Is Helleborus foetidus short lived?

Loretta NJ Z6January 24, 2006

I purchased three small Helleborus foetidus about 5 years ago. They grew up, flowered a couple of times, always looked great until last season when they all declined. One seems gone completely, the other two are shadows of their former selves. We did have a drought last summer enough to make my astilbes suffer some but their still alive - I think. I did water.

I am not worried because they have selfsown very freely. Just wondering.

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adriaantim(netherlands)

Both Hellb. Foetidus and Hellb. Argustifolius, die back within 4 to 5 years. So if you wat to keep the plant, be sure to save some seedlings in time.
I experiënce that this is also the case with Hellb. Lividus

    Bookmark   January 25, 2006 at 5:06PM
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gardengal48

My experience has been different. I have a number of plants of both argutifolius and foetidus that are approaching 10 years old with no signs of flagging. One argutifolius has even been moved and divided more than once and still looks great. I do tend to remove flowering stalks before the flowers are fully over and seed formed and ripened, as in my climate they tend to aphid infestations at that stage. Perhaps not allowing them to set seed tends to prolong the life span. I have also had much better success with these species in more sun than shade, but that may be a factor of my more mild summer climate. New Jersey summer heat may not be as much to their liking.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2006 at 9:15PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

My original clump of h. foetidus is about the same age as gardengals and still going strong - but again in the same climate as hers.

I do let mine set seed, interestingly where I find the aphids are in the base when the flowers are just beginning to fade (they last forever), the aphids infest the new shoots holding next years flowers if I don't remember to look and take care of them.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2006 at 9:26PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Thanks for your answers.
The plants did look good up until this year though probably not up to West Coast standards. I have garden envy of the west coast.
Adriaantim, you almost excused me but it might be I let the drought get to them. We had a weird summer. We started off with floods and heavy rain and then it dried up like a bone. I'll just baby them a little this season and I think they will come back. Strangely though, the seedlings around them grew a lot in the same conditions.
I've never noticed any aphids on my hellebores but they sure love my roses and viburnum. But I will look in the base this year and see.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2006 at 11:07PM
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gardengal48

Loretta, hellebores are priviledged to have their very own species of aphid, Macrosiphon hellebori! :)) Consider yourself quite lucky if you have not encountered them yet. These nasty, fat creatures show up most often as the flowers are going over, at least in my area, and I find them to be most often on the species hellebores although the x hybridus can be infested as well, but never quite as heavily.

IME with the caulescent forms like argutifolius and foetidus, just removing the old flowering stalk and disposing of it will resolve the problem (I have not found them to bother the new growth, but morz8's experience seems to be different). The x hybridus and other hybrid forms need to be treated, but just a strong stream of water from the hose works well. For very persistant problems, I use Neem oil.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 8:52AM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Thanks for that. Every year it seems the aphids find another home in my yard. Last year I even found what looked to be aphids all over a dandelion root. First time for that. It pulled out easy though.

I like your description of your garden on your page. I am also suppose to be a trained designer and you could never tell by my garden. I have little self control at all when it comes to collecting plants. But it keeps me sane.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 11:16AM
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AsarumGreenPanda(z6 MA)

Loretta, H. foetidus in short-lived for me, too. Here in Eastern Massachusetts it tends to go for about 5-6 years, forming a glorious clump, and then abruptly disappear. Seedlings show up just in time, though.

foetidus does better in sun or part-sun, here, than in shade. Plants will grow in shade but much more slowly. My summers are a little to a lot cooler than yours, though, depending on where you are in NJ. In my experience, the plants are drought-tolerant unless they've been moved recently, but a little babying never hurt anybody. :)

I'm relieved to hear that argutifolius can be short-lived. I thought I had killed mine off all by my very own self, but perhaps it wasn't entirely my fault.

Amanda

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 1:25PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Interesting. Two going on ten years, three bowing out at about five years. Maybe it is that PNW climate. Good thing it reseeded for me because it is a favorite plant in the garden.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 7:03PM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

H. foetidus is short-lived (maybe 5 years?) for me, too. It doesn't matter much, because it also self-sowed happily and I have lots of babies to replace the now-defunct mother plant.

Hopefully the H. argutifolius will reseed before it expires--I just planted it last year and it seems to be okay so far.

Lisa

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 5:10PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Well that convinces me. And if I think about it, it doesn't make sense that these three plants, all in different spots, suffered from the drought when the seedlings did so well. Thanks for all your input. I hope I didn't jinx anybody out there in the rainforest.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 6:13PM
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jgwoodard(USDA z7 TN)

Hi Loretta. At the base of the plants new shoots will emerge each year. If these are strong enough and allowed to develop, the plant will continue to live. Cutting back the main stalk very soon after flowering will help with air circulation and allow the roots to send energy to the side shoots. I have plants that are old as well as ones that have died. But they will soon form large colonies if you let them. In one area of the garden, there are many dozens of large plants where there were only three before. My best specimens are in full afternoon sun. Providing some sun for the young shoots will enable them to grow large before winter.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 6:48AM
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