Hellebore, Plant of the Month February  2021

I love seeing all of the seedlings, bulb noses, and swelling buds of spring in February in Chico, don’t you?  But I also love seeing plants that are at or near their peak during these short, late winter days, not just getting started.  That’s reason enough to grow good old “Lenten roses”, Helleborus orientalis, in the garden.  They usually have their first flowers of the season open by mid-February, with plenty more to come.  How magical is that? Besides blooming when few plants besides camellias are, hellebores (HELL-uh-borz) are easy to grow in Chico.  Ideally these perennial plants want full sun in winter with partial to full shade in summer.  The means planting them under a deciduous tree is perfect.  They’ll tolerate more, or less, light though.  I water them every 7-10 days if we haven’t had rain, and I skip watering them when we are away on vacation (remember those??).   I always trim off the ratty, old foliage when they start to flower.  That makes the flowers easier to see (flower colors range from greenish white through dark pinks and maroons, to almost-black, often with spots of a contrasting color). If you let the flowers make, and drop, seeds, then you’ll get seedlings too, which are really fun and are easy to transplant.   I follow the advice I read in an old English gardening book many years ago:  plant hellebores where you can see and enjoy their flowers from indoors in winter, rather than having to trek through a wet winter garden to see them.  As I type this, I sit in my favorite chair, in my favorite spot, near a large “picture window” where I can see a nice clump of hellebores in flower, from the warmth and comfort of the indoors.  If you’re not already growing “Lenten roses”, I hope you will, and I hope you’ll let me know what you think of them.  Happy gardening!