Flowers are like heaven to me. They brighten the darkest of days with their beauty and extensive variety of bloom shapes and colors. Today on episode 3 of the Sunshine Gardening podcast, I am sharing one of my favorite flowers for the garden! I guarantee after I am done talking about it, you will want this flower for your shade garden as well. Stay with me to find out the flower that I am referring to and learn the best growing tips to help it shine in your Kentucky garden.
- The flower that I am covering today in episode 3 is Hellebore orientalis, is commonly referred to as Lenten Rose or Hellebores. While the rose family first comes to mind, this plant actually belongs to the Ranunculus or Buttercup Family.
- Helleborus xhybridus is a group of evergreen, late-winter or early-spring flowering perennials that are offered as ornamental plants for the garden.
- Blooms generally appear during Lent. Hence the name Lenten Rose. It is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring which earns it the name of “harbinger of spring”.
- Since the plant easily hybridizes, there is a wide variety of cultivars available in the marketplace. Colors include shades of pink, green, yellow, red, pure white, dark purple, and almost black. Other cultivars may have other interesting color patterns that are bicolor, speckled, spotted, and streaked with single or double forms. Some cultivars have picotee flowers where the color along the edge is darker.
- Lenten rose is hardy from zone 9 to zone 4. They will handle colder temperatures if some winter protection is provided.
- Lenten rose possess tough, almost woody stems. The leaves are described as being leathery, shiny and dark-green in color. They are palmate divided with 7-9 leaflets with coarsely cut leaf margins. These characteristics make it resistant to deer and rabbit feedings and the foliage will remain attractive all throughout the growing season.
- The flowers have an interesting growth habit. Flower buds form during the previous summer season. The flower spikes emerge from an underground rhizome in late winter.
- What we would call the petals are actually called sepals which is a modified calyx. There are 5 petal-like sepals that surround a ring of nectaries. The true petals are the nectaries that hold the nectar. Within the ring of petals are numerous stamens and pistils. After pollination occurs, the petals and stamens will then fall off leaving behind the sepals. They can remain on the plant for 1-2 months or sometimes even longer.
- Flowers reach about 1 to 3 inches wide and are described as being saucer like in appearance. The blooms are mostly downward facing.
How to Grow Lenten Rose in the Kentucky Garden
- Since hellebores are difficult to start from seed, it is best to purchase 2-3 year old plants. Position the plants in areas that receive partial to full shade.
- Plants will perform best when planted in moist, well-drained soil. They are sensitive to soggy soil, so make sure to provide good soil drainage. A good way to do this is to incorporate compost throughout the entire planting area prior to transplanting. They will also benefit from planting on a hillside, slope, or raised beds. It is noted that in these three areas it is easier to see the downward facing blooms.
- At first, hellebores are slow to establish. When they do reach maturity though, plants can reach 18 to 24 inches tall with a width of 24-30” inches. Mature plants can even have 50 or more flowers per plant.
- If planting multiple plants, space plants about 16 inches apart or more. Refer to the plant label to see recommendations on how far apart to space plants.
- Plants are self sowers so they put out a lot of seed. New seedlings will generally appear in the spring.
- Lenten roses are an outstanding plant for providing color and texture to the ornamental shade garden. Utilize them as a specimen plant where they are the star of the show, as a border plant, or even as a groundcover. They work great when planted in containers and in between deciduous shrubs and under trees or naturalized in woodland areas.
- If looking for companion plants to plant next to Lenten rose, consider other spring flowers such as snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) and wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa). Plants with contrasting foliage such as ferns and hostas would also work.
- No dividing is required like other perennials unless you want to acquire more plants. If yes, divide clumps in September or October. Water the plant a day or two before digging then work a shovel in a circle around the plant in order to dig it up. Wash off the soil around the plant and then divide it with a sharp knife between growth buds. Make sure to leave at least 3 buds on each division. Prepare the soil before planting and deeply since the plant has a deep root system. Position the crown where the stem joins the roots at soil level. Avoid covering plants with excess compost or mulch since this application can lead to rots.
Benefits of Planting Hellebores in the Kentucky Garden
Since flowers are actually sepals, they do not fall off of the plant quickly and can last up to 2 months or longer. They make a great cut flower. It is best to harvest stems when the stamens have fallen off and the flower feels papery and stiff. Cut them using a sharp pair of pruners and place them in a vase filled with clean water. Add floral preservative to the water to help extend the vase life. Since leaves contain alkaloids that can cause mild dermatitis with sensitive individuals, protect hands with gloves when cutting stems.
Once established, plants are relatively drought tolerant and considered low maintenance. Require little fertilization. A spring application of compost should be enough. The Perennial Plant Association voted it “Perennial Plant of the Year” in 2005. Plus, deer and rabbit won’t bother them due to the thick rough leaves.
I truly believe that Lenten Rose will make a great perennial flower for the Kentucky garden and work hard for the Kentucky gardener. Its wide variety of colorful blooms and shapes, easy growth habit, and low maintenance care make it a win win for gardeners to plant in their shade garden.
If you would like additional information on how to add Lenten rose in your garden or landscape, make sure to see the show notes. I have included some pictures of different varieties of Lenten rose found at Mammoth Cave Transplants. The wide variety of colors and blooms are breathe taking, so I invite you to check them out. Find the show notes on the blog at Warren County Agriculture.
That’s all the information for today. Hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To see the show notes for Episode 3 and additional resources mentioned from today’s show, please follow me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/. Feel free to leave any questions that you might have or any additional comments on the blog or contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave me a review on iTunes so I can know what information to bring to you each week. To sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will earn a gardening prize.
Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over your Kentucky garden. To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.
Keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!
Kowalski, J. (2016, March 7). Heavenly Hellebores. The Ohio State University. Retrieved from https://bygl.osu.edu/node/99.
Mahr, S. (2018, March 23). Lenten Rose, Helleborus xhybridus. Wisconsin Master Gardener website. Retrieved from https://wimastergardener.org/article/lenten-rose-helleborus-xhybridus/
Perry, Dr. L. (n.d.). Hellebore: The Lenten Rose. University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science. Retrieved from https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/hellebore.html