Hellebore Companions

The Christmas rose (Helleborus niger; Zones 4–8) and the Lenten rose (cultivars of H. ×hybridus; Zones 5–8) are prized as perennials that bloom in winter and early spring, in regions where the vast majority of other herbaceous plants lie dormant. But rather than let them lonesomely bloom in a bare patch, give them evergreen companions that will help them pop. This is particularly important among Lenten roses that lack foliage of their own when in bloom. Here are some good choices:

Evergreen ferns such as hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium; Zones 5–9) and Japanese shield fern (Dryopteris erythrosora, Zones 6–10) provide a leafy backdrop to the hellebores’ flowers.

Dwarf evergreen shrubs such as Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa; Zones 6–8) and Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ (Zones 5–8) provide shelter and contrast.

Low ornamental grasses are also good choices. Carex comans (Zones 7–9) and C. buchananii (Zones 7–9) lend an airy texture and will tolerate the shady conditions hellebores prefer. In winter, the tawny leaves of these grasses are a good contrast for dark pink or purple hellebores.

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Looking for more Evergreen plants? Great Landscape Evergreens has some great options!

Getting ready for winter? Check out Horticulture’s Smart Gardening Techniques for preparing your garden for  winter. Also check out Green Christmas for eco-friendly ways to enjoy the season.

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5 thoughts on “Hellebore Companions

  1. Pingback: Horticutural zones | Commoditiesass

  2. I live in the South and find that the Autumn Fern is the best for our area. It is evergreen so it here when the hellebores are blooming. We have native Christmas Ferns that are also evergreen. Hellebores and ferns together make a great pair.

    • If you have acid soil, or at least not alkaline, try partridge berry, wintergreen, or bearberry. Otherwise, lungworts leaf out early, maybe some Heuchera varieties, a few other hardy perennials with evergreen rosettes.

      But I don’t worry about it here in my frost pocket zone 5, almost zone 4. I just grow snowdrops with my pinky-rose and purplish hellebores. I have Siberian squill with my mass planting that includes white flowered hellebores as well. And although I haven’t tried it, winter aconites in front of Lenten roses could work well, too. Chionodoxa Pink Giant is a soft pink that blooms early and goes with hellebores.

      I gave up on the hellebore foliage surviving winter in good condition several years ago. Now I cut it down in late fall so as to make it easier to weed right before winter. The new flowering stems are really plenty attractive on their own, in my opinion.

      • I have epimediums right next to my hellebores. They are early like the hellebore and have a soft delicate leaf and flower. Behind them I have a tall cimicifuga providing a nice backdrop. There is actually a tall thalictrum growing right inside the hellebore patch which comes up much much later and the delicate leaves are a nice contrast. Nearby I have two Sunpower hostas growing. They are so super yellow that they bounce off the green of the hellebores. Also nearby I have a few chocolate colored heuchera with white flowers. Also a nice contrast. Since my garden is so shady I have to rely on texture and shades of green for interest–but the occasional flower is a happy sight.

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