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.
Parts of the Hellebores Bloom
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.