After the literal piles of snow finally melted from my garden beds, I went to investigate the hellebores. There they were, unfazed by 14″ and three weeks of snow. They were blooming away. This gardener was all that was needed to remove last year’s dead leaves and make room for more blooms to emerge. If you aren’t growing hellebores or you’re looking at their price tag and thinking maybe not, well hit the pause button, and read on, (They’re not the cheapest perennial, but they are one of the most useful, beautiful, long-lived, and deer resistant perennials. And, and we’re having a sale RIGHT NOW on them.) It was sunny and warm, so I was happy to do so.
Hellebores are long-lived, evergreen perennials that are deer resistant, vole resistant, and prefer shade. In Western North Carolina, those are happy words for gardeners.
Blooms vary in size, from the smaller straight species (1.5″) to the newer varieties like Ballerina Ruffles with flowers 3″ across and 15-20 petals. The nodding hellebores are perfect for embankments, making blooms more visible. Hellebores can handle dry shade (after getting established with proper watering during the first planting season). Though they take a couple of seasons to establish themselves, once they do, they are long-lived and pest-free, not to mention, evergreen. They are one of the few perennials that will take the not-so-friendly planting space of your tree roots. Use them as a groundcover in woodland gardens and watch them bloom their heads off from fall to almost May.
Exposure: Prefer partial shade but can take full shade so long as they are under deciduous (not evergreen) trees that allow sunlight for them to bloom in early spring. Too much shade, and you won’t have flowers (or as many).
Soil: Slightly acidic to neutral; no wet feet. These are drought-tolerant plants.
Care: A good layer of compost or mulch annually encourages growth (no more than 2 inches is needed). Remove last year’s foliage in late winter or early spring.
Propagation: Division isn’t necessary, but it can be done in spring or late summer. Pull the plants apart with your hands.
Companion Plants: Ephemeral plants, ferns, hostas, bleeding hearts, toad lilies, primroses
Written by Cinthia Milner, Landscape Consultant, and blog writer.
B.B. Barns Inc. serves Western North Carolina, Tennessee, and upstate South Carolina.