Do hellebore blooms change over the years?

thane(z8 Bellevue, WA)February 6, 2008

The other day I was blathering on endlessly about hellebores, as I have been doing for about 6 weeks now, and an acquaintance piped up and mentioned something curious. He said that he had a hellebore with some really cool, unusual blooms, and that over the years the blooms had changed to a more generic medium pink. He said that some of his dark purple ones got lighter and more generic after a few years too. Has anyone else noticed this?

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Thane, I'd be a bit suspect :-)) Flowering plants generally do not change their flower color. There are some exceptions - some cultivars will revert to species but they tend to be only one or two steps genetically removed from the species and various stressors can contribute to the reversion. Modern selection of Helleborus x hybridus are so heavily hybridized with so many genetic inputs it is difficult to identify clearly with any species parentage.

When you see a dramatic change in flower color, it is most likely that seedlings or offspring have grown up and replaced the original plant. With the heavily hybridized hellebores, the seedlings could (and most often will) offer a very different appearance. Otherwise, a weak seed strain or just inferior hybridizing could result in flowers that are rather lackluster in appearance - there's a lot of them out there, unfortunately. Cultural factors could come into play as well - excessive sun can bleach out colors, soil pH may play a small role, excessive or improper fertilization, etc. You get the picture :-))

FWIW, I have mature clumps of x hybridus that have been in the ground for going on 20 years that have maintained their color exactly - the "blacks" remain black, slates continue to be slates, apricots are apricot and even spotted and picotees selections produce consistent flower colors year after year. If you buy quality plants from known hybridizers or recognized seed strains and grow them under proper conditions, the colors should stay true regardless of the age of the plant.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 10:47AM
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And they will self-sow, at least the h. hybrids and h. nigers. I usually leave the volunteers in place, but it's probably better to move them to a nursery bed and see what they turn into.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 10:12PM
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Although genetic makeup is most important in determining flower color, in some cases pigmentation can be influenced by environmental factors. For example, the anthocyanin pigments that commonly produce pinks and purples can be induced in response to cold.

This type of variation appears more as a flush or increase in pigmentation than a total change in color. For example, I have a H. x ericsmithii that flowers year-round; in summer it has greenish-white blooms but during cold months distinctly pink-flushed flowers.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 12:31PM
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