I saw an ad for a Christmas rose. The photo and additional text showed the plant was a hellebore. I always thought the common name for hellebores was Lenten rose. Can you clear this up for me?—PK, W. Va.
Answer: The hellebore commonly called Christmas rose is the species Helleborus niger. This species blooms white or pink from autumn to spring. It often blooms in snow and around Christmas in mild areas, and in later spring in cold areas.
Legends, songs and poems have grown from the plant’s tendency to bloom around Christmastime. The most popular version has the Christmas rose sprouting in the snow from the fallen tears of a young girl who did not have a gift to give the Christ child.
Lenten rose, meanwhile, refers to Helleborus xorientalis hybrids, which flower in different colors in spring (around the Christian period of Lent/Easter).
Above left: Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) Above right: Lenten rose (Helleborus xorientalis)