How to Grow Helleborus Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Hellebore, Christmas Rose, & Lenten Rose

Plants of the Helleborus genus are hardy perennials.

They are a sombre plant with flowers similar to anemones in murky colours, including pink, green, brown, plum and cream.

Some of the common name for woodland Helleborus plants include Hellebore, Christmas rose and Lenten rose.

Lenten rose


Hellebore photograph by Kevin Wheeler, CC.

Helleborus Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Hellebore, Christmas Rose, Lenten Rose, Setterwort.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
Height: 8 to 36 inches (20 to 90 cm).
Native: Europe. Asia.
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 9. UK: H7

Flowers: Species dependent: Winter and/or spring.
Flower Details: Cream, brown, plum, pink green. Flat. Anemone-like.
Foliage: Herbaceous. Evergreen. Leathery. Pedate. Dark Green.

Root balls: 3 inches (8 cm). Start of spring or the beginning of autumn. Spacing 6 to 18 inches (15 to 45 cm).
Seeds: Surface 1/8 inch (3 mm). Germination time: one month to 1 ½ years.
Seed: Method 1: Seeds should first be sown into peat pots in the autumn. Next sink the pots into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering. Keep an eye on them to ensure that the soil remains moist. Bring the peat pots indoor at the beginning of spring and keep at 60 to 65°F (16 to 18°C). Transplant seedlings when they are 12 months old in either spring or autumn.
Seed: Method 2: In the spring; sow into peat pots as above, wrap in a plastic bag, then stratify by refrigeration for three weeks. Next bury the pots as described above. Once seedlings emerge transplant them to their final location.

Requirements and care: Dappled shade, winter sun ok. Good drainage. Soil pH 6.0 to 7.5. Humus. Moist soil. Regular watering.
Light feed two times per annum. Tidy dead leaves and flowers in autumn. Propagate: by dividing the root ball following flowering.

Family: Ranunculaceae - Buttercup and Crowfoot.
Closely Related Species: Larkspur; Cowslip; Buttercups; Black Cumin; and the Delphinium Plant.
Miscellaneous: Many plants of this genus are poisonous and were traditionally used in witchcraft to summon demons.

It is thought that Alexander the great died of an overdose of Hellebore.

How to Grow Hellebore (Helleborus)

Though not the easiest plant to grow, Lenten Roses and other Helleborus plants are well worth the effort, especially if you have a woodland garden.

If you have Hellebore roots, then they should be planted at a depth of 7 cm (3 inches) at the beginning of spring or autumn.

The seeds of the Hellebore should be sown into peat pots at a depth of 3 mm (1/10 inch). Next put the pot in a black bin bag, then place in the fridge for three weeks.

The pots should then be transferred to a shady part of the garden in the spring, and sunk into the soil.

Pots should then be covered with glass. As soon as seedlings sprout the glass covering should be removed.

The Helleborus plant seedlings should then be allowed to grow for a year.

Transplant out in either the spring or autumn. Locate in a shady part of the garden that has a rich moist soil of pH 6 to 7.5.

Caring for Hellebore and other Helleborus plants in the garden

Once established Hellebore (and other Helleborus plant) members, will require to be watered regularly. They also need to be fertilized a couple of times a year with a light feed.

At the end of the season in autumn, older decayed leaves and flowers should be removed from the plant.

If you require more Helleborus plants, then they can be divided after flowering has finished, however be very careful to maintain a large root.

Common Questions

How many members does the Helleborus genus have?

The Helleborus genus comprises around 20 species, renowned for their early spring blooming flowers.

Do members of Helleborus make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Certainly! The Helleborus species, especially Helleborus orientalis (Lenten rose), are popular for their resistance to cold and early blossoms.

Which Helleborus species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The Helleborus orientalis or Lenten Rose is often grown for its late winter to early spring blooms.

Are members of the Helleborus plant genus fragrant?

Some Helleborus species, like the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), do have a mild fragrance.

What is the perfect location to grow Helleborus?

Helleborus plants prefer shade or partial shade and well-drained, fertile soil.

Is Helleborus invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Currently, Helleborus is not considered invasive in the USA.

How do I remove Helleborus plants from my garden?

Removing Helleborus involves digging them up, making sure to get all the roots to prevent regrowth.


The Helleborus plant genus belongs to the Ranunculaceae family. Native to Europe and Asia, these plants are recognized for their bell-shaped, early-spring blooms.

Helleborus prefers shaded to partially shaded locations and a well-drained, fertile soil. Plants are quite hardy and drought-tolerant once established. They require regular watering during dry spells but avoid waterlogging. Propagation is usually done by seed, or through the division of mature plants.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Helleborus plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Anemone hupehensis, Ornithogalum, and Aquilegia plants.