Is it too soon to trim and cut off the bad leaves on my helleborus? Im in zone 5 and the temps still go down into the teens at night. TIA
In my milder climate, I cut mine back last month, but I had buds emerging, some of them in full bloom now.
While what photosynthesis taking place in midwinter is minimal, Tony Avent from Plant Delights cautions about doing it too early in the harsher zones, you'd be a better judge of your own weather-to-come than I would be but if it helps you:
"One of the winter chores many gardeners engage in is cutting back old hellebore foliage. While we endorse the practice, I'd caution you about doing it too early. I like to wait until the first flowers are just ready to open before removing the old foliage because despite being often tattered, the foliage serves to keep the plant cool and slow down the development of the flower buds. If the foliage is cut too early, the plant develops faster and the buds and flowers reach a size that can become damaged if the temperatures drop into the low- to mid-teens F. If you're a neat freak and have already trimmed your hellebores, a light layer of evergreen branches or pine straw will really help to protect and slow them down in the case of upcoming cold temperatures. The great thing about hellebores is even if the earliest buds are damaged, new buds will still be produced as long as the plant isn't too far along." Tony Avent
To expand on Mor's perectly reasonable advice, a lot of hellebore growers/breeders suggest cutting back the old foliage on the acaulescent forms as soon as the flower buds start pushing out from the soil surface. Generally this doesn't happen much before weather/temperature conditions allow for it anyway. New true leaves emerge almost as soon as the flowers fully open.
Like Mor, my climate allows for cutting back whenever the mood strikes. Personally I am beginning to heavily favor all the newer hybrid forms hitting the market these days that are caulescent and do not require regular cutting back of the foliage. Which is typically too handsome to cut back anyway :-)