By: Teo Spengler
Hellebore plants make delightful additions to any garden, with their showy flowers that look like roses in shades of yellow, pink and even deep purple. These flowers may differ if you plant their seeds, with the new hellebore plants offering even greater color variations. If you are interested in growing hellebore from seed, you need to follow a few simple tips to ensure that hellebore seed propagation is successful. Read on to learn how to grow hellebore from seed.
Beautiful hellebore plants (Helleborus spp) usually produce seeds in springtime. The seeds grow in seed pods that appear once the blossoms are spent, usually in late spring or early summer.
You may be tempted to hold off on planting hellebore seeds until fall or even the following spring. But this is a mistake, since a delay in planting can prevent hellebore seed propagation.
To be sure you will be successful with seed grown hellebores, you need to get those seeds into the ground as quickly as possible. In the wild, the seeds are “planted” as soon as they drop to the ground.
In fact, you may see an example of this in your own garden. You are likely to have seed grown hellebores appear in frustrating numbers just under the “mother” plant. But the seeds you carefully saved to plant in containers the following spring produce few or no seedlings.
The trick is to start planting hellebore seeds in late spring or early summer, just as Mother Nature does. Your success at growing hellebore from seeds may depend on it.
Hellebores thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. If you already have a plant in your yard, you don’t worry about this. If you will be growing hellebore from seeds and get some from a friend in another region, take note.
If you want to know how to grow hellebore from seeds, start out with good potting soil in flats or containers. Sow the seeds on top of the soil, then cover them with a very thin layer of potting soil. Some experts suggest topping this with a thin layer of fine grit.
The key to successfully germinating the seeds is providing regular light irrigation all summer long. Do not allow the soil to dry out but don’t keep it wet either.
Keep the flat outside in an area similar to where you will plant the seedlings. Leave them outside through fall and winter. In winter they should germinate. Move a seedling to its own container when it has produced two sets of leaves.
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Article by David Marks
Hellebores flower in winter to early spring and are small plants, easily missed at that time of year. So if you plan to grow some, and they are well worth it, be sure to plant them somewhere where they will be appreciated.
Ours are planted in a semi-shady spot near the back door so whenever I venture out into the garden in the chill of winter and early spring they can easily be appreciated. Another excellent place to grow them is by the borders of a path.
Use the checklist below to decide if Hellebores are suited to your needs and garden conditions
After hibernating indoors over the winter, I was finally able to head into the garden and get my hands dirty this week. Sunshine, balmy temperatures and a surprisingly dry garden encouraged me to get outside and start the spring cleanup.
The rough cleanup starts before the ground thaws. Large ornamental grasses and swaths of sturdy perennials are cut back with a chainsaw — it takes a lot of strength and stamina — I farm that work out to our son, Mark.
With the heavy clearing out of the way, I was able to start fine-tuning the borders, shearing back ground covers like periwinkle and sweet woodruff, and cutting back any stray twigs and perennial stalks that spring back after the initial cleanup.
After a gentle raking, the beds are top dressed with bagged sheep manure, being careful to not cover the crowns of any emerging (or yet to emerge) perennials. The ground covers quickly bounce back with fresh growth, usually within a week or two, along with the rosettes of sedum, columbine, geranium, catmint and other perennials and make a pretty base for daffodils and tulips.
The real incentive for getting the garden dressed for spring, is the arrival of spring bulbs. Early blooming snow crocus, miniature daffodils and iris, warmed by the first wave of warm weather, offered their first blooms this week.
It’s a tricky business to clear debris from the beds once the bulbs poke through the ground (lots of decapitated flowers), so I work my way around the garden, tidying up the beds from the earliest bloomers (warm, west facing front garden) to the mid-season bloomers (cooler, east facing back borders) and finishing up along the latest spring colour (cool, north facing beds), doing my best to stay ahead of the bulbs — a few days of record warm days really puts a rush on the work.
One of my favourite early spring tasks is attending to a patch of hellebores. The Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) welcomes spring with waxy, nodding blooms, flowering with the first rush of consistently warm weather, often in time for Easter. Fat, promising buds are held close to the heart of the plant until the weather is just right, evergreen leaves collapse to the ground as the flowers emerge. Cut the leaves back hard when the flowers appear.
The Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) offers pretty white flowers and earlier blooming, often in December in milder climates, hence the name. Here in Niagara, expect it to flower along with the Lenten rose. Several years ago, my Christmas rose flowered in time for Christmas, during an unseasonably warm December — a rare treat.
When possible, plant hellebores in a raised bed edging a walkway or steps to better enjoy their downward facing flowers. Hellebores offer a wide range of colours, including shades of white, cream, chartreuse, soft pink, rose, purple and near black. Some varieties offer speckled petals. They make beautiful cut flowers, float the flowers in a shallow bowl or arrange the stems in a pretty vase.
Hellebores are surprisingly hardy: they aren’t bothered by snow or cold weather after they start to bloom, bunnies, deer and other pests leave them alone and they are drought resistant once established. The blossoms (actually sepals that protect the true flowers) last for six to eight weeks, usually well into late spring. Flowering along with early crocus, daffodils and tulips, hellebore flowers are a welcome source of pollen and nectar for bees.
Hellebores are shade-loving plants, they need about six hours of morning sunlight per day to thrive, afternoon shade is ideal. Hellebores will self-seed if the soil around them is undisturbed during the summer. The seedlings are easily transplanted to increase your stock, they take a couple of years to bulk up before they start to flower.
Hellebores prefer humus rich, well draining soil, they will suffer in heavy clay soils. If you have heavy soil that holds water, plant hellebores in amended soil in a raised bed or grow them in containers.
• Ashwood Nurseries
Ashwood Lower Lane, Kingswinford, West Midlands DY6 0AE.
Tel 01384 401996, ashwoodnurseries.com
Ashwood Nurseries won a Gold Medal as well as The President’s Award for its hellebore exhibit at the 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The nursery runs hellebore tours in February, with an opportunity to purchase specially selected plants (check website for dates).
• Hazles Cross Farm Nursery
Hollins Lane, Kingsley, Staffordshire ST10 2EP.
Tel 01538 752669, hazlescrossfarm nursery.co.uk
Holds the National Collection of hellebores. This comprises all known species, with many forms of each on display.
• Kevock Garden Plants
Lasswade, Midlothian EH18 1HX. Tel 0131 454 0660, kevockgarden.co.uk
Some potted plants are currently available, with dry bulbs and bare-root plants on sale later in the year for delivery in October. Species hellebores can be difficult to get hold of and stock is often limited, but it is often worth contacting nurseries with your requests as this can fuel demand and encourage growers.
Jason Ingram is an award winning garden photographer based in Bristol, UK. He travels widely shooting for magazines, book publishers and advertising agencies. He also works with top international garden designers and Landscape Architects on private projects worldwide.