How to Grow Hellebores

Written by Hannah Miller. Reviewed and Fact Checked by Elizabeth Smith. Published to Spring Plants. Updated: 18th February 2023.

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Hellebores are the ultimate early spring-flowering plant, and mine usually bloom from the start of the year up until Easter.

Deep leathery green leaves serve as the perfect backdrop to the brightly coloured blooms – choose from deep velvet and shiny black to pure cream, white, pink and veined purple + many more, including lime and yellow.

I grow mine in large, deep pots and in my borders for winter colour but they also thrive in woodland.

Plant details:

  • I’ve seen them usually being sold as potted plants from late autumn into early spring.
  • I’ve previously collected the seeds which I sowed successfully the following spring.
  • Well suited to large, deep pots, mixed borders and woodland with spring-flowering bulbs.
  • Lush, deep green foliage adds interest at the dullest time of year.
  • Bee and pollinator-friendly (single flowered variety).
  • My hellebores thrive in dappled, partial and full shade.

Size

Height: Up to 40cm (16in)

Spread: Up to 40cm (16in) 

Location

Borders, beds, deep containers, sheltered rock gardens, mixed with bulbs, under tree canopy, woodland

Sunlight

Ideally in dappled, partial or full shade but some survive full sun

Hardiness

Hardy perennial US zone 6-9 and all parts of the UK

Water & Feed

No special watering or fertiliser requirements but they prefer rich soil and may struggle in hot, dry containers

Companions

Tulips, daffodils

Planting

Anytime of year provided the ground isn’t frozen

Flowering

Expect year-round foliage and blooms from January into April

Dark purple hellebores

Everything You Need to Know About Growing Hellebores

How Do Hellebores Plants Arrive?

Hellebores are a winter and early spring favourite so potted plants can be found in garden centres from the turn of the year into early spring.

Seeds can be collected from late spring into early summer and can be sown at this time. From my testing and experimenting, I know that the seed-grown Hellebores can take several years to bloom, hence the higher cost of buying potted, established plants.

Where is the best place to plant Hellebores?

Hellebores can be located under tree canopies, amongst taller plants or mixed with other spring-flowering favourites such as bulbs.

Grow in woodland, borders, beds, deep pots and larger containers.

I try to keep mine in dappled sun or semi-shade, and they are thriving.

Are Hellebores hardy?

Hellebores are a hardy perennial and most are evergreen, in my garden, they keep their lush green foliage all year.

Hardy to US zones 6-9 and all parts of the UK, you won’t have any problems with cold winters in the UK.

How much sunlight do Hellebores need?

Hellebores prefer partial shade, but I’ve found that this tough plant performs well in dappled and even full shade.

I’ve seen them thrive under tree canopies and in woodland which is their natural habitat.

Do Hellebores require fertile soil?

Based on my knowledge, fertile, rich soil is best for Hellebores, but I’ve seen them struggle in boggy, wet ground conditions as drainage is important.

I’ve added leafmould and mushroom compost in the past to improve the soil and it appeared to give them a boost.

Bulb fibre compost is great for potted hellebores as it aids with drainage.

How and when should Hellebores be planted?

Hellebore seeds should be sown in spring, while potted plants can be dug into the garden at any time of the year, provided the soil isn’t frozen.

I’ve put my hellebores into the ground from late autumn to late winter and even into early spring without issue.

I’ve tried relocating Hellebores before, and most of them died, so I’ve concluded that they don’t transplant well and should be left in place.

I’ve grown them from seed several times and I found them fairly easy to get going, I don’t recommend propagating by stem cuttings however, as I’ve never had any success this way.

Are there any pests and diseases that affect Hellebores?

There are three notable pests, none of which have affected my plants in my Surrey garden:

Early season aphids – these pests do most of the damage early in the season before natural predators control their numbers later in the year.

Leaf spot – usually affects Hellebores grown in wet, damp areas and results in brown marks on the leaves. Collect dead or damaged leaves to prevent the spread.

Leaf miner – less common and only affecting some varieties this pest is unlikely to kill the entire plant.

When do Hellebores bloom and how long for?

I always see Hellebores as the perfect bridge between winter and spring, but different varieties will bloom at varying times.

Most of mine flower sometime between January into late April.

Are there any water and fertiliser requirements?

Potted Hellebores may dry out in dry, hot containers during the summer, so care should be taken when choosing the pot size, as deeper is better.

Watering shouldn’t be needed for Hellebores grown under canopies but almost certainly will in containers.

Fertiliser is entirely optional but if chosen, a general feed should be applied in late spring.

You may find that leafmould or mushroom compost is beneficial in the spring, I’ve used both and the Hellebores responded well.

Is Hellebore toxic or harmful?

All parts of Hellebores are toxic to dogs, cats and horses and although seldom fatal, the side effects can be serious.

Read more: Hellebore toxicity.

Hellebore Double Ellen Red in a 9cm Pot
Helleborus x hybridus 'Black Beauty' 10 Seeds, Christmas Rose, Hellebore
Hellebore Double Ellen Red in a 9cm Pot
Helleborus x hybridus 'Black Beauty' 10 Seeds, Christmas Rose, Hellebore
Hellebore Double Ellen Red in a 9cm Pot
Hellebore Double Ellen Red in a 9cm Pot
Helleborus x hybridus 'Black Beauty' 10 Seeds, Christmas Rose, Hellebore
Helleborus x hybridus 'Black Beauty' 10 Seeds, Christmas Rose, Hellebore

How to Care For Hellebores After Flowering

I’ve always found Hellebores to be a tough, hardy, often evergreen perennial but follow my tips, so they thrive year after year:

  • After it’s finished blooming, remove the dead flowers and leaves to prevent rot and disease.
  • Provide an optional dose of feed towards the end of spring to prepare the plant for the season ahead.
  • Avoid relocating Hellebores as they often die or refuse to flower for a year or two until established again.
  • Hellebores dislike hot dry containers, so move the pots during the summer or keep them well watered.

Hellebore Companion Plants

I’ve been testing and experimenting with Hellebores, and here are six spring-flowering plants that may go well with them:

Daniel’s Hellebore Pro Tips

Daniel, our co-owner, added this:

Hellebores are best grown from potted plants as seeded plants can take up to four years to produce their first blooms, hence why Hellebores are one of the more expensive plants you’ll find in the garden centre.

As Hellebores can be planted at any time of the year, look out for plants in the clearance section of your local garden centre, where you can pick up a bargain.

Single-flowered Hellebores are good for pollinators such as bumblebees that may arrive in spring. Double-flowered varieties do not benefit any pollinators, so choose your plant carefully if you want to help bees.

Hellebores have deep roots, so when planting, give them plenty of space down as well as horizontally.

While they can be grown in winter hanging baskets, it’s unlikely they will survive long-term as there isn’t enough vertical space, and they dislike being relocated.

Rich, fertile soil is beneficial and some say crucial, so add mushroom compost or leafmould and top up yearly as required.

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This guide was reviewed and fact-checked by qualified horticulturist Elizabeth Smith.

Explore: Elizabeth's profile and qualifications.

Meet The Author: Hannah Miller

Hannah is a keen gardener who grows organic fruit and vegetables in her Surrey garden and is moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle. 

She is also the proud grower of a dahlia and herb garden.

Hannah worked for the NHS for 12 years but also has a level 3 qualification in horticulture and is currently studying for her level 4.

More About Hannah Miller

Hannah Miller

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This Hellebore growing guide was published by DIY Gardening

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