There are certain plants that every Southern gardener should have…that being said, please say hello to the amazing Hellebore! Sometimes called a Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose (because many of them bloom around those times), this winter-to-early spring-flowering evergreen perennial blooms in shades of white, cream, green, pink, red and some even with speckles or blotches. Interestingly enough, these delightful plants remain unknown to many gardeners despite their toughness, beauty, and wonderful habit of blooming during times when most other plants in the garden remain dormant.
Old-fashioned hellebores (Helleborus orientalis) are great…they tend to be less expensive than the newer hybrids and have gently nodding blossoms in a mix of colors. They also have a bonus trait of slowly reseeding themselves to create a lovely groundcover over time. The new hybrids, while a bit more pricey, have been bred to hold their flowers upright, thus producing a more impressive floral display. The new hybrids also come in a wider variety of colors, speckles, frills, and double flowers. Some of them even have silvery and/or variegated foliage, making them a beautiful addition to the garden even when they are not in bloom. Many avid gardeners collect the different Hellebore varieties to create stunning winter displays.
Regardless of which type you choose, hellebores are happiest in dappled shade with well-drained soil that is rich in organic material. They are the perfect plant for a woodland garden or natural area on the edge of a forest. In the piedmont of North Carolina, it is imperative to amend the clay soil before planting hellebores…use soil enhancer, mushroom compost, and organic humus to create a rich and well-drained bed. More good news…Hellebores make great cut flowers, they are deer-resistant, rabbit-resistant, and once established are very drought-tolerant! Happy planting!