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Hellebores:  Color for the Winter Garden

By Judy Feather, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

Are you sitting staring out your window at leaden gray skies? Are you wishing for a spot of color—any color—to brighten these dull winter days?

Take heart. Open your seed and bulb catalogs now and plan for next winter. Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) and Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis) are perfect for zones 3-10. Both bear blossoms fashioned like single roses and bloom between December and early spring, depending on winter severity.heleborus,christmas rose (84546 bytes)

Christmas Rose has charming white flowers in late winter that carry on until early spring. The dark green, leathery leaves remain evergreen. Foot high plants prefer some shade, ideally a north facing position. When planting, prepare the soil by digging in a lot of organic matter. Plants grow best if left undisturbed.

Lenten Rose (above) is an early spring hybrid strain that has beautiful red shades. One to two feet tall plants are evergreen with new leaves that follow the flowers. After adding some organic matter to the the soil, plant in a shaded spot and leave undisturbed.

Both Christmas Rose and Lenten Rose do well with companion plants of Dicentra (Bleeding heart), Digitalis (Foxglove), Thalictrum (Meadow rue), and Doronicum (Leopard’s bane). Both varieties appreciate regular watering. Woodland conditions—medium shade to filtered sunlight with moist soil—are ideal.

Is it spring? Not yet. But with a little planning next winter can be a colorful garden experience.

Photos: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010