8 Common Types of Hellebore Flowers

Hellebore flowers bring life to your garden when little else is blooming. Check out the different types of hellebores you can grow this off-season.
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Different hellebore flowers

When it comes to gardening in the late winter months when everything seems dull and lifeless and spring is yet to come, hellebores offer a touch of vibrancy and restore the vivacity of your garden.

Commonly known as Winter Rose, Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose (although they bear no resemblance nor are related to the rose family), hellebores refer to evergreen perennial flowering plants that belong to the Helleborus group. These flowers have been used since long for ornamental purposes both in the garden as well as indoors. Hellebores make great cut flowers, which means you can simply snip off the blossoms and float them in a bowl of water for a unique au naturel decoration piece.

Whether you love gardening or are looking for ways to restore liveliness in your home during this off-season, check out this article covering the types of hellebores and you are likely to realize why growing hellebores might just be the thing you are looking for.

What’s Unique About Hellebores?

Hellebores feature thick, leathery leaves that stay evergreen. They survive mild winters and quickly regrow the damaged leaves, giving your garden a flourishing look that can be admired all year round. Hellebore flowers come in an array of different colors, sizes, textures (smooth, patterned or freckled) as well as different flower forms (single or double).

These flowers are unaffected by common garden pests and will usually self-seed all over the place. Because most of the hellebores bear flowers that hang upside-down, it can be difficult to admire their beauty as it is. Therefore, hellebores are widely used as cut flowers inside homes.

Why Grow Hellebores?

Besides the captivating flowers that they produce, hellebores are also known for the time at which they produce them. These unique little flowers are a popular choice for many gardeners not only because of the varieties that they come in but also because they bring life to the garden when most other blossoms are already done or are yet to start flowering for the year. Hellebores normally start blooming during winter and remain in season up to the end of spring.

This species of evergreen flora is not very difficult to maintain and is normally hardy to zone 4, which means that it can thrive in many different gardens and conditions.

Hardiness Ratings and Zones

In horticulture, hardiness refers to the ability of plants to survive in adverse environments. For instance, the plant’s tolerance for weather and climatic conditions including resistance to cold, heat, flooding, drought, wind erosion and so on, are measured by its hardiness rating.

Various ways to measure hardiness have been published over the years but the most common and widely accepted is the USDA system of hardiness zones. This categorizes the geographical area into ‘zones’ based on certain climatic conditions such as average annual rainfall and temperature that are imperative for plant growth and survival.

To use the hardiness zone chart, locate your area on the map then match the color code with the zone number mentioned in the key at the bottom right. Next, check the number against the hardiness rating of the plant to decide whether that particular type will grow well in your region or not.

Hardiness zone map

Most of the hellebores thrive well in zones 5a to 8b where they are excessively used for decorative purposes.

Hellebore plants are easy to maintain and not very demanding – the only trouble you might face is deciding which hellebore to grow. Check out the various types of hellebores that are amongst the top choices of most skilled gardeners.

Most Popular Hellebores

The following are the most popular types of hellebores that are commonly found and easy to grow.

1. HelleborusArgutifolius (Corsican Hellebore)

Corsican hellebore

Hardiness: 6 – 9

Exposure: Full to partial sun

Season of Interest: Late winter, spring

When it comes to the colors, green is hardly attributed to flowers, but this unique type of hellebore shatters all stereotypes with its all-green blooms. Helleborusargutifoliusgot its alternative name, Corsican hellebore because it is native to Corsica and Sardinia. These flowers remain in season all round the year and are found in large open clusters of about thirty pale green flowers growing around a central boss of equally green stamens. Although Corsican hellebore is an evergreen perennial, it blooms excessively after late winter and continues to bloom till the early summer months. It’s light green bowl-shaped blossoms that look simple but elegant, rise along the thick, hard stems covered with bluish-green sharp-toothed leaves. Unlike most of the other species that reach only one or two feet high, this type of hellebore can grow up to five feet in length. Corsicans are sun-tolerant and prefer about six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Despite their faded hues, Corsican hellebores are showy and long-lasting and are the ideal choice for those who want to brighten up a shade garden.

2. Helleborus Niger (Christmas Rose)

Christmas Rose

Hardiness: 3 – 8

Exposure: Partial sun, shade

Season of Interest: Winter, early spring

These flowers originate from the mountainous vegetation in Southern and Central Europe and bloom after Christmas season, hence the name Christmas Rose. Helleborusniger features large and open bowl-shaped pristine white flowers (about 3 inch in diameter) with bright golden-yellow stamens that look simply exquisite. The plant has short, thick stems that are in level with the deep-lobed, dark green foliage. Its sepals gradually transform into faded rosy-pink color as they mature. Christmas roses are a popular ornamental choice for many gardeners.

3. Helleborus Orientalis (Lenten Roses)

Lenten Roses

Hardiness: 5 -9

Exposure: Partial sun, shade

Season of Interest: Winter, early spring

This type of hellebore commonly goes by the name of Lenten Roses because it is in season during Lent (a period of religious observance in the Christian calendar). Lenten roses are native to Greece and Turkey and can thrive well in dry climates. With over 50 flowers blooming per plant, Helleborus Orientalis is surely a very pompous species. The blossoms can last up to 2 months and are available in a large variety of colors, sizes, leaf shapes and flower forms. For instance, you can choose from creamy white, faded plum or soft pink flowers as well as white with minute magenta spots or rosy-pink flecked Lenten roses.

If you want to turn your garden into a dazzling place, opt for a combination of different Lenten Roses that will add tons of cheer and vividness.

4. HelleborusFoetidus (Stinking Hellebore)

Stinking Hellebore

Hardiness: 5 -9

Exposure: Full sun, partial sun

Season of Interest: Winter, early to mid-spring

Helleborusfoetidus got the name ‘stinking hellebore’ because its foliage produces a pungent smell when crushed. In some regions, it is also known as ‘bear’s foot’ due to the same smell. However, don’t let its name or smell deceive you because this exclusive species of hellebores ranks high when it comes to selecting winter plants for gardens. Just like Corsican hellebore, stinking hellebores are also evergreen perennials with lime colored blossoms but differ in shapeand all other aspects. Helleborusfoetidus comprises of large groups of cheery, bell-shaped flowers (1-inch-wide) that are edged with dark, blood-red hues at the rim. The plant is laden with buds by the end of winter and continues to bloom heavily for weeks until mid-spring.  These nodding splendors grown on sturdy stems that rise above the foliage of dark green, leathery leaves. The leaves grow in narrow, fan-like shape and are palmately divided.

Helleborusfoetidus stinks only when crushed, so unless you intend to do that, this award-winning plant is definitely worth considering for every winter garden.

Other Types of Hellebores

5. Double Ellen

Helleborus double ellenpurple

Hardiness: 5 -9

Exposure: Partial sun, shade

Season of Interest: Winter, early spring

Double Ellen is a helleborous x hybridus that features big, cup-shaped flowers with frilled petals. The outward-facing blossoms are truly exquisite and bound to captivate every eye with their rich and vivid colors. This double-flowered hellebore blooms generously starting from late winter and continuing up to early spring season. The gorgeous Double Ellens burst forth against the dark glossy foliage and perfectly counterbalance the abundance of deep green hues. Given how attractive and eye-catching this flora is, it is no surprise that it is the most sought-after hellebore in all seasons.

Double Ellens come in various colors and qualities. There is Double Ellen Pink that features soft baby-pink flowers, Double Ellen White that offers pristine white blossoms with rose-pink flecks and Double Ellen Purple that comprises of white petals that seem to be sprayed with purple color (the picture above shows a macro shot of Double Ellen Purple flower). These flowers are the best fit for brightening up areas around shrubs and trees.

6. Anna’s Red

Helleborus Anna’s Red

Hardiness: 4 -9

Exposure: Partial sun, shade

Season of Interest: Winter, early to mid-spring

The helleborus Anna’s Red is celebrated for its distinct foliage and prominent flowers. Its leaves are thick and leathery and appear bronze green during the spring season. There are bright pink, attention-demanding veins running throughout the leaves that eventually turn into a lovely cream color when the plant matures. This results in creating a stunning marble effect that wows everyone. The flowers grow on strong, red stems and feature round petals that are a majestic wine-red color. Unlike most helleborous flowers, Anna’s Reds bloom outwards and let their beauty shine boldly.

Anna’s Red are the perfect choice for welcoming spring with open arms.

7. Penny’s Pink

Helleborus Penny’s Pink

Hardiness: 4 -9

Exposure: Partial sun, shade

Season of Interest: Winter, early to mid-spring

Penny’s Pink is a type of hellebore that is extremely popular amongst all gardening enthusiasts. The plant is noted for its fascinating flowers that are of a soft and subtle pink or purplish-pink color. Dark purple buds gently transform into attractive, 3-inch-wide blossoms that are embellished with a ring of creamy stamens. Penny’s Pink stay upright but instead of growing in clusters like many hellebores, they grow singly. Thus, they provide the best visuals when grown in multiple patches that cover a large garden bed. Although Penny’s Pink tend to turn greener shades when matured, they look delightful nonetheless.

A patch of Penny’s Pink in your garden will set the mood for happily embracing the upcoming spring season.

8. Ivory Prince

Helleborus Ivory Prince

Hardiness: 3- 8

Exposure: Partial sun, shade

Season of Interest: Winter, early spring

Helleborous Ivory Prince, also called Walhelivor, is a type of hellebore that shares ancestry with the Christmas Rose hellebores. Ivory Prince was specially bred to achieve a hardier, and erect species of hellebores that grows more densely than its parent plants. It is characteristic of rich ivory-pink buds that transform into smooth velvety creamy-white flowers. These are about 2 to 3 inches wide and grow in closely packed bundles that provide a stunning display. The dull flowers gradually take on faded rose-pink and pale yellow-green hues that look striking against the thick leathery leaves with slightlysilver veins.

Some Useful Tips

If you don’t have a proper garden, you can grow and care for these charming beauties by growing them in a pot. Most hellebores are suited to dry climates which means that they will perform well in pots and containers where the soil normally dries out quickly.

Fall is the best time to plant hellebore seeds because the low temperatures provide ideal germination conditions. But even if you missed the time, there’s no need to worry. House the pot of planted hellebore seeds in a cold damp place and they will begin growing within two months.

If waiting out the growth period seems to take forever, then visit your local florist and grab a pot (or more) of gorgeous hellebores today!








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