Lenten rose is the hellebore that’s most planted in our gardens. Its appeal lies in its abundant and long-lasting blooming.
Helleborus orientalis key facts
Botanical name – Helleborus Orientalis
Common name – Hellebore of the Orient, Lenten rose
Family – Ranunculaceae
Type – perennial herbaceous flower
Height – 12 to 30 inches (30 to 80 cm)
Exposure – shade to part shade
Soil – rich, cool, well-draining
Planting – spring, end of summer
Flowering – February to April
The Lenten hellebore is a perennial that belongs to the Ranunculaceae family. It comes from the Caucasian mountains, Turkey and Greece, originally. Today, it’s the variety that most often appears in our gardens: it bears simple or double flowers, even triple flowers sometimes. The range of possible colors is amazing and depends on the cultivar you choose to plant. Indeed, you can find Helleborus orientalis that display flowers in white, yellow, red, orange, black and even spotted, dotted striped and mottled ones.
The Lenten rose is a tall-growing species: in time, it can reach a height of 2½ feet (80 cm) and a spread of 5 feet (150 cm). This evergreen plant has basal leaves that are palmate and lightly serrated around the edges. They’re leathery and, when clean, are a shiny deep green color. From the center of this abundant leafage, tall floral scapes with many branches emerge. On each branch, anywhere from one to four flowers will appear, usually facing downwards. Each flower can last 5 to 8 weeks, a record in terms of longevity.
Be careful – this is an extremely poisonous plant that should only be handled with gloves.
A few key Hellebore orientalis cultivars
There is a number of different Lenten rose cultivars. Indeed, the many hellebore hybrids that are now on the market have this species as a parent.
- Helleborus orientalis ‘White Lady Spotted’ shares a splendid blooming to onlookers, white with small red dots.
- Helleborus orientalis ‘Double Ellen’ and ‘Double Queen’ are both double flowers, they have many white to deep pink petals.
- Helleborus orientalis ‘Black’ is a surprising cultivar: its simple flowers are a deep black color with hints of orange.
- Helleborus orientalis ‘Red Lady’ is another hybrid that boasts a spectacular red blooming.
- Helleborus orientalis ‘Blue Metallic Lady’ is a much rarer hybrid; its flowers shine with a remarkable slate blue hue.
Growing Lenten hellebore
The oriental hellebore is a very hardy plant, it can survive temperatures even colder than 5°F (-15°C) as long as it’s planted in a place that’s sheltered from cold winds. This flower-bearing herbaceous plant is easy to grow, and as a rule it prefers shade or part shade, and rich, cool, and well-draining soil. This variety offers a much better resistance to lack of water than the famous Christmas rose. It’s also quite adept at avoiding snails and aphids. The Lenten rose can serve for cut flower bouquets, and in landscaping it’s generally reserved for flower beds, along edges, and even in planters.
- Read also: all there is to learn about hellebore
Caring for Helleborus orientalis
Just before the blooming, which should appear between February and April, make sure to remove old and damaged leaves. This will highlight the beauty of the lenten rose’s flowers.
Upon planting, enrich the soil with ripe compost, mixing it in well with the soil in the hole. The goal of this well-fertilized soil is to allow for fabulous blooming. In spring, pour a little additional fertilizer around them, and in fall, spread a layer of fresh, rich soil mix at the base of your Lenten roses.
Lastly, sometime between October and November, layer organic mulch at the foot of your hellebores so that the roots may be protected from the worse of the winter cold.
Propagating and multiplying Lenten rose
The lenten rose tends to sow itself naturally around the garden. Seeds fall to the ground in June, and after about 6 months they start germinating. However, these natural seedlings rarely match the mother plant. They might interfere with the layout in carefully planned-out colored flower beds. If this is something that hassles you, cut wilted flowers in May to block seed formation: no more self-sown seedlings!
In the end, the best way to propagate lenten rose is to divide it. This method also triggers more vigorous regrowth. Divide your Lenten rose clumps in spring, just when the blooming is over.
To learn more, read:
- Green hellebore: the green-flowered hellebore often found in shaded parks
- Black hellebore: a species with white flowers and black roots
- Potted hellebore: 5 keys to make sure it grows
Lenten rose on social media
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Delicate pink ruffled hellebore by KANENORI, Nature & Garden contributor
White Lenten rose by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work
Dotted white hellebore by anoldent under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Double-flowered purple lenten rose by Rob Hodgkins under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Sunlight flitting through (also on social media) by Patricia Jacinto under Pixabay license
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