Hellebores - Brighten Your Garden Next Winter!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

By Kerrie Carrie - Wodonga TAFE horticulture student.

Hellebores are beautiful, low maintenance plants that are special because they flower in winter when very little else is happening in the garden.

Helleborus orientalis, the most commonly grown variety grown in Australia is part of the Ranunculaceae family which includes Ranunculus and Anemone. Hellebores grow very well in our region. They are also commonly called Christmas roses reflecting their European origin where their winter flowering coincides with Christmas time (some actually flower in the snow).

Hellebores are perennial evergreen clumping plants that are long lived, up to 40 years, when planted in the right location. Their ideal spot is in a woodland garden setting under deciduous trees where they are shaded in summer, have sun in winter and can be generously mulched with the leaf litter from the trees. Once established they are tolerant of dry conditions but they don’t like hot winds or hot afternoon sun.

If your hellebores haven’t flowered it is possibly because they haven’t had enough sunlight in winter. I made the mistake of planting some on the southern side of the house where they were happily shaded in summer but they received no sunlight at all in winter and would not flower. I moved them and they flowered beautifully this winter. They put on their show for a long time, beginning in late June and blooming right through to October.

Hellebores come in a range of colours from white to pinks and maroons and even dark purple which looks almost black and while mostly single blooms, they can come in doubles. They are easily propagated by seed and will readily self-seed but the seedlings will take two to three years to flower.

They are relatively free of pests and diseases, even snails don’t find their tough leathery leaves palatable. Only aphids can be a bit of a bother but they are easily managed with a pest oil spray.

A good feed with a complete slow release fertiliser in autumn is all that is needed and they can even be grown in pots quite happily which can be a good option for small gardens or courtyards because they can be moved to catch the shade in summer and the sun in winter.

So what’s not to love about hellebores?

Even though we are looking ahead to our spring and summer gardens, now is a good time to choose and plant some hellebores ready to cheer you up next winter. The more you plant the better because they are just beautiful in large drifts or mass plantings. A good example is the display at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens if you have a chance to visit soon


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