Hellebore Hell

GeeDaveyMarch 27, 2005

I really want to like hellebores but have had little success for two years. I can not keep Janet Starnes alive much less healthy, my Helleborus foetidus either die during the winter or bloom, fall-over and pull themselves out of the ground. I've gotten Helleborus argutifolius to stay alive and bloom sometimes but they look so ratty.

What am I doing wrong? They are mostly in medium shade, lighter during the winter. They get fertilizer, although perhaps not enough. I've staked them and they still often fall over.

Is this common?

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jgwoodard(USDA z7 TN)

Hi GeeDavey,

I would suggest putting the ones you mentioned in full sun. Both of them will develop more dense growth with stronger stems in sun. I doubt lack of nutrients is the problem. As for Janet Starnes and H. argutifolius, they can look quite ratty depending on the winter. Though the roots and stem are not likely to suffer in your zone, the leaves can suffer significant damage.

Have you ever tried Helleborus x hybridus? It can be a bit less fussy, but I'm sure you can grow the others well too. What is the soil like?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2005 at 9:34PM
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Hmm, most of the attraction was for shade. That could certainly be the problem if they need more sun. THe Janet Starnes has re-emerged but it clearly dies back to the ground this winter, which was not particularly harsh.

I have not tried H. x Hybridus, although I might. I particularly liked the wide serrated edges of Argutifolius and the dissected leaves of Foetidus. x Hybridus has nicer flowers, I agree.

So sun is helpful? Am I wrong that they are marketed as shade plants?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2005 at 9:26PM
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Greenmanplants(UDSA Zone 8)

Argutifolius used to be known as H corsicus, have a look on the map for Corsica and you'll see that at that latitude the sun is pretty strong, even in shrub it will get a lot of light. I grow mine in full sun in Southern England and it's a healthy long lived plant.

Foetidus comes from more northern climes and is a woodland edge dweller, sun for part of the day, especially in winter is the regime. It also grows in the Pyrenees on exposed cliffs and rock cracks, but usually to the shady side. The trick here is that it grows in very lean conditions. It makes a tough little plant 10-18". In the garden with feeding and good soil they reach 24-30" get very lush and soft, I suspect this is why you're getting damage.

So starve foetidus in poor soil, bit more sun, at least part of the day.
Argutifolius, Much more sun.

One last and quite important thing with both these plants, they are both really easy and quick from seed, 15 months to flowering. They do not like being transplanted or disturbed....plant the seed in situ, or plant out as very small plants, ie 2" seedlings and you will be rewarded with much better plants.

Personally I think they are better than the hybrids, both keep their flowers from December - May for me, one of the very few plants to really take on the winter months, and for that reason alone will always have a place in any garden I ever have. As you say, the foliage the rest of the year, is good as well.

Cheers Greenmanplants

    Bookmark   April 5, 2005 at 2:22AM
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Ah that makes more sense. You are dead on with the foetidus. It's in rich soil and falls over.

I'll have to recalibrate my expectations, but you are right Greenman, they are the best source of flowers from Dec-April. That is hard to beat.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2005 at 8:32PM
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