How to Grow Veratrum Plants

Guide to Growing False hellebore, Corn lily, and Indian poke

Veratrum is a genus of hardy perennials that range from 90 cm to 3 m (3 to 10 feet) in height.

They have a foliage of large leaves and bloom in the summer.

When in bloom, Veratrum plants carry spiked browny-purple or greeny-white flowers.

Some common varieties grown in the garden include White Hellebore, Indian poke, and False hellebore.

Veratrum album
Veratrum album by Kabacchi.

Veratrum Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: False hellebore, Corn lily, Indian poke.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 20 to 98 inches (50—270 cm).
  • Native: Northern America, Europe, and Asia (temperate regions).
  • Growing Region: Zones 3 to 8.

  • Flowers: Summer.
  • Flower Details: White, brown, purple. Spiked racemes. Erect stems.
  • Foliage: Herbaceous. Large. Broad lanceolate. Smooth, some species are hairy on the underside of the leaf.

  • Sowing: Seeds: 1/8 inch. Germination time: one to three months. Spacing 4 inches (10 cm).
    Method 1: Seeds should first be sown into flats in the autumn. Next sink the flat 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 the flats to ensure that the soil remains moist. Bring the flats indoor at the beginning of spring and keep at 55°F (13°C). Transplant seedlings following the last frost. Method 2: In the spring, mix seeds in a moist growing medium, then put in containers, wrap in a large plastic bag, then stratify by refrigeration for three weeks. Next bury the container as described above. Once seedlings emerge transplant them to their final location.

  • Requirements and care: Full or partial shade. Moist to wet soil. Spring mulch. Protect from slugs and snails. Mark location of the plant so that you do not dig it up once it has died back and handle it by mistake. Always wear gloves when in contact with this poisonous plant. Propagate: by dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas (handle with care).

  • Family: Melanthiaceae
  • Closely Related Species: Bunchflower.
  • Miscellaneous: Extremely poisonous rhizomes and roots that can cause death by cardiac arrest if ingested. Traditionally used by Native Americans to poison arrows. Compounds from the plant are used in many modern day medicines to treat malignant cancers.

How to Grow Veratrum Plant Species such as White Hellebore in the Garden

When growing Veratrum species such as White and False hellebore, it is probably easiest to purchase them from a garden centre or from a divided plant> Plant them out following the last frost of spring.

When growing from seed, then sow into flats in the spring at a depth of about 5 mm (1/5th inch). Cover the flat with a plastic bag and put in the fridge for about three weeks. Next, sink the flat in a shady area, cover with glass and keep moist.

Veratrum germination can take anything from three to eighteen months. When seedlings appear transplant them to their final location about 75 cm (30 inches) apart.

Plants should be grown in a shady or partially shaded part of the garden, and they like a very moist light soil.

Caring for Veratrum

Though hard to grow from seed, once they become established Veratrum plants are pretty easy to look after. They require a very moist soil so keep well watered, to aid this supply a mulch every spring. If you require more plants then propagate by division at the start of spring.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Veltheimia. You may also enjoy the following Melanthiaceae plant growing guides: How to grow Featherbells and Trillium plants.