Grow hellebore winter flowers to add beauty and surprise to your winter garden. These perennial plants burst into flower when the light is low and in the depths of winter.
Hellebores are on-trend garden plants. Drop into any plant nursery or garden centre in the winter months and you will find a show bench of hellebore-beauties. These winter flowering wonders have been the focus of attention for plant breeders and there are some fantastic new varieties as well as some long-established stalwarts to choose from.
Hellebore winter flowers are easy to grow
Hellebore winter flowers are garden stalwarts and are really easy to grow. They are hardy, perennial plants. That means, once you’ve got them established, they will clump up and come back year after year and that makes them a great investment for your garden. They are quick to set seed and they often self-seed around the garden. Look beneath established clumps for seedlings. Pot them up and grow them on, they won’t flower for a few years, but you never know you may have ‘bred’ a fabulous new strain.
Hellebores are mostly evergreen, but some are herbaceous dying back to a crown for the winter. Most are hardy in the UK and thrive in shady, damp conditions reflecting their deciduous woodland origins.
Hellebores are very tolerant and will grow in most soils from slightly acidic through to slightly alkaline, as long as the ground is not extremely dry or waterlogged. They will tolerate drier conditions in summer months as long as there is some shade, but do bear in mind that too much shade all year round can reduce the number of flowers. Grow them in a position sheltered from cold winds, under the canopy of deciduous shrubs and trees that will provide plenty of light in winter and spring. Plant your hellebores on a sloping bed or bank so that you naturally improve the drainage and make it much easier to look into the flowers.
Hellebores are a magnet for pollinators
The open flowers of hellebores are a magnet for pollinators which feed on the rich nectar within the accessible nectaries. Recent research from the University of Bristol measured available nectar from garden plants and discovered that one hellebore flower had as much nectar as 157 snowdrops. But if you are growing plants for pollinators remember that the pollen and nectar in single flowered and open varieties is more accessible than double varieties. The nodding heads of the hellebore flowers also act as living umbrellas for pollinators foraging in wet weather.
Hellebores work well with other flowering shrubs such as witch hazels and flowering currant. They also look good planted with snowdrops, grape hyacinths and other early spring-flowering bulbs.
Great garden hellebores
If you want something very special for your garden or for a gift, hellebores are a great choice. There are many fabulous strains and varieties and species to choose from.
Hellebore ‘Ice N’Roses’ Red
One of the Helleborus Gold Collection® varieties from the Ice N Roses strain, this beautiful rich red hellebore carries all the wonder of these amazing plants. These are low maintenance and hardy varieties from the Helleborus Gold Collection® available in a range of fabulous colours. The range is the result of plant breeding that has crossed the Lenten Roses (Helleborus orientalis) and the Snow Roses to create plants packed full of buds that open to large flowers. This fabulous rich red variety creates a joyful display of flowers through the winter and will last for many years. The plants are disease resistant and a perfect for pots, planters and the winter border.
Hellebore ‘Monte Christo’
If you prefer the white shades of the winter hellebores then choose this winter wonder. Helleborus ‘Monte Christo’ is another great plant from the Helleborus Gold Collection®. It’s a snow rose with slivery blue leaves that are evergreen and the most attractive branching dark red stems that carry large clusters of creamy, pale green flowers that age with a beautiful soft pink apricot edge as spring approaches. It’s a stunner. It starts into flower in early December and keeps on going as we celebrate the New Year. Perfect for pots and planters.
Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)
This hellebore really does flower around the festivities and graces our gardens with its pure white flowers when the days are short and the evenings are dark. It’s a mid-winter wonder that every garden needs. It’s not a big plant, growing to around 12inches (30cm) tall and once established will clump up year on year to produce a winter display. For more information on this beautiful flower, read more here.
The Lenten Rose
Many of the colourful hellebore hybrids on sale in garden centres and nurseries are forms of the Lenten Rose (see main image). There are dozens of very showy strains of this remarkable plant and some of the colours are very striking indeed. So much so that they can even be used as cut flowers or floated in a bowl of water. To get the very best from these plants (once established) cut off the leaves at ground level when you see the buds start to form and then you can appreciate the flowers in all their glory. Also, if you can raise the plants up so that you can see them from below you will be better able to enjoy their beautiful display.
For something a bit different that grows a bit taller and is perfect for a woodland garden consider Helleborus foetidus, known as the stinking hellebore because it’s foliage gives off a bit of a pong when crushed. It’s found in the wild throughout Europe and parts of the UK and is a striking plant with, dark evergreen leathery, divided leaves. It is tough and easy to grow and useful for tucking in a shady corner. Clusters of hanging green flowers edged with purple-brown last from February through to June, providing copious nectar for our pollinating pals.