Helleborus... very basic questions. :-)

scully931(6)March 9, 2006

Hello all,

I have some questions about Helleborus that a lot of you might think are very basic, but for some reason I've just never run into this plant until this year and now I'm very interested in it. I'm in Pittsburgh - so, does this plant really bloom in the winter?! Also, can I put it in a container? That's really my only choice right now. Do I leave it out all year round? Thanks for any information! (The websites I've checked all say it blooms in the winter, but I am too suspicous for my own good!)

~Deborah :-)

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jgwoodard(USDA z7 TN)

Hi Deborah,

They do bloom in winter but it can vary depending on the plant genetics and local conditions. When you have harsh winters they may be later but often you will have plants in bloom around this time of year. The thing is they start upward movement early consistently but can develop very slowly over many weeks particularly when weather is very cold, so that they are often not in full bloom until maybe February-early March in my garden. But the first blooms on some plants will open weeks or months earlier. My plants begin to bloom anywhere from December to March generally, some are consistently early and others consistently late. Most garden hybrids are fairly early and some species can be very early or quite late relative to the mean. Here is a photo from February this year in my garden as proof. :-)

You can grow them in containers but it is not as straightforward for the long term. If you are experienced with container culture there should be no problem. It might be safer to give them a sheltered position if left outside in above-ground pots through winter. I have some plants survive in containers for years in total neglect. Others have not, but it was probably a matter of neglect rather than temperature that did them in (for example no water in summer etc.).

So while you can expect these to be among the very earliest of your blooming plants, you don't necessarily have to believe that a particular plant will "always" be in bloom at Christmas. Obviously it will not be in a garden with a foot of permafrost at that time of year. But they do bloom at times that you don't expect from plants which is one of their main attractions.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 1:02AM
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Thanks for your reply, Joseph. What a neat picture! I think I may go ahead and give them a try. My balcony is covered and only open on two sides, so it offers some protection. What do these plants look like during the summer? Do they still have foliage, etc.? I just don't know how I've missed this plant all these years of gardening! :-) Thanks again! (I like this forum because, generally, people are nice here, unlike sooo many places where they seem to pounce!) :-0

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 1:12AM
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jgwoodard(USDA z7 TN)

You're welcome Deborah. Here is what most hellebore foliage on the market looks like. We call these plants Helleborus x hybridus. Other hybrids and species plants look somewhat different but most do have leaves throughout summer. Helleborus x hybridus can also be wintergreen which is an added bonus as they may keep their leaves for up to a year. A few species (most relatively rare in commerce in the US) will show dormant leaves by mid-late summer. I'm sure you will enjoy these plants.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 11, 2006 at 12:12AM
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claysoil(z6 PA)

Hi Deborah, I'm in southeastern Pa, zone 6 and I have some nice looking blooms this weekend and others on the way. Do they bloom for Christmas? Nah! Not if kept outside. They DO bloom before most daffodils if you know when they pop in your area.

I'm not sure if this link will work or not...

Here is a link that might be useful: blooming near Philadelphia 3-19

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 10:15PM
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