What's the deal with my Hellebores?

I've grown just a couple of hellebores during my time as a gardener, and I have to admit, I'm not having much success.

The first one I got was a large division, and it died before the end of the season. There was another somewhere that I don't remember seeing for the last couple of years, and this is my current one. Doesn't look too bad, but where are the blooms?


I think this is the second winter for this plant in this spot, and I've never seen a hint of a bloom.

Nothing in there...

...except new leaves it looks like to me.

At least it's providing a nice touch of green in an otherwise brown bed.

I thought these were easy plants. What am I doing wrong?


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (February 6, 2017 at 2:56 PM)  

I've had one for years that blooms every winter. And I bought two more in the fall that are blooming now. So I don't really know. As you said, they're supposed to be plant-and-forget...

Carol Whitney  – (February 6, 2017 at 4:49 PM)  

Hellebores take a while to reach blooming size. The flowers first emerge wrapped in leaves, so the small leaf in the center might be a flowering stem. They grow extensive root systems, and having it in a pot might be interfering with root growth.

Hoover Boo  – (February 6, 2017 at 5:42 PM)  

maybe try what Carol suggests?--get it out of the pot...

danger garden  – (February 7, 2017 at 12:22 AM)  

Is it getting enough light? They do well in shade but do need some light to flower.

Mark and Gaz  – (February 7, 2017 at 6:46 AM)  

We've found out fairly recently from an 'expert' that most hellebores, especially hybrids are short lived. Species at least self seed prolifically. We don't have much long term success with them so we're on the same boat!

Alan  – (February 7, 2017 at 2:39 PM)  

Thanks all! The previous two were in the ground and died too fast, so I tried the looser soil in the pot. Probably not getting enough light to flower, but I think I like Mark and Gaz's comment best: it's not me, it's just that the plants are short-lived. :)

outlawgardener  – (February 7, 2017 at 10:19 PM)  

Helleborus niger is much more fussy (read dies a lot) in my garden than Helleborus orientalis. Maybe try the latter? I've had H. orientalis bloom in fairly deep shade. They seem to do better with fairly rich soil and a bit of light.

Alan  – (February 8, 2017 at 2:41 PM)  

Peter: good to know. I just checked the tag and this one is H. orientalis 'Pink Lady'. I think I'll be moving it this year!

Nell  – (February 14, 2017 at 3:38 PM)  

Is there a reason it's in a container rather than ground planted? They need to build up a hefty root system to bloom strongly, and that's harder in a pot.

Nell  – (February 14, 2017 at 4:53 PM)  

It does take a *long* time from seedling to bloom. In 2004 two carfuls of local garden friends made an excursion down to the VA-NC border for Hellebore Days at Pine Knot Farms. Long exhausting trip: much wow so winter garden, careful shopping for just the right $$$ white-flowered H. x hybridus, and finally home -- but through mixup was left with a very plain pinky-purple plant. Was I bitter? You bet.

So bitter that, although I planted the ugly thing eventually, I hardly ever set eyes on it after that for most of the next decade. It was an out-of-the-way spot with overgrown shrubs, I wasn't doing much gardening in that period, and the sight of it just reopened the wound.

About five years ago, in garden revival mode, I realized that the site was the most wind-sheltered here, and that it would make a nice winter garden if cleaned up. The overgrown shrubs were tough winter bloomers (Lonicera fragrantissima and vernal witch hazel) that tolerated being cut back and loosely espaliered onto a trellis, letting a lot more light onto the hellebore. Or I should say hellebores, since the ground around the original plant was covered with fifteen or twenty small seedlings. Two years ago, the first of those seedlings bloomed. Can you guess the happy ending? It had beautiful white blooms. I promptly dug out the unpleasing parent plant (a much bigger job than expected, which is how I know about the root systems; the soil here is stiff clay, but there's drainage because the bed is on a slope). I've been removing other seedlings with any trace of pink or purple as they bloom, and this week the bed is a most satisfying scene, with five clumps showing white, greeny-white, and cream blooms. To complete the circle, a white selection I mail ordered from Pine Knot in 2016 is about to open its first flowers, which should remove the last trace of bitterness.

Alan  – (February 15, 2017 at 1:25 PM)  

Nell: I thought perhaps the clay soil was a problem, so I tried it in a pot. Maybe put it back into the ground? Thanks for the story of your own hellebore "trials". :)

Nell  – (February 16, 2017 at 12:01 AM)  

I think they're fine in clay so long as not in a depression. Best luck!

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