With winter blooms, evergreen foliage and an array of pretty-coloured flowers, hellebores have something for every garden. Long considered a staple in cottage gardens, they’re well suited to contemporary courtyards and pots, too. They look good planted under shrubs, at the front of borders, or in a naturalistic setting alongside evergreen ferns and grasses. The white, pink, green, mauve or smoky purple flowers are extremely decorative and make a wonderful cut flower – simply float them in a bowl of iced water for a tabletop display.
Given the right conditions, hellebores will self-seed, providing you with masses of winter flowers for years to come.
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
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.
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.
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
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 it into modules to grow new plants for free. Alternatively, let them 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
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:
Hellebore varieties to grow
- Hellebore ‘Ashwood Garden Hybrids’ – regarded as some of the best hellebore hybrids, there are many cultivars to choose from – all are healthy and robust plants, and produce flowers in a variety of colours and forms
- Helleborus argutifolius – the Corsican hellebore has bright green flowers and spiny, evergreen foliage. The flowers appear in winter, and remain on the plants for a long time. It’s perfect for growing in a shady border close to the house. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
- Hellebore ‘Wester Flisk Group’ – with small lime green flowers and finely divided foliage, this is quite a distinctive hellebore. The flowers last for several months and look good alongside other spring flowers that enjoy dappled shade such as primroses, violets, dwarf narcissi, grape hyacinth and spring-flowering hardy cyclamen
- Hellebore ‘Garden Yellow’ – an unusual variety with pretty yellow single flowers
- Hellebore ‘Early Purple Group’ – with red-tinged foliage and large, cup-shaped, plum-purple flowers with contrasting yellow stamens
- Helleborus niger – also known as the Christmas rose, although the white flowers rarely appear at their designated time. It’s perfect for growing at the front of a partially shaded border and makes an excellent cut flower – simply float the blooms in a bowl of water to display them