Green hellebore species and varieties: like jewels hidden in plain sight

Single green hellebore flower

Green hellebore, key facts

Botanical nameHelleborus viridis
Common name – green hellebore
FamilyRanunculaceae

Type – perennial herbaceous flower
Exposure – part shade to shade
Soil – heavy, rocky, neutral, chalky, moist

Height – 8 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm)
Flowering – February to June
Foliage – not evergreen
Toxicity – very poisonous plant

The green hellebore, Helleborus viridis, is a perennial that is part of the Ranunculaceae family. It owes its name to the acid-green color of its leaves.

Description of the green hellebore

This herbaceous plant with deciduous foliage has a particularly slow growth. A single stem forms the plant, bare from the base to the first bracts. Leaves are basal, lanceolate, clearly serrated. Whether they’re whole or lobed, they can reach up to 4 inches across. The deep green leaves are usually set in pairs at the base of each stem. Blooming occurs between February and June, with smooth flowers that droop towards the ground. Each is 1 to 2 inches wide (3 to 5 cm), one per cyme, and their color is greenish yellow.

Be very careful because the entire plant is poisonous. The green hellebore indeed causes intoxication that is even more severe than that of the stinking hellebore, another wild variety. These two species are easily confused since their flowers are so similar.

Best environment to grow green hellebore

In the wild, Helleborus viridis is above all else a forest-dwelling plant. It particularly appreciates partly sunny locations, but can’t cope with full sun at all. The green hellebore grows in heavy, rocky soils, both neutral or chalky, typically very moist in winter. This perfectly hardy hellebore can thrive to altitudes nearing 4800 feet (1500m).

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Other green-flowered hellebores

Helleborus argutifolius

A tall-growing green hellebore species, corsican hellebore (Helleborus argustifolius)The Corsican hellebore is a giant hellebore species: the thick stems easily reach 2 to 3 feet (70 to 80 cm), sometimes even more. When mature, these stems produce a tall, wide apical flower scape that bears round yellow and apple-green flowers. Its massive and contrasting blooming appears between January and March. The colors of each flower, in time, slowly fades to more classical hues.

Helleborus orientalis ‘Green’

The green lenten rose produces wonderful emerald-green flowers. Flowers may be simple or double (Helleborus orientalis ‘Double Green’) depending on the cultivar, some are even dotted with wine-colored dots (Helleborus orientalis ‘Double Green Spotted’).

Helleborus orientalis ‘Anemone Green’

A light green clump of Hellebore orientalis, the lenten roseThis oriental hellebore is among the rarer ones, not often cultivated. However, it’s a remarkable find when you can get your hands on it: massive aniseed-green flowers that seem to exude freshness. Like all other ‘Anemone’ lenten roses, the blooming is quite distinct, since the center collar is the same color as the rest of the flower.

Helleborus sternii

Stern’s hellebore offers beautiful clusters of jade-green flowers, which it pairs with striking variegated foliage. Each leaf is strongly serrated. This is a hybrid hellebore that is a cross between the Corsican hellebore and Helleborus lividus.

Helleborus foetidus

The stinking hellebore is a wild variety with early blooming. Flowering occurs between January and April. Cymes are topped with many small flowers, ½ to 1 inch across (1 to 3 cm), shaped like small bells. They’re pale green with a purple rim.

Helleborus multifidus ssp. bocconei

This botanical hellebore is very rarely cultivated. What is appealing in this one isn’t the flowers, it’s the surprising leafage. The deciduous leaves, ornately serrated and marked, are very ornamental, and they last from spring to fall. The simple flowers release a pleasant elder-berry scent. Star-shaped and vaguely round, they start off acid green and then turn white when mature.

Helleborus odorus

Not many will manage to find this rare hellebore! Also called “fragrant hellebore”, it’s a variety often only found in botanical gardens. It blooms in light green shades and releases a pleasant fragrance, very different from that of the smelling hellebore mentioned above.

A clump of fragrant and green-blooming H. odoratus

To learn more, read:

Green hellebore on social media

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Picture related to Green hellebore overlaid with the Pinterest logo.

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
As if flying away by Peter O’Connor under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Rare Corsican hellebore by KANENORI,
Nature & Garden contributor
Green variety of H. orientalis by KANENORI,
Nature & Garden contributor
Helleborus odorus, also a green hellebore by KANENORI,
Nature & Garden contributor
Green bloom with stamens like a fountain (also on social media) by Dave Nakayama under © CC BY 2.0