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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 1-7, 14-17, 32-45
Partial SunNo Sun
Partial, Shade
Regular Water
Moderate
Toxicity
All parts are poisonous if ingested.

Helleborus niger

Christmas Rose
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 niger ‘Double Fantasy’ (photo courtesy of Monrovia)
Helleborus niger ‘Double Fantasy’ (photo courtesy of Monrovia)

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Helleborus niger

From Europe. Leaves have no obvious stems. Elegant plant to 1 ft. tall and 1 1/2 ft. wide, blooming Christmas time into spring. Often planted in warm-winter climates but seldom thrives there. Plants of H. orientalis are often mislabeled as Christmas rose. Lustrous dark green leaves are divided into seven to nine lobes with a few large teeth; they seem to rise directly from the soil. White, 2-in. flowers appear singly or in groups of two or three on a stout stem about the same height as the foliage clump. Blooms turn pinkish with age.

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