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Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose?

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

by Megan Grimaldi

Do you have a favorite? Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose? Did you know there is a difference?

Helleborus niger and Helleborus orientalis are the two main species that we will talk about today. As with every plant out there now there has been tons of breeding programs and inter-species breeding in order to achieve the "Perfect Plant". There are so many options that I am sure we can find the "Perfect Plant" for your space. I don't think there is one "Perfect Plant" from any genus because there are to many environmental and cultural factors in each planting area to create one true "Perfect Plant". Anyway, back to Helleborus.

Helleborus niger and all of the varieties that come from this species are know as Christmas Rose. They tend to bloom around Christmas time or soon after. Also, most of them bloom a pure, crisp white. Breeding programs have led to enhanced shades of pink as the flowers fade or die back and I am sure someone is working on initial bloom color too. Some of our favorite varieties are Bloom1st and Jacob.

Helleborus orientalis are referred to as Lenten Rose because they generally bloom during the time of Lent. These range from the basic species to more hybridized varieties with gorgeous, rich colors and some with double flowers. H. orientalis historically have had nodding flowers that face the ground or flowers that hide under the huge foliage, but some of the breeding is working to correct that with outward facing flowers. Also, some of the older varieties do produce seed and can spread around the garden. If this is undesirable make sure to ask your sales associate for help finding one that is sterile. A couple favorites from this group are Brandywine series and any of the Wedding Party series. The Wedding Party series are some of those new hybrids I mentioned that have fantastic colors and are double flowered.

Some of the top things you need to know about Helleborus of any type are:

1. They need partial shade, at least for the summer.

2. They like to dry out between waterings once established.

3. They don't like to be fussed with much, they are a plant it and leave it kind of plant. (My Favorite!)

4. Cut back old foliage just as new foliage and flower buds are starting to emerge.

They are really pretty easy and enjoyable to grow. I generally plant them near Daffodils and Snowdrops. Another good combination to prolong the color is adding Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia), Columbine (Aquilegia) and Lungwort (Pulmonaria). Now I am excited for spring! I can't wait to see all the flowers.

We could get much more in depth and list breeders but I thought we would keep this lesson as a light version. Let me know what you think. How in depth do you want to go in the future? Was this helpful or do you need more?

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