How to keep Hellebore healthy until I can plant it

huntsvillegardenerFebruary 12, 2010

I just bought a Hellebore (Swirling Skirts - yummy!) at a garden show in Nashville. It's in a 6 inch growers pot and very healthy. I'm sure it was greenhouse-grown and I need to know what to do with it until the ground is thawed and I can plant it. I don't have a garage, but I do have a carport. I have some things overwintering there, like an ivy, some chives, some succulents. Can I put it out on the carport? I'm worried about keeping it in my warm house (already about 15 hours in here). Thanks!

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IMHO, Probably not a good idea to subject it to freezing temperatures at this point, since it has not become acclimated to the cold.
Place it in a brightly lighted location and keep the soil in the pot slightly moist. It will survive quite well, until the daytime temperatures warm into the late 40s-early 50s, then place it outdoors during the day and bring in at night, if freezing temperatures are forecasted.
In Zone 7, the last freeze date in probably in early April, after that you can safely plant it.
I purchased several greenhouse grown hybrids this week, (x nigercors, x ballardiae, x hybridus, x ericsmithii) and I have some in a sunny window in my den and the balance is under lights in the basement, where the temperature remains about 50-60°F. during the winter.
Since they are loaded with unopened flower buds, and we just received 5" of snow, with nighttime temperatures in the low 20s, flowering would have been suspended and the foliage would have become freeze damaged..

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 11:48AM
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Thank you! I had just put it out on the carport when I read your post. It's back in now. I would have been very disappointed to lose this one. Speaking of freeze damage, my hellebores have suffered more freeze damage this year than I can remember. They're blooming, but the leaves are worse for the wear. Again, thanks for your expert advice. I really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 12:12PM
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I'm going to disagree a bit. I seriously doubt the plant was grown in a heated greenhouse - hellebores are not typically grown under those conditions. A coldhouse (under cover but with no heat) is much more likely. As such, it will not be very happy in very warm it in as cool a situation as possible, I'd opt for temperatures that do not exceed 50F. Indoors inside the house would not be my first choice....I'd go with the carport with perhaps some additional protection. Slip the pot into a larger sized pot and fill around with soil or mulch.

Hellebores are extremely cold tolerant. Freezing temperatures will not affect flowering or foliage development, but an abrupt change in temperatures can. If you keep it in a cool location now, you certainly do not have to wait for the last frost date before planting out. Last frost dates are only valid markers for frost sensitive plants, not frost hardy perennials. Just give it about a week of acclimatization to the outdoors and then plant as soon as the snow has gone and your soil is no longer frozen.

FWIW, I purchased several 1 gallon containers of H. niger 'Joshua' in December in heavy bud and placed them on my covered front porch. A week later, the temps dropped into the teens for almost 2 weeks. I did nothing to protect the plants and they continued to bloom throughout the very cold weather. They don't refer to these as "roses in the snow" for nothing :-)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 12:22PM
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Well, ok then, I was about to put it in the basement because I can't find a cool spot in the house. The basement's dark, so I was worried. I think I have the perfect spot on the carport, and I like the idea of putting it in another pot. I've looked all over for the card from the vendor I bought it from to ask how it was grown, but I can't find it and I suspect you are exactly right. Thanks to both you and georgia-rose though. I love gardeners.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 1:09PM
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