Dec 18, 2014

Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)


Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)

Hellebores

Commonly known as hellebores, members of the Eurasian genus Helleborus comprise approximately 20 species of herbaceous or evergreen perennial flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae (the same family as Paeonia, Clematis, Thalictrum, and Trollius), within which it gave its name to the tribe of Helleboreae. The scientific name Helleborus derives from the Greek name for H. orientalis "helleboros"; "elein" to injure and "bora" food. Many species are poisonous.

Various species of this genus originated in Europe and Asia. Hellebores are widely grown in gardens for decorative purposes. Valued by gardeners for their winter and early spring flowering period; the plants are surprisingly frost-resistant and many are evergreen. Zone 4 to 9.

The so-called Christmas rose (H. niger), bears its pure white flowers (which often age to pink) in the depths of winter; large-flowered cultivars are available, as are pink-flowered and double-flowered selections. The flowers are really sepals, which is the reason for their long flowering time—some last as long as three months.

The most popular hellebores, are undoubtedly H. orientalis and its colourful hybrids (H. × hybridus). In the northern hemisphere, they flower in early spring, around the period of Lent, and are often known as Lenten hellebores, oriental hellebores, or Lenten roses. They are excellent for bringing early colour to shady herbaceous borders and areas between deciduous shrubs and under trees. The recent hybridization of H. orientalis with other species has resulted in flowers that now include colours such as slate grey, deep purple or near black, plum and various shades of green (not to mention added frills, anemone forms and double flowers). Many cultivars have upright-facing blooms which is an improvement over the nodding types. .
Plant Hellebores in light to full shade with rich, evenly moist, well-drained soil. Planting under deciduous trees (Maples, birches, etc.) is ideal since it will provide winter sun and summer shade. A sheltered site protected from winter winds keeps the foliage looking its best. Once planted, they are best left undisturbed and thrive for years without needing division. Established clumps spread from about 30 to 45 cm. Plant with 2.5cm of soil above the point where the roots break from the crown of the plant. Fertilize with slow release fertilizer in spring. Mulch in fall with compost or aged manure and remove old leaves after new shoots appear. Keep well watered during dry spells. Watch out for slug damage. Hellebores will often self-seed and you can easily move young seedlings to a permanent location. Seedlings should flower in 2-3 years. May take several years to become established enough to bloom after being planted or moved. In cold, windy areas it is recommended that you provide winter protection. A mulch of evergreen boughs or a windbreak of burlap will help protect your plants during the winter.

Hellebores are wonderful companion plants for Galanthus (snowdrops), Primula (primroses), Tiarella (foam flowers), Epimediums (barrenwort), Pulmonaria (lungwort), and many others.

Featured Plant

Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)

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Last modified: Wed 19-Feb-2014 12:19:09 PST