Brave Plants: Helleborus orientalis

fullsizeoutput_1f56Plants that shrug off a late snowfall and frigid temperatures

Helleborus orientalis, commonly known as hellebores or Lenten rose, have been a feature in my garden for almost 20 years. They are tough plants, thriving in shade or sun. Deer leave them alone. Hellebores begin to bloom in my garden around mid-March and continue well into May, an exceptionally long bloom time for a perennial. When  crisp, cloudless late winter days are followed by night temperatures into the mid-teens, hellebores show their true mettle. The flowers can be lying on the ground in the morning, yet perk up by mid-day once temperatures reach back into the thirties. Plants don’t get tougher than that!

They self-seed, not in an annoying way, but creating a weed-proof patch, providing a small spot of winter garden interest or a big swath if left to their own devices. Allow the flowers to mature; the fluffy yellow stamens develop a prominent seed capsule. Consider it a reward for not bothering to deadhead! The seeds ripen and the following spring you’ll see lots of seedlings at the feet of the mother plant. Flowers aren’t true to type, meaning that they are not identical to the parent plant. Depending on what you start with, the babies, which can take a year or two to develop into mature flowering plants, range in color from cream, to pale olive or mauve, burgundy to a deep plum. Some are speckled, others are solid. All are beautiful. After the first year they are very easy to move and their adaptability make them perfect adding to other parts of the garden or giving away to friends.


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