Had you ever wondered about dividing your hellebores?

morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)May 21, 2005

I stumbled across this tonight when looking for something else and found it interesting...I thought maybe you might too.

First, get past the point that it's Martha, and forward to the fact that it's Dan from Heronswood - and note the timing of the dividing. (there was an example photo on the martha stewart living website, somehow it wouldn't let me actively link it; when I'd preview here, it wasn't showing)

Dividing Hellebores with Dan

Hellebores have been widely enjoyed in English gardens for more than forty years. But, because they were rarely seen in American gardens and garden centers, hellebores earned a reputation for being difficult here, when, in fact, they were simply unfamiliar. Today, Helleborus orientalis and H. niger, at the very least can be found in pots among shade perennials at better nurseries.

Dan Hinkley of Heronswood Nursery grows hellebores from seed, but because you can never be certain what youÂll end up with, he also divides the roots for propagation. Divide hellebores in late winter or early spring when theyÂre in bloom. Begin by cutting off the flowers with a garden pruner. Dig the plant out of the ground, and use a knife to cut the root ball into two, and then into four; be sure to always include part of the center root. Plant the divisions in the garden immediately unless the roots are very small. If thatÂs the case, plant the hellebore in a pot for one year, so it can re-establish its roots.

Dan Hinkley


Heronswood Nursery Ltd.

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MichaelB_MAz6(z6 Malden, MA)

Thats actually very interesting, thxs for posting it.

I was just looking up something the other day in the AHS enclycopedia and happened to look at the hellebore page where thye mentioned that you can propogate by division, which I have never heard discussed here or anywhere else about hellebores.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 9:11AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Michael, it was interesting to me too since I'd heard Hinkley say they seldom need dividing; dividing for propagation isn't something I've tried.

I've added enough hellebores in the last few years though that I can't count on seedlings resembling their parent plants except when purchasing new seed from a breeder...division might just be a possibility for specific plants I'd like to increase.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 7:05PM
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Greenmanplants(UDSA Zone 8)

Division was carried out extensively 20 years or so ago when there were a small number of named clones from Helen Ballard, Eric Smith, Linda Davenport, Robin White and a few others. In the mid 80s and 90s others picked up the breeding reins and seed strains were developed, Elisabeth Strangman, Ashwood and others to the point where it is much cheaper and easier to produce healthy hybrid plants of a known line of breeding to produce reds, greens, yellows, whites, etc then going on to all the doubles and semi doubles....

If you have a particular plant you feel you must divide then you will find instructions here on the archives....simply put, divide just after the flower season before the new growth is coming up,
Take care not to let the roots dry out, the white roots are more important than the black. Wask the soil off so you can see what you're doing.
Divide into large chunks with at least 3-4 growing eyes each, single splits will likely be blind for at least a season after division, bigger clumps will give good ongoing results.
Replant quickly into a well prepared, enriched, deep soil, the extra benefit of good feeding will quickly overcome the shock of lifting and division.

A big plant is quite a task to divide, I only divide when they get to be too big, 20" or so across at the crown, it's a major task, just to lift them and even more work to cut them up, I take 6-8 divisions off the outside of the plant and throw the centre away, it's like a block of wood. Don't bother dividing small plants, you risk losing the divisions.

Don't try dividing the species, when you know lots about them they still die on you when divided.

The niger hybrids benefit from division every 3-4 years, again when you know enough about these you'll know what and when to do.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 4:44PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Greenmanplants, thanks for the input, you obviously have some experience. I do note a difference in your timing from the above, where Hinkley recommends dividing during flowering.

While we're talking propagating, do you find some years are better for seed set than others? I have a yellow flowering hellebore I had hoped to gather seeds from but find it again not setting seed - second year blooming in my garden, but still a young plant (helleborus x hybridus Heronswood Yellow).

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 7:48PM
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Greenmanplants(UDSA Zone 8)

The timing is not so different, if Dan is saying divide when flowering and I am saying just after but before the new growth starts then essentially it is the same season, you could take mine to mean as soon as the flowers are going over, also I would recommend chopping the flowering stems off, you do not want energy going into seed production. Likewise taking the flowers off a little early will save the plant energy, but then you're losing a years blooms that way. Getting good size divisions into well prepared soil gives the best results and plants usually have 100% recovery by the following spring and give another good display.

Re seed,
Some of Ashwood's don't set a great deal of seed, the amber/yellow picotees for example.
Also if you have a wet spring this can reduce the flying time of the pollinators, mostly early bumble bees. A helping hand with a paint brush can work wonders and also reduces the opportunity for stray crossings which invariably result in muddy red blooms.

If you have mature plants that bloom for 6-8 weeks you will usually find that the early blooms set practically no seed and it is only once the pollinators have mapped the plants and are returning repeatedly with the later blooms that good seed production occurs. Again, early use of the paint brush will boost seed numbers.

Cheers Greenmanplants

    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 2:46AM
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Bumping this thread back up in case it might help others. My original hellebore that was purchased 4 years ago is now over 2ft wide and I desperately need to divide it because its taking over that section of my garden.

It's interesting to see that some people throw away the center of the plant. I would never have thought to do that.

I'm very familiar with separating hostas, is there any chance that I can do the same technique with hellebore and still have success? Basically, just dig and then divide into 4 pieces, replant and then water thorougly until they've adjusted to the new spot.

I'm nervous about divinding this big guy because I've babied it for so long that I don't want to do any damage to it.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 10:00PM
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