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Why You Should Plant Hellebores

3/6/2020

About two years ago, my husband planted hellebores (otherwise known as Lenten roses and Helleborus orientalis) in a particularly shady area of our Franklin, Tennessee, backyard. I didn’t know what they were at the time so much to my surprise last January, these beautiful plants bloomed outside our bedroom window and we’ve been hooked ever since. Here’s what you need to know about hellebores and why it’s so important to plant them:

Food for Bees: Since hellebores bloom in January/February, they provide some of the very first food of the year for bees. This is critical to bee health and survival. Plus, when everything else is dormant or dead in winter, their blooms emerge and brighten even the darkest days.

Thrive in Hard to Grow Areas: Since hellebores prefer partial-to-full shade, they’re ideal for that part of your garden where nothing else seems to grow. They even look beautiful planted around large trees that provide significant shade. Hellebores grow in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9 and will do well in the ground as well as planted in containers. Just remember if you plant them in containers to use soil specifically formulated for container gardening; it’s available at any home improvement store or nursery. They tolerate morning sun, but need to be protected from the hot afternoon sun so choose your planting location carefully.

Relatively Maintenance Free: Since hellebores are evergreens, they look great all year long. They only bloom in the winter/early spring, but their leaves are present year round so you don’t need to worry that they’ll look unattractive at certain points of the year like other plants that die back (I’m looking at you, hostas!). Occasionally some of the smaller or less established plants will die back, but they sprout back up just before it’s time to bloom and have leaves year-round as they settle into your garden. The blooms are also cold tolerant so you don’t need to run out and “save” them when we have cold weather! Another cool feature of hellebores is that they propagate themselves. Once the plant is established, small babies sprout around the mother plant, so you’ll have plenty to grow your garden or give to friends. Hellebores also do not need to be pruned unless you want to remove any leaves that have dried out and died; just be sure to cut down to the base of the leaf stem. They will perform better if you fertilize them during the growing season (i.e. fall and spring), but it’s not required by any means. My husband and I dilute GrowMore Seaweed Extract (you can find it at most nurseries or on Amazon) and use that to fertilize our hellebores, but you can use whatever you have on hand. It is important to note that like many ornamentals, hellebores are toxic to people and pets, so don’t eat them! Also, skin contact may cause irritation, so be sure to wear your gardening gloves when working with them.

Minimal Pest Issues: Hellebores are generally healthy and have minimal issues as long as they are protected from the sun. Aphids are known to attack them, but that’s about it. My husband and I have never had a pest issue with ours.

You generally won’t find hellebores in nurseries until it’s time to plant them, but luckily this is the time of the year they start popping up in stores. There are 17 different varieties and they’re all gorgeous so be sure to add these somewhere around your home. You won’t be disappointed!

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