Hellebore Care

gardenlove(z5-6)February 14, 2006

Hello...I planted some small Helleborus plants under my Tall Blue Spruce tree the summer before last, and I now see some fat flower buds appearing!..I am so excited!....there are some fresh new small leaves starting to emerge here and there, but for the most part, the rest of the plants are a pitiful sight...the sparse older leaves are getting shriveled and flopped over and there just are not much to the plants at all other then the small amount of new growth, ...should I regularly be pruning off these old ugly leaves?...or do they help support the growth and development of the flower buds?..should I fertilize them?...Should I spray with a fungicide of some kind?....are slugs a problem with Hellebores?(I notice them chewing on nearby hostas in warmer weather and would like to prevent them)...any advise on how to prune or better care for my hellebores, or links to threads where this has already been addressed would be welcome..thanks!....GardenLove

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I am going to assume you are growing Helleborus x hybridus or what are often referred to as the orientalis hybrids, as they seem to be the most popular. Most growers, myself included, remove the old foliage as the new flower buds emerge in late winter. It does get tattered over the course of the year and with winter weather and can also harbor fungal spores which are best removed before being allowed to contaminate healthy new growth. It also shows off the flowers much better if the ratty old foliage is removed. New leaves will appear as the flowering stems develop and mature - what you are most likely seeing now are modified leaves or bracts on the flowering stems, leaves are produced separately.

I have never had a problem with slugs even though they are omnipresent here in the NW - the foliage is a bit tough for their liking but they can be deadly to tender new seedlings so you might want to protect those if you've allowed your plants to seed naturally.

Fertilizing is a tricky issue. I am of the opinion that you fertilize only if your plants tell you they need it. If you are growing them in a decent, organic soil and mulching periodically with compost, the plants appear to be healthy, flower well and increase in size with age, fertilizing is seldom, if ever, required.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 7:41AM
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We have a sudden turn of nippy weather here (low 30's is cold for Portland, OR) following a stretch of balmier weather. My lovely (orientalis?) hellebores, which are in full bloom, have taken to sulking with this freeze. WIll they perk back up when the weather warms again, or will this finish them off?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 10:48AM
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Thanks for your input gardengal48!...After I prune off all the old leaves, would spritzing the new growth and surrounding area of mulch with a fungicide help keep the plant healthy looking?...When I worked this bed, I pulled out excess wild Penstemon(Strictus..it had taken over and was messy...they do bloom a gorgeous royal purple, but they reseed everywhere so I still have plenty) and weeds growing there, then weedblocked and put a layer of shredded wood mulch over that...then I cut X's to make holes through the weedblock and planted my Hellebores...I will pull open the weedblock around the plants more to allow for their new growth...I find seeds from other nearby plants sprouting up right in the mulch!..so they are pretty easy to move to new locations or pot up to grow out...these is the first Hellebore blooms I have seen here, and I would love them to seed new babies as well so I can share some with my friends and neighbors. I have never seen Hellebores offered in our local nurseries, nor "down the hill" in the flatlands as the zone there is just not right for them... so I got some online to see if they would survive here and do well...so far, so good!...I suppose as they become more established, they will get better looking. I worried the plants may not get enough sun under the spruce to bloom, but we trimmed up the branches on the lower trunk at least three feet so plenty of air could circulate around the bed...and we get such intense sun at our altitude, even the small amount of direct afternoon sun the plants get was enough to induce blooming:)..then during the spring and summer when the sun can start to get too intense, nearby Peonies can offer some extra shade in the afternoons...I'm rambling..I am just so thrilled to see those fat flower buds on a couple of my plants and evidence of more getting ready to emerge on the others...wonder what the faces will look like?...plain white?..spotted?..or other color?..do the buds show the general color while still buds?..or does color develop as they open up?...right now, they look greenish white...I know I know...I must be patient!..hahaha..Thanks again for your reply...GardenLove

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 11:13AM
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zz, they DO sulk in cold and look pretty pathetic and limp but will perk right up when temps rise. 30's is balmy for them......I'm a bit more worried about the impact of possible teens this week on my nursery plants. They're covered at night, but that is still darn cold.

gardenlove, I'd only treat if botrytis is a problem. The leaf spot is more cosmetic in nature and I am hesitant to use many chemicals unless absolutely necessary.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 8:18PM
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Hi GardenGal....That makes very good sense...you never know if chemicals will help or hurt, so less is more sometimes...I'm gonna go out tommorrow and get rid of those old ugly leaves:)...Thanks for sharing....GardenLove

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 10:22PM
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Thanks for the cold weather advice, gardengal. We are now going through lower temps, closer to yours. Good to know I don't need to worry about this plant, at least!


    Bookmark   February 18, 2006 at 9:10AM
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We have had a run of cold weather here...mostly in the teens...after quite a run of warmer temps.....The flower buds I saw emerging on a couple of my Hellebores, look frozen and damaged now:(...I peeled open the petals on one bud and it WAS gonna be a very beautiful flower(would any of the seeds in the damaged buds be viable?) Should I cut them off with the older foliage and hope the plant will send up more buds later?...is reblooming after damaged buds are removed likely to happen?...or should I just hope some of my other slow poke Hellebores decide to bloom this year as well....our weather is so unpredictable.... nothing is ever "for sure" in gardening!(except for weeds and pests)...GardenLove

    Bookmark   February 24, 2006 at 11:58AM
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Glad I signed on to read this post. I divided some large hellebores last fall and planted them raised in a continually damp bed where I'd had to removed diseased azaleas with gall. The hellebores responded with a doubling in size almost instantaneously (the power of homemade compost) and putting out a ton of flowers in January. But the new leaves all got blackened and look sick. It is supposed to hit 40 today - I'm goin' out to take all that bad foliage off. I'm pretty sure if it's not botrytis then its some other fungus or virus. That s...s. I read an article about using corn meal as an anti-fungal so I broadcast corn meal all over that bed during the winter and will do it again shortly. I am really opposed to chemicals, esp anti-virals and anti-fungals. You have to use them over and over to be effective as those little DNA strands just are all over in the soil. Just the warning label is a foot long.

GardenLove - just be patient - hellebores are amazing plants - they can take the freezing weather like little storm troopers - they will pop right back so don't trim the flowers back- they are not permanently damaged. I have maybe 20 H. orientalis and all have been in bloom since January - they lay down in the snow and ice and pop back when it melts off. Regarding fertilizer - GardenGal is right - they like organics and I would not use a chemical fertilizer on hellebores. If you do not make your own compost, you can mulch with shredded bark mulch, I have at times bought compost and put compost down but its not economically feasible for me now. You may have root competition from the evergreens and they may keep it dry in that area. Mulch will help that. Just an FYI - Horticulture mag had an article on hellebores last fall and the author said she digs a 2 ft x 2 ft hole and amends 50-50 with compost when planting hellebores. Thats how much they like organic material. Her hellebores were nothing short of amazing - some clumps were 4 ft across.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 9:29AM
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Hello alyrics...Yes, I will be patient and leave the other buds alone...I'll just wait and see what happens!....When I prepared that bed before I planted the Hellebores, I dumped a couple of bags of steer manure and grow mulch, and worked them into the soil...then I laid down the weedblock and shredded mulch...I can go out there and pull away more of the weedblock and top dress with compost...maybe rake it in several inches?...whatever will make them happy!..thanks for your experiences and tips...its great to know what works for others...GardenWeb is awesome!...I learn so much from everyone here...GardenLove

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 10:26AM
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Loretta NJ Z6

There aren't any seeds in those buds yet. After the flowers open and are pollinated, some pods will start forming at the center of the flower. They take a little while. When they start to split, they are ready. The seeds are black.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 3:22PM
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