How to grow hellebores - Hellebore 'Winter Bells'

How to grow hellebores

All you need to know about growing hellebores, in our detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does flower in January

Plant does flower in February

Plant does flower in March

Plant does flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do Cut back in February

Do Cut back in March

Do not Cut back in April

Do not Cut back in May

Do not Cut back in June

Do not Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do not Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

Hellebores are easy to grow and are undemanding. They look good from January to May – even when their seed has set, their sepals are persistently handsome, eventually becoming green. Their foliage is bold and evergreen, and in some of the new hybrids the marbled leaves are just as celebrated as the flowers.

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Hellebores are typically woodland edge plants. They thrive in rich, moisture-retentive soil but struggle in boggy and wet conditions. Most will tolerate full sun to almost full shade. They lend themselves to naturalistic schemes and informal plantings, and are perfect partners for early-flowering bulbs, pulmonarias and evergreen ferns. The colours of their sepals are multifarious, from the softest woodpigeon grey to pale apricot or damson, and from leaf green to the deepest black or pure white. They can be striped or spotted, picotee or plain, double or anemone-centred or simply single. Almost all of them have evolved methods of successful procreation.

There are fewer pollinators around when hellebores are in flower, but the blooms bear rich nectar and lots of pollen, making them an instant hit for hungry bumblebees. Most hellebores have downward-facing flowers. Not only does this protect the pollen from winter rains but it also offers shelter to the attendant insect while it feeds. One of the most alluring aspects of growing hellebores is the way in which you have to participate with them, gently turning up their faces to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual.

Hellebores also make great cut flowers – simply snip off flower heads and float in a shallow bowl of water.

Save £15 on hellebore collection

Hellebores are one of the most exquisite late-winter and early-spring bloomers, a great source of food for early pollinators and a must-have for any garden.

Save £15 when you buy nine potted plants

How to grow hellebores

Grow hellebores in fertile, well-drained soil at the front of a border, beneath shrubs or in pots, in sun to partial shade. Cut back the large leathery leaves when flowers and new foliage emerge and mulch plants annually with well-rotted compost or manure. Avoid transplanting hellebores after they have established.

More on growing hellebores:


Where to plant hellebores

Corsican hellebore (Helleborus lividus subsp. corsicus)
Corsican hellebore (Helleborus lividus subsp. corsicus)

Grow hellebores at the front of a border in sun, or full or partial shade, depending on the variety you choose. They do best in fertile, well-drained soil.


When to plant hellebores

Planting hellebore 'Silver Dollar' in a container
Planting hellebore ‘Silver Dollar’ in a container

Hellebores can be planted at any time of year, as long as the soil isn’t frozen. Most hellebores are listed for sale when they’re in flower – from late winter to early spring, but you may find one in the bargain section of a garden centre in summer, which you can plant without any problems. Remember that, once planted, hellebores hate being moved, so avoid moving them once you’ve planted them.


How to plant hellebores

Plant hellebores like other perennials, with a sprinkling of mycorrhizal fungi and a spadeful of garden compost to help the plant settle in. Firm in gently and water well.

Watch Monty Don‘s video guide to planting and growing hellebores, including soil preparation and planting depth, and how to tackle leaf spot disease. Monty also looks at how to choose the best flowers for instant impact, and shows off the diversity of his hellebore collection:


How to care for hellebores

Cutting back hellebore foliage
Cutting back hellebore foliage

Cut back the large leathery leaves when flowers and new foliage emerge, and mulch plants annually with well-rotted compost or manure. Hellebores struggle if they’re moved once established, so avoid moving them if possible.


How to propagate hellebores

Because hellebores struggle when moved, it’s best not to divide them. Instead, collect ripe seed and sow into modules to grow new plants for free. Alternatively, let your hellebores self seed around your garden. No hellebore seedling will be true to its parents – by letting them self-seed randomly you’ll create a hodge-podge of different colours and flower shapes; you may even grow your own new hybrid!


Growing hellebores: problem-solving

Removing hellebore foliage affected by leaf spot
Removing hellebore foliage affected by leaf spot

The main enemy of hellebores is leaf spot, a fungal infection that leaves unsightly brown and black patches on the leaves. Remove affected foliage when you spot it.

Here, Monty Don demonstrates how to identify hellebore leaf spot and explains how to stop it spreading between plants:


Best hellebores to grow

1

Green hellebore, Helleborus viridis

Best hellebores to grow - Helleborus viridis, Getty Images
Best hellebores to grow – Helleborus viridis, Getty Images

Helleborus viridis is a dainty hellebore with green, chalice-like flowers surrounded by dark foliage. Grow in an open site in well-drained, alkaline soil.
Flowers: Jan-Apr
Height x spread: 30cm x 30cm


2

Christmas rose, Helleborus niger

Best hellebores to grow - Helleborus niger
Best hellebores to grow – Helleborus niger

Though a well-loved garden plant, even skilled gardeners have trouble persuading it to settle. It does best in light soils.
Flowers: Jan-Feb
H x S: 30cm x 45cm


3

Helleborus ‘Penny’s Pink’

Helleborus 'Pennys Pink', Ashwood Nurseries
Helleborus ‘Pennys Pink’, Ashwood Nurseries

This wonderful hybrid hellebore uses Helleborus x ericsmithii as one of the parents. Bold plants with striking marbled foliage.
Flowers: Feb-Apr
H x S: 30cm x 30cm


4

Corsican hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius

Helleborus argutifolius, Ashwood Nurseries
Helleborus argutifolius, Ashwood Nurseries

Also known as the Corsican hellebore, this big, bold plant bears several flower stems, each bearing an imposing cluster of large apple-green flowers.
Flowers: Jan-April
H x S: 50cm x 90cm


5

Stinking hellebore, Helleborus foetidus 

Helleborus foetidus – Wester Flisk Group, Ashwood Nurseries
Helleborus foetidus – Wester Flisk Group, Ashwood Nurseries

Wester Flisk Group is a selection from our native ‘stinking hellebore’. It has reddish stems, glaucous foliage and pale globose flowers, sometimes with a red rim.
Flowers: Feb-May
H x S: 50cm x 60cm


6

Helleborus x hybridus Ashwood Garden hybrids

Best hellebores to grow - Ashwood garden hybrids
Best hellebores to grow – Ashwood garden hybrids

Robust yet elegant, Ashwood garden hybrids come in a host of colours and forms, with pure flower colours retained over a long period.
Flowers: Jan-Apr
H x S: 30cm x 30cm


7

Lenten rose, Helleborus x hybridus

Lenten rose, Helleborus x hybridus
Lenten rose, Helleborus x hybridus

Helleborus x hybridus bears clusters of saucer-shaped flowers coloured white, pink, green, mauve or smoky purple. Blooms may be plain or patterned. Plants will self-seed readily.

Flowers: Mar-May
H x S: 45cm x 30cm


8

Helleborus x ericsmithii

Helleborus x ericsmithii
Helleborus x ericsmithii

Helleborus x ericsmithii is an unusual three-way hybrid hellebore. The evergreen foliage is a rich, deep green, and the flowers are a pale greenish-pink, darkening as they mature.

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Flowers: Mar-Apr
H x S: 45cm x 40cm