How To Plant And Care For Helleborus Lenten Rose

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This article provides helpful tips and instructions for planting, growing and caring for Helleborus Lenten Rose
by Brett · Zone 2A · -50° to -45° F to Zone 11 · Above 40° F · Perennial Plants · 0 Comments · March 14, 2014 · 7,579 views

How To Plant & Care For Helleborus

Helleborus, commonly known as Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, is a favorite late winter perennial plant that begins flowering in middle to late winter, heralding the arrival of spring.

The genus Helleborus is comprised of 15 different species and belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). The plants are perennial, which means they live for many years, and are largely evergreen. Their pretty, nodding, buttercup-like flowers provide color and interest in the shade garden when not much else is flowering. Additionally, their attractive evergreen leaves provide interest year round in the garden, whether planted in patches or masse as a groundcover. If deer are a problem they won;t be with Helleborus, which are exceptionally deer resistant.

The five-petal 2-inch "flowers" of Helleborus are bowl-shape and among the cultivars come in a diverse range of color in many various shades of white, yellow, pink, red, purple, blue, and green. The "petals" are actually sepals that shelter the tiny true flowers, which are nestled in the blossom center surrounded by a clump of yellow stamens. These petal-like sepals remain on the plant for several months, long after the true flowers have faded and seeds have set. In addition, some varieties have flowers with petals that are uniquely spotted or picoteed or double flowered, which refers to more than one row of petals and gives them a nastalgic, rose-like appearance.

The flowers rise above the low clumps of toothed, plamate foliage. Leaves are large (to 1 foot across) and dark green, divided into 5 to 11 tooth-edged leaflets. Foliage is evergreen in mild-winter climates. The mature size of the plant will depend on the cultivar however an average size would be about 2 feet in width and maybe a foot or so in height.

Among all the cultivars of Helleborus there are early, mid, and late season bloomers. In my gardens here in mid-Georgia, some start as early as December while others start in January, February or early March. The flowers are long-lasting and often persist well into spring.

Planting Helleborus

Sun Exposure
First, you want to select a location for planting that provides shade during the warm season (summer) and sun during the cool season (winter). Under the canopies of deciduous trees and large shrubs is the perfect environment. "Deciduous" means plants that lose their leaves during winter. Planting under deciduous trees allows sunlight to reach the Helleborus plants during winter.

Soil
Helleborus prefer a well-drained soil rich in organic matter. When planting in poor or heavy clay soils mix in copious amounts of organic matter, such as moshroom compost or composed manure, to the soil removed from the planting hole. Plants can tolerate drought however will appreciate enough water during drought to keep the soil moist. As with many other plants, avoid constantly soggy soils as this can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases.

Soil pH
The hybrids known as Helleborus x hybridus (previously called Helleborus orientalis), commonly called Lenten Rose, prefer a soil pH close to neutral (6.5-7) even alkaline (8.0). If your soil is extremely acid, add plenty of lime to sweeten it. The Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) may be slow to become established; to help these along, try a dose of magnesium in the form of Epsom salts or dolomitic limestone sprinkled around the plants. Whenever growing plants that prefer a specific pH it's a good idea to test the soil. Testing kits are available at most local nursery and garden centers or you can buy a soil test kit online here. Your local Extension Service might provide soil testing services as well. Depending on the results of the soil test, you can add lime to raise the pH or soil sulfur to lower the pH (make more acid).

Feeding and Watering Helleborus

Feeding
Helleborus aren't heavy feeders however will benefit from a light application of granular, balanced fertilizer in fall and again in early spring after flowers have faded. I use a mild organic plant food.

Water
Helleborus prefer a moist but not constantly wet soil. Constantly soggy soil can cause disease. Provide enough water to keep soil moist during prolonged periods of hot and dry weather. When established, after two spring seasons or so, I've found Helleborus to be quite drought tolerant.

Pruning Helleborus

The best time to prune Helleborus is in late fall or early winter, before flowers appear. At this time you can remove any damaged or ugly looking leaves. Doing so will help show off the flowers when they appear!

Lenten rose can be divided but, since divided plants take several years to recuperate, I don't recommend it. However, plants self-sow readily and will form small colonies if spent flowers are allowed to go to seed. Otherwise, if you don't want new plants, simply deadhead when flowers have faded.

Hope these tips were helpful. And, if you're new to Helleborus, be careful...plant just one in your garden and you're likely to become a Helleborus addict like me. Last count I think I have 27 varieties!




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