Hellebores (Helleborus nigra)

They are low-growing herbaceous perennials much loved for their winter flowers, which can be green, pink, white, yellow, red or dark purple verging on black. Petals may be beautifully spotted or patterned, adding to their charm. The flowers are downward facing but long lasting often blooming over many months especially in cool climates.

Plants thrive as a natural ground cover under deciduous trees and team well with early spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils and bluebells, which take over growing and flowering as hellebores begin to wind down. To better enjoy flowers, look for modern hybrids and cultivars with more upright flowers on taller stems. Alternatively grow plants in a raised bed beside a path or in a tall pot such as an urn or simply spend time bending down and lifting flowering heads to enjoy their intricate beauty.

They can be picked as a cut bloom but sometimes cut hellebores wilt. To avoid this, plunge cut stems into water. Slightly older flowers that have begun to form a seed head are unlikely to wilt.

Plant as potted flowering plants in winter or early spring. Enjoy as a flowering pot plant or plant straight into the garden. They can also be grown from seed or as small seedlings. Established plants set seed and may produce many seedlings.

For ideas on a variety to suit your garden or favourite pot, check out your local hardware or garden centre, who can give you heaps of advice. Here are a few to consider:

  • Helleborus ‘Molly’s White’ has delightful white flowering blooms through winter and spring with beautiful green flush and dusky pink reverse to each petal. Enjoy them in a pot on the verandah or mass plant under trees or as a border for a shady position.
  • Helleborus ‘Anne Red’ displays deep magenta blooms through the winter and early spring. It is a vigorous grower with a tidy habit that is great for a pot and can be brought inside for a couple of weeks.
  • Helleborus ‘Tutu’ is a beautiful hellebore that is know for it’s elegant semi-double pink to purple blooms with a delicate ruffed centre. It is a vigorous evergreen perennial with a tidy growth habit for any shady position in the garden or pot.
  • Helleborus ‘ White Tutu’ is known for its elegant semi-double white blooms with delicate ruffled centres. A vigorous evergreen perennial that will add a touch of class to any shady area or pot.
  • Hellebores orientalis ‘Pink Surprise Mix’ are beautiful green clumping, winter perennials with a surprising, attractive floral display of either white, pink, purple, green or maroon flowers.
  • Helleborus x ballardiae varieties flowers prolifically in a range of incredible colours from white, deep red, brown, purple and pink. Their blooms are often beautifully patterned and come in single or double form. With a low bushy habit it is excellent mass planted in a shady position such as under a tree.

Growing conditions

Aspect Hellebores need a shaded location and do well under deciduous trees that provide summer shade but allow sun to shine through in winter when the plants are in bloom.

Soil Hellebores do best in good soil that holds moisture and is enriched with home-made compost and organic matter and/or Seasol Super Compost. Add in extra organic matter and/or Seasol Plant + Soil Booster when planting. In containers use a premium potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix.

Climate Hellebores grow best in cool zones but tolerate warm temperate climates if grown in a cool shaded position and kept well-watered during summer.

General care

Watering Water regularly unless soil is naturally moist. It is important to provide water to plants that are in dry shade or that experience bright sunlight or hot conditions in summer. Also ensure the water is going down into the soil. If it’s pooling on top or running off it could be repelling water. A soil wetter such as Seasol Super Soil Wetter & Conditioner will help to overcome this.

Feeding and mulching Feed throughout the seasons using a complete fertiliser for flowering plants such as Seasol plus Nutrients Roses & Flowers. Supplement feeding with a liquid fertiliser such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Roses & Flowers every 2 to 4 weeks. Plants in containers can be liquid fed every 2 to 4 weeks while they are growing and flowering. Apply PowerFeed PRO SERIES Roses & Flowers or PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives. Regular applications of Seasol also assist drought hardiness and disease resistance. Feed once a year in spring with complete fertiliser as new growth resumes and then feed again in late summer as buds form.

Mulch hellebores well with organic mulch such as lucerne, sugar cane or straw.

Pruning Remove old leaves in autumn to better reveal the emerging flower buds and winter flowers. Cut back spent flowers in late spring or leave to set seed and die back naturally.

Watch out Hellebores have few pest or disease problems