Hellebores -- must-haves for any garden -- are fascinating perennials that bloom in March and continue to flower through May. Their color saturation is quite different from other flowers; it's almost like looking at a wood cut, because what you are seeing is not a petal but a sepal -- a protective mechanism of the plant that has adapted coloration to attract pollinators (bees and humans).
There are 16 or 17 different species of hellebores. When selecting a plant, it's important to look for plant vigor because it translates into performance in the garden. Secondly, look at the color; they come in every color imaginable except true blue and red. There are generally two shapes of flowers among singles: rounded or star shaped. The petals should all be uniformly shaped as well as uniformly marked. Other flower shapes: Anemone flowered (or semi-doubles) and double flowers. Grow them all if you like.
Hellebores Seen on the Show
Green with a red star
White picotee anemone flower form
Other assorted colors
Hellebores grow best in part shade. In full shade, you'll see fewer flower stalks. Grow them in average, well-drained soil. They don't like wet areas and appreciate the addition of organic matter (leaf mold or composted cow manure). Plant expert David Culp puts lime on his stock beds periodically, about every five years, because his soil is acidic. For his very special plants, he will put a piece of chalk around the pot for a slow lime release.
Begin by selecting the plant you want to create more of, as propagating by division ensures it will be true to its parent. It's best to divide plants in cool seasons, such as early spring or fall.
First, wash off soil from plant. Look for natural places to divide, such as at the eye or crown. Make sure each division has both old and new roots and is large enough to have two sets of leaves. Put soil in the bottom of the pot, and then add your plant. Use a well-drained, light-porous potting mix. Fill pot with soil, being sure not to mash down too hard, as it compacts the soil. Some people have a dermatological reaction to hellebores so it's a good idea to wear gloves.
Propagated Hellebores-Care Tips
Once you have propagated your hellebores, you must water them. Keep the plant in a cool place that's partly shaded. Keep an eye on its watering during the first six to eight weeks, watering it only when dry. Plant the flower in the garden in late spring through fall. If you leave it in a container, use a deep container for a deep root run.
Special thanks to gardening expert David Culp from Pennsylvania's Brandywine Cottage for sharing these plant-care tips. For more information, visit brandywinehellebores.com. For more helpful gardening information, check out our vegetable garden center. Plus, show off your prized vegetable or vegetable garden by entering a photo in our vegetable garden contest.