My Helleborus plants have not grown in 3 years...

tombraider(6NC mts)June 29, 2003


I bought about 10 Helleborus plants through the mail in a sale 3 years ago and they have not put out any new growth or any flowers...they seem to be in a state of suspended animation. :-) They are under a dogwood tree in my back yard. We are in a forested area so there's lots of shade, but they definitely get some direct sun some of the day.

What can I do to get them to grow? I've tried Easy Feed, regular 8-8-8, manure, even some lime thinking the soil was too acid (there's moss growing nearby).

Here's a picture:

Thanks in advance,


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fuddyduddy(4 WI)

I too, am experiencing non-growth in the single Hellebores I have. Had it 2-3 years already, and currently down to 1 leaf, I have never seen it so bad. I guess I have lost it, and will move on to something else, as I have found if something doesn't do well, I won't waste my time on it anymore, even tho I yearn to see it bloom. I keep only those things that do well for me, and make them do well, ie,
lots and lots of them!
Sorry I can't give you some insight, but that is my theory!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2003 at 7:11PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I'd leave this post for someone more experienced (long time perennial gardener but only started acquiring helleborus a couple of years ago) but this forum has been darned quiet lately...

So, here goes: I would guess that you should check your PH so you know what you are dealing with, an annual application of lime can help to raise it if necessary, or burying sticks of blackboard chalk under/near the plants will give a slow release if your soil is on the acid side (like mine). I also amended my planting beds with mushroom compost before putting in the hellebore, which generally contains some lime, instead of my usual compost and steer manure. Were you able to loosen and prepare the soil under your dogwood when you put them in to allow for good root development or did you find the ground hard with lots of roots already there for competition? Is the soil humus rich but well draining, and do you supply them with water in the dry months?

Removing the spent flower stalks instead of letting them go to seed is also recommended for increasing the plants vigor but it doesn't sound as though yours have flowered.

Having met those few cultural requirements, I haven't found them to be that demanding; I'm finding they will take more sun than I had originally expected in my milder climate.

Hopefully someone else with more experience will step in and add to my thoughts, but if they were my plants I think I'd be tempted to lift, check the roots, and replant....of course this may not be the correct time for you to try that in your zone.....

    Bookmark   July 1, 2003 at 3:36PM
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sunnyday2day(mid-MI. zone 5)

My hellebores was like in a state of dormancy for a couple of years too. For some unknown reason, this spring (their third year) they came to life and doubled in size. I have no idea WHY they did but it may be that adage "...first year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap!" So, this is their third year and the adage applied in my case. I hope this works for you too. I know there are books about hellebores and that's the first thing I'd turn to if I were concerned. You can get it from used if you're interested. I used Amazon to get a good rock gardening book as well as trilliums and clematises. Saves a tidy sum even with postage from the 'new' price and the books are just like new. Tanya

    Bookmark   July 2, 2003 at 2:58PM
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jgwoodard(USDA z7 TN)

Hi Hope,
When you say they have not grown, do you mean the size of the plant has not increased or are you suggesting that those are the same leaves that were on the plants when you bought them?
I have a couple of deciduous species that have not increased in size noticeable in the last couple of years. They happen to be deciduous and do put out new growth each year. Even the ones that appear evergreen typically lose their leaves after a couple of years or the leaves turn a very non-uniform dead looking mess.
Do you know what kinds of plants you have? The foliage appears bronze in the photo

    Bookmark   July 3, 2003 at 12:34PM
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My only idea is that maybe they are planted too deep. Can you dig one up and raise it to see if that helps? The crown may be down too low. There aren't a lot of tree roots in the way are there? My hellebores that have to compete with heavy tree roots are way behind the ones that have space to themselves.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2003 at 10:00PM
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Hi Tombraider,(Is this the original one)
I must agree whit Mary's suggestion and also think your plants having to cope with competition from the surrounding growt,the may also dislike there neighbours.I grow my Helleborus orientalis in clumps with plenty room to breathe some have full shade others are in the full sun,it gave me a longer flowerseason as some are early other late.I must confess i try to grow Hel Niger and find them impossible to grow them in here in Ireland,also many of my friends have found the same and i have given up on them.A few years ago i purchased some stock from holland included some nice specimen of potters weel, all but a few have disapered some planted in the garden,others in pots in polythene tunnel end outside.Do not give up to quick,persevere and you learn on the end.
Kindly, Guy

    Bookmark   October 16, 2003 at 4:51PM
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scrollo(LA, CA / z.23)

from the picture I'd say they have too much competition from the surroudning plants & possibly tree roots. Also is your soil porous or very dense? my experience is that they like lighter soils. H's do grow slowly though...

    Bookmark   October 27, 2003 at 11:37PM
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This past summer I bought 12 helleborus & planted them all around several large trees I have in my yard. So far they all are living & putting out new leaves. I made sure they were watered all summer, fertilized with Osmocote & this fall used pine needle mulch around them. They have not bloomed yet, but look very healthy. I planted them about 4' apart. Read that they need plenty of room. I knew I was planting them at the wrong time of year, but I really wanted to try them. They are so pretty. I also planted Hosta between them. We have only had one hard freeze here in southern middle Tennessee. I would love to have a large bed of helleborus & hosta. Maybe next year. Good luck, StanetteTN6

    Bookmark   November 19, 2003 at 12:23PM
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Greenmanplants(UDSA Zone 8)

Well, I'm new to this forum and I haven't worked out how to get to the photographs, but I guess from the descriptions that they're in a pretty poor state and suffering from too much competition or poor soil.
The biggest single problem that they cannot deal with is poor drainage. Thereafter you should be able to overcome most situations with a bit of TLC and an appreciation of what they like best, you do not need perfect conditions by any means but you have to give them a chance.
Like any plant they need a good start, once established they are far better at coping with competition, drought and neglect than in their first season.
They prefer a deep rich moisture retentive(but never waterlogged) soil. Thin stony soil or competition from either tree roots or too much surrounding vegetation will result in stunted dwindling plants.
They prefer to be shaded from the midday sun but too much shade(low branches) will cause them to be stunted. They're happiest at the woodland edge, or where there is a high canopy, light shade but good light.
They will survive in most soils but slightly alkaline will suit them best, so spent mushroom compost with it's lime content is good, otherwise aim for slightly on the alkaline side and you should be OK, they will grow in neutral to slightly acid as well.
If you recognise some of these as failings in what you have, try lifting the plants, loosening the soil, adding humus rich compost, raise the level of the soil using logs or something and planting in fresh rich soil above the previous level, they need a depth of at least one spit(forkdepth) of good soil, preferably with the spit below loosened and enriched with compost before planting.
Give them a good mulch in the spring when you cut the old leaves back. If you have good soil they will not need feeding, but if not, feed them during the growing season, immediately after the flowering season,May-July.

Half meet these requirements and you should have good healthy plants in 18 months. Meet all of them and you will have self sown seedlings, an abundance of flowers, and life long friends.

Get hold of a copy of Elisabeth Strangman & Graham Rice's book "The Gardeners Guide to Growing Hellebores" it's what got me started.

Cheers, Greenmanplants

    Bookmark   December 7, 2003 at 4:42PM
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My hellebores are budding, but the buds are not opening. Does anyone know what could cause this?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2004 at 12:49PM
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