It is hard to imagine flowers blooming outdoors in February, but the
Christmas rose (Helleborus
niger) delights gardeners with its charming pure
white blooms that emerge from the plant even when frost and snow
lie on the ground.
are familiar with Lenten rose (Helleborus
orientalis) and eagerly search out the newest
introductions boasting double flowers, speckled petals and
amazing colors. But don't neglect the austere beauty of the
Christmas rose. Unlike most hellebores with nodding blooms, the
snowy white flowers of the Christmas rose face outward, proudly
posing for all to enjoy.
2-inch blooms are unusual in that sepals -- not petals -- put on
the show. The five sepals surround a large cluster of yellow
stamens and hide the numerous inconspicuous petals. The flowers
can persist for two months or longer, depending on temperature.
As the sepals mature, they take on rosy pink or green hues.
form soon after pollination. By the time the seed matures, the
sepals have faded to green and the seed pods are swollen. Remove
the seed pods to encourage robust plants, or leave them alone
and numerous seedlings will develop around the base of the
Hellebores - 'The Christmas Rose'
niger is hardy in zones 3 to 8 and typically grows 12 to
18 inches tall. Hellebores are divided into two groups: those
with stemless foliage that arises from the rootstalk of the
plant, and those that produce an above-ground stalk from which
leaves develop. The Christmas rose falls into the stemless
category, referred to as acaulescent. The smooth, dark
blue-green leaves are leathery, palmately divided, and have
serrations on the leaf margins. Often the evergreen foliage is
borne on red stems.
thrive in partial shade that is rich in organic matter. They
are perfectly suited to a woodland garden and will develop into
a lush ground cover over time. Unlike the Lenten rose, the
Christmas rose is planted with the crown just below the surface
of the soil. It typically grows in a limestone soil, but plants
readily adapt to a neutral or slightly acidic soil. However,
amending the area with an alkaline organic material such as
mushroom manure is helpful. Plants will also benefit from an
annual sprinkling of ground limestone. Helleborus niger is slow
to mature but it will form large showy clumps that will remain
vigorous for years. They are durable plants and will thrive with
can be divided in the spring, but Helleborus niger often suffers
a setback after division and may not bloom for several years
afterward. It is preferable to propagate the plant by
transplanting the seedlings that develop around the base of the
Christmas rose is relatively insect- and disease-free,
although it may be plagued by fungal leaf spots that cause
brown, desiccated areas.. Prevention is important; clean up old
stems, leaves and debris that may harbor disease and
overwintering insects. Copper-based fungicides are helpful in
preventing leaf spot if the problem is treated early. Plants are
also subject to winter injury from cold winter winds that may
cause desiccation of the foliage. Because of their toxicity,
hellebores are generally not browsed by deer.
Hellebores in the House
A small vase
of flowers brought indoors is a perfect pick-me-up for the
winter blahs. Although somewhat finicky to conditions when
fresh, best results are obtained if you cut the flowers just as
they are beginning to form seed pods. At this stage they
condition well and will last for several days indoors.
decide to cut the flowers when they are young, they will
benefit from the boiling water treatment. Immerse the ends of
the stems in boiling water for about one minute. This technique
forces air from the stems and allows for better uptake of water.
After the boiling water plunge, re-cut the stems and immerse
them in water overnight.
enjoyed indoors or outside, the Christmas rose is a wonderful
sign that spring is not too far away!
Bagworms on Arborvitae
Blossom End Rot