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Hellebore Care Tips and Propagation, Plus Companions

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There are several species and countless varieties of hellebore, including Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), Lenten rose (H. hybridus) and stinking rose (H. foetidus), but their care is mostly the same.

Rosy-hued hellebores provide early spring flowers amid a mix of fine-textured perennials.

Rosy-hued hellebores provide early spring flowers amid a mix of fine-textured perennials.

Basic Hellebore Care

  • Provide part shade to full shade
  • Plant hellebores in well-drained soil
  • Provide even moisture, though they will tolerate some drought once they are established. If hellebores are grown in containers, allow the soil to dry between waterings to prevent root rot.
  • Do not fertilize hellebores, but top-dress them with compost once a year.
  • In cold regions, provide a winter mulch, which should be pulled back before they bloom.
  • The old or damaged foliage of evergreen hellebores can be cut away in early winter. This will allow the blooms to shine when they appear in later winter or early spring. The foliage does not have to be cut back, however, for the plant to thrive; this is an optional step in evergreen hellebore care.

Hellebore Propagation

  • You may find your hellebores propagate themselves by self-sowing around the garden. Seedlings do not look like their parents, so you may wish to remove them before they take over the display; compost them, transplant them or pot them up to share.
  • If you want to propagate hellebores yourself, the easiest way is by dividing them. They respond well and the new plants will look just like the originals. Divide evergreen hellebores in late fall, before they sprout new leaves. Divide hellebores that lose their leaves in summer just after they finish blooming. Keep the new transplants watered well, and otherwise follow the steps of basic hellebore care.

Hellebore Companions
Try these perennials with your hellebores; they require similar conditions and will either complement the hellebores as they grow and bloom or fill in with summer interest while the hellebores take a backseat. Many of these provide fine-textured foliage in contrast to the coarse leaves of hellebores.

  • Hostas
  • Hardy ferns
  • Columbines, especially shade-loving eastern North American native Aquilegia canadensis
  • Bleeding heart
  • Coral bells (Heuchera), foamflowers (Tiarella) and their hybrids, the foamy bells (Heucherella)
  • Low, shade-preferring grasslike sedges (Carex)

Image credit: Mark/CC BY 2.0