil is alkaline and can get a bit dry.

What do you think of the plant and its foilage? How difficult are they to grow (not from seed, but from a plant or plug).

Where would you place it for maximum effect. They bloom early in spring so I was wondering how to maximize its dramatic effect? Since it doesn't like to be moved, finding the right spot is important. Since the leaves are sharp, I imagine you don't want it some place where you may bushed against it (unless you have pesky kids that like to cut through your yard). Once the blooms are gone, what companion plant do you place nearby so that it still looks ok for the rest of the year?

Thanks.

Paul

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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Hellebores are wonderful. Dry and alkaline sounds perfect. For best effect have them somewhere you are likely to venture out even in winter and very early spring. They are also good on banks or terraces so you can look up into the flowers. Paler flowers show up best in the winter gloom too but the dark burgundys are also lovely. Either choose when in flower or at least study the leaf stalks. The darker the stem, the darker the blossom. Seed grown plants can be a bit wishy washy so it's best to try and see them in flower.

BTW the I have never noticed that the folage is particularly sharp, just a bit leathery. They are evergreen so, although you can trim off the old foliage, they will always have some so they don't leave an empty space. Mine grow with bulbs, ferns, Pulmonarias, Epimediums, Dicentras, Primulas and Geraniums. And I have moved them without problems. Plant as many as you can afford.

There is a Hellebore forum here but it's not very lively.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 1:45PM
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wieslaw59

They are not difficult to grow from seed. I have read they can be difficult to devide. They have been a great succes for me for some years until this winter , when I had a number of losses in exposed situations.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 2:30PM
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coolplantsguy(z6 Ontario)

H. niger 'Josef Lemper' does very well for me under a big old Blue Spruce.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 2:56PM
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gardenweed_z6a

I have 2 groups of three plants at the northeast corners of my house & garage, with hosta, lady's mantle, heuchera/coral bells, pulmonaria, geranium, primrose plus a few others. The soil here is acid but they don't seem to care. I bought a new one, 'Cinnamon Snow' from Santa Rosa Gardens' year-end sale (75% off so the price was just $2.99). I would echo flora_uk about the foliage being leathery rather than sharp-edged. They're incredibly slow-growing but need very little in the way of attention aside from a spring tidy-up. Last year's 4-month long drought had no apparent effect on them nor did this year's soggy summer.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 6:42PM
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MaeT(z5 NL, Canada)

I bought my first Hellebore (Pink Frost) last month. I plan on buying more this spring.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 8:43PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have three or four here in the coast range of California. When I saw "dry and alkaline" suggested as preferred, I was surprised. Here we are damp and acid and they grow like weeds. My oldest plant after about 10 years of blooming, set about 20 seeds, which I dug up when the plants were about four inches high. Potted up they sold in local plant sales. My others have not produced and seedling yet. They are a good looking plant year around. Al

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 10:27AM
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mycitygarden

Paul,
I love my Ivory Prince hellebores that have flower heads that are upright, unlike many. Its foliage is a thick, dark green which looks great throughout the year. I've moved one of the plants at least once and it was fine. They can take a lot of shade, though probably not full, full shade...might be my clay-y soul, though. It would look great next to a chartreuse colored plant.

Melissa

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 12:08PM
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rusty_blackhaw(6a)

I was indifferent to these plants for a long time (like the writer who referred to them as "helluva bores"). But in the last few years I've come to like them, starting with the unnamed Sunshine Farms hybrids I picked up on a whim. They produced a nice crop of seedlings last year which are coming along well, and I've added five more mixed Hellebores picked up at steep discounts.

The flowers are attractive for a long period in spring, in unusual pastel shades (which normally I'm not fond of) and I like the leathery foliage. All of mine are growing in a front border in moderate shade that gets a bit of filtered sun, in relatively poor soil.

I've heard that starting hellebores from seed is tricky, requiring multiple cold periods alternating with warm. Outdoors though, they seem to have no trouble generating seedlings.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 10:54AM
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leslie197(z5 MI)

My hellebores are planted under a window where I can see them from inside the house in cold weather (when there is no snow) and right along the edge of my concrete patio where I can see them up close in warmer weather. They are planted near a foundation shrub and under a large, low, & very dense Coralburst Crabapple tree, but get some sunshine when the tree is out of leaf and in recent years as the tree has aged & spread (and spread) I have had to prune back some of the crabapple branches (to keep them off the house) providing the hellebores with more light. The area is very dry with lots of loose duff on a base of very hard clay soil (tree & shrub leaves are left in place here every year). The whole area under the tree is heavily planted with minor bulbs, hostas, columbines, epimediums, etc. There are soaker hoses wrapped all through the bed, but these are only used a few times a year, usually in late summer, since my heavy clay soil holds water so well.

The hellebores have colonized most of the area near the Crabapple tree from the foundation shrubs to the house wall (the shrubs were planted well away from the wall to be out from under the eaves), but the hellebores have not moved out into the sunny south facing area beyond the tree. They have, however, wiped out the Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff) that used to be near the house.

I originally planted 3 varieties of hellebore - 3 each of the helleborus x hybrida (Lenten rose), the one most people here seem to be talking about, 3 of the helleborus foetidus (Stinking hellebore), and one helleborus argutifolius (sometimes listed as corciscus or Corsican). The Corsican hellebore is only marginally hardy here. Mine is planted along the concret patio and protected from winter winds by two house walls.

The Lenten Roses proved to be slow to take off, blooming but not doing much of anything else for the first 3 to 4 years, eventually producing a few seedlings, and finally after 10 years a small but neat colony. The Stinking hellebores, which have very fine very dark green foliage & upright chartreuse flowers, spread much more quickly. They put out a massive number of seedlings in their 2nd or 3rd season, and some subsequent years, but most do not survive my winters and take awhile to reach blooming size. The seedlings do make a very attractive groundcover, winding through the lighter green lenten roses. The Corsican Hellebore has survived for over 10 years in its sheltered spot, stays relatively small (for a Corsican, normally quite a large and tall plant) and needs some cutting back in spring (if I get around to it) because of dieback. It puts out fairly large upright chartreuse flower stalks and has largish long spiky edged shiny leaves (perhaps what the OP was thinking about).

The three varieties planted together make a very nice almost totally carefree (occasional hacking with hedge shears in spring to cull off winter burn) foliage combo with long lasting flowers an added bonus. BTW, I have not tried H. niger (Christmas Rose) but a co-worker always brings in some of the white flowers floating in water for her desk - really pretty - especially in January.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 11:51PM
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paulsiu(5a)

Most of the companion recommendation are for spring plants that bloom roughly about the same time as Hellebore. Are there plants that one can pair with that blooms in summer and fall (in the shade of course).

Thanks everyone for the replies so far.

Paul

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 8:44PM
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mosswitch

I planted a couple of hellebores some 20 years ago, one lenten rose (Orientalis) and one Christmas rose (niger), and they have both colonized well, flinging seeds everywhere if I don't remember to cut the spent flowers.

I've moved them all over the place when I spot the seedlings coming up where I don't want them (in the cracks of the patio, mostly) and so far they don't object at all to being relocated.

The niger is not nearly as prolific as the orientalis, tho there are usually hundreds of seedlings under the old plant.

I find that the orientalis produces lots of variegation in blooms, from pale pink to deep purple. I love the leathery evergreen foliage, and I always cut off the old leaves in the spring and let the new stuff grow. The old plants are nearly 4' across and have hundreds of blooms, so I give them lots of space. They look wondeful with hostas and ferns.

I spent a couple of hours today in fact, digging up bricks in the patio to get the teenage seedlings out of the cracks and replanted them down in the woods gardens. I must have moved 20 of them.

I can't make myself compost any of them, I know how expensive they are to buy! I think I paid over $10 each for the original plants, and that was 20 some years ago!

I have actually bought a few of the newer varieties in the last couple of years. They all grow fairly slowly so don't expect immediate huge plants, but one year you will look at them and go, WOW!

They seem to grow well in partial or filtered shade, average soil with minimal water. I don't find them fussy at all.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 9:32PM
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