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Helleborus x hybridus (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Helleborus x hybridus (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Zone
Zones 2B, 3-9, 14-24, 31-34, 39
Partial SunNo Sun
Partial, Shade
Regular Water
Moderate
Toxicity
All parts are poisonous if ingested.

Helleborus foetidus

Bear’s-foot Hellebore
Ranunculaceae
Evergreen, Perennials

HELLEBORUS

These distinctive, long-lived plants add color to the garden for several months in winter and spring; they are also appreciated for their attractive, leathery foliage. 

Flowers are usually shaped like cups or bells, either outward facing or drooping; they consist of a ring of petal-like sepals ranging in color from white and green through pink and red to deep purple (rarely yellow). Flowers persist beyond the listed bloom periods, gradually turning green. Blossoms are attractive in arrangements: seal ends of cut stems by searing over a flame or immersing in boiling water for a few seconds. Then place in cold water. Or simply float flowers in a bowl of water.

Mass hellebores under high-branching trees, on north or east side of walls, or in beds. Plants are not damaged by rodents or deer.

Plant in well-drained soil amended with plenty of organic matter. Plants prefer soil that is somewhat alkaline but will also grow well in neutral to slightly acid conditions (H. niger is an exception; it must have alkaline soil). Feed once or twice a year. Don’t disturb once planted; they resent moving and may take 2 or more years to reestablish (if they survive at all). If well sited, however, they may self-sow, and young seedlings can be transplanted in early spring. Offspring may not resemble the parent, but all are attractive. 

Helleborus foetidus (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Helleborus foetidus (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

Click to Enlarge

Helleborus foetidus

From western and central Europe. Grows to 2 1/2 ft. high and wide. The stems are clothed with dark green leaves divided into seven to ten narrow, leathery leaflets to 8 in. long. Clusters of inch-wide flowers are light green with purplish red edges; they bloom winter to spring.

Plant parts are malodorous if crushed or bruised (they don’t smell bad otherwise). Tolerates sun in cool, humid areas. Self-sows freely where adapted.

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