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Hellebores After The Holidays: Keeping The “Christmas Rose” Alive

updated Jul 15, 2020
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I have a confession: I first mentioned my love of hellebores back in 2011’s Wicked + Wonderful Plants: My Personal Arsenal, then again in Blood-Burgundy + Nearly-Black Plants For Fall, but I’d never seen them in person until last month. Now I have one of my very own to attempt not to kill..

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I’d adored hellebores for years, but didn’t know when I’d ever get the chance to grow some of my very own. They thrive in the shade, something I couldn’t provide in my sunny San Francisco apartment. Shade is also in short supply at my current house, which only has the trees my partner planted when he moved in 6 years ago. Someday, someday, I thought.

And then, on a pre-holiday supply run to Trader Joe’s, I stumbled upon a display of potted hellebores, right there in person, for real, for $9.99. I had no intention of spending any money on myself in the midst of all the holiday spending, but my partner insisted on treating me, and I’m so glad he did. I planted my new hellebore in a pretty pot and kept it on the table for all of our holiday festivities. As much as I love making centerpieces, it was a huge relief to not have to think about, make, replace, or buy anything else in the month of December.

My intention is to keep the hellebore healthy and happy indefinitely, until the day I have the perfect place to plant it. If you took home a hellebore (also known as Christmas rose) for the holidays, here are a few tips to keep it thriving:

  • According to Pine Knot Farms, “If you are putting your plants in pots we recommend that plants be put into a container approximately twice the size of the root ball.”
  • Graham Rice recommends planting your hellebore in a lovely terracotta pot: “These plants not only look best in terracotta pots, but by allowing moisture to evaporate through the sides terracotta helps prevent waterlogging.”
  • Helleborus.us advises “Helleborus like cool temperatures. A cool windowsill or beside a door with glass will keep the plant cooler until it can be planted outdoors. Keep away from heaters, fireplaces and heating vents.” Cool temperatures? No problem!
  • Feel free to move your hellebore around the house (say, to your dining room table for a dinner party), but in general, Garden Guides says, “Place the pot in a location that receives partial or filtered sunlight. Some varieties of helleborus can grow in full shade, but most enjoy partial shade. Helleborus grows best in a window that receives morning sun and afternoon shade, or a window that receives indirect sunlight, such as one that faces south.”
  • Post Office Farm Nursery maintains that hellebores do better in the ground than in pots, but if you do want to keep them in containers, “They grow best in a rich, well drained soil with plenty of organic matter…Plants in pots will need more water over summer and regular annual feeding. Of the different varieties of Hellebore, Helleborus xhybridus do best in pots. However due to their extensive root systems they will require regular potting on into eventually large tubs.”
  • Once I plant mine in the ground, I’ll turn to the seemingly-infinite hellebore wisdom of Margaret Roach of A Way To Garden.

Have you welcomed hellebores into your home? How have they fared?