Hellebores are one of the first plants to flower in the year, undaunted by frost and snow.
When not in flower, their evergreen foliage provides an attractive backdrop for plants that enjoy similar conditions, including pulmonarias, primulas and snowdrops.
An important point to keep in mind about hellebores is that they resent root disturbance, so shouldn’t be divided. Fortunately, they will readily self-seed, the hybrids producing a range of different coloured blooms.
You can even breed your own hellebores, which is easier than you might think and you’ll be rewarded with your own unique varieties.
Discover some of the best hellebores to grow, picked by Alan Titchmarsh, below.
Helleborus x hybridus
There are both single and double varieties of Helleborus x hybridus to grow, though the singles are especially elegant with their flowers of white, yellow, pink and purple, with sulphur-yellow anthers providing great contrast. Cultivars to grow include ‘Garden Yellow’ and the Ashwood Garden Hybrids.
Helleborus foetidus is commonly known as the stinking hellebore – the crushed leaves smell unpleasant. In the first year, it’ll make a mound of finely cut foliage, but as the rosette matures, a mass of pale-green bells open above the leaves and last for weeks.
The Corsican hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius is the giant of the race with whiskery, veiny leaves that are topped with generous trusses of pale-green flowers. As spectacular in our gardens as it is on the roadsides of Corsica, where it grows wild.
While commonly known as the Christmas rose, you’ll be lucky if you can get it to flower for the festive period. Cover it with a pane of glass if you want pristine flowers unsplashed by mud, or mulch them with chipped bark – it keeps them clean and makes the perfect nursery for seedlings.
Hellebores for cut flowers
If cut and displayed in a vase, hellebore stems will very quickly wilt. Instead, float groups of individual flowers in bowls of water like water lilies where they’ll last two or three days.