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Christmas Rose Helleborus orientalis

Other plants called Christmas Rose:

Phonetic Spelling
hel-eh-BORE-us or-ee-en-TAH-liss
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Lenten rose is a winter-blooming, broadleaf evergreen, clumping perennial in the Ranunculaceae or buttercup family. It typically grows 1 to 1.5 feet tall and equally as wide in a blushy, upright clump. The flowers are large, cup-shaped, nodding, and have overlapping petals. They appear in clusters of 1 to 4 blooms in colors varying from white, and pink, to light rose and rise above the foliage on a thick stem. Blooms appear in late winter and persist into spring. The foliage is dark green, glossy, and palmately divided. In warmer climates, it is evergreen, but deciduous in colder winter climates.

The Lenten rose is native to Asia Minor and Eurasia including Northeast Greece, Turkey, and the Caucasus.

The genus name, Helleborus, comes from the Greek words helein, meaning injures, and bora, meaning food, referring to the toxic properties of the leaves, stems, and roots, if they are ingested. The specific epithet, orientalis, means from the Orient.

Lenten rose is easy to grow, requiring only a shady location and well-drained, moist soil with a neutral to alkaline pH. It will do best where it receives winter sunlight but is protected from the wind. It is intolerant of bright winter sun and high temperatures but is resistant to damage by deer browsing. To promote new foliage, cut back the flowering stems once the blooming has been completed. Propagate by division of the clumps in the spring or from seeds. 

This beautiful harbinger of spring has interesting, nodding flowers and large, dark green leaves. While there are numerous hybrid selections and species available, they are often difficult to distinguish and are misidentified in the trade.  The Lenten Rose is slightly larger and easier to grow than the Helleborus niger or Black Hellebore.

Use this plant in a border front, on patios, in containers, or in other protected, shady spots, such as a woodland garden. It is an excellent choice for a late winter blooming display. Pollinators will benefit from the nectar of these early-blooming flowers.

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Late Winter     Foliage:  Evergreen in warmer climates, deciduous in cold climates          

Quick ID Hints:

  • Flowers nodding, petaloid sepals
  • Short plant with stiff, large, evergreen leaves 
  • Leaves are palmately divided into many leaflets
  • Flower center of numerous stamens outlined by tubular nectaries, or fleshy, beaked capsules

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Aphids, slugs, leaf miners, weevils, and snails are potential insect pests. Fungal diseases can be a problem. Leaf spots, downy mildew, gray molds, crown rot, and a virus known as Hellebore black death can occur. The leaves and roots are poisonous. Avoid ingestion of this plant because it is toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and humans. The plant may also cause contact dermatitis. Wear gloves and protective equipment when handling this plant. 

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy, and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

 

More information on Helleborus.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Collector’s Garden Border Garden, Upcycled Dry Rock Stream Garden Shaded Slope Paths & Walkways Small Shade Garden Four-Season Garden Backyard Respite Landscape Woodland Walk
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Royal Heritage'
    wide range of colors - purple, pink, rose, light green with spotted or contrasting colors
'Royal Heritage'
Tags:
#showy flowers#poisonous#small spaces#purple flowers#pink flowers#shade garden#broadleaf evergreen#low maintenance#spring flowers#winter interest#air pollution tolerant#moist soil#fast growing#well-drained soil#long-lasting flowers#deer resistant#herbaceous perennial#groundcover#naturalizes#alkaline soils tolerant#clumping#naturalized area#fantz#flowers early spring#poor soils tolerant#border front#partial shade tolerant#HS302#problem for cats#flowers late winter#problem for dogs#problem for children#problem for horses#stormwater demo garden orange co#contact dermatitis#container plant#poisonous if ingested#perennial#patio#shade perennial#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Royal Heritage'
    wide range of colors - purple, pink, rose, light green with spotted or contrasting colors
'Royal Heritage'
Tags:
#showy flowers#poisonous#small spaces#purple flowers#pink flowers#shade garden#broadleaf evergreen#low maintenance#spring flowers#winter interest#air pollution tolerant#moist soil#fast growing#well-drained soil#long-lasting flowers#deer resistant#herbaceous perennial#groundcover#naturalizes#alkaline soils tolerant#clumping#naturalized area#fantz#flowers early spring#poor soils tolerant#border front#partial shade tolerant#HS302#problem for cats#flowers late winter#problem for dogs#problem for children#problem for horses#stormwater demo garden orange co#contact dermatitis#container plant#poisonous if ingested#perennial#patio#shade perennial#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Helleborus
    Species:
    orientalis
    Family:
    Ranunculaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Northeast Greece, Turkey to Caucasus)
    Distribution:
    Native: Greece, North Caucasus, Transcaucasus, and Turkey. Introduced: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, and the United States.
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts pollinators.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer resistant
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Clustered, green, fleshy capsules, long-beaked, surrounded by persistent sepals.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Saucer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Beautiful harbingers of spring, with interesting, nodding solitary winter flowers, and saucer-shaped. A stalked cyme or panicle, terminal, bracteate, often nodding; bracts gigantic, leaf-like, dark green, entire to sparsely toothed, +/- lobed. 1-many, usually greenish, tinted gold or brown, pink or purple, cup or bowl-shaped, nodding, 3-4 inches in diameter; sepals 5, showy, pigmented, broadly ovate-elliptic; inner petal segments numerous, consisting of tubular nectaries, green to greenish-yellow, ephemeral; stamens numerous, anther yellow.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Margin:
    Denticulate
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leathery, shiny, dark-green leaves palmately divided with 7-9 leaflets, edged with shallow teeth. Basal or cauline, palmately compound, coriaceous, glabrous; petiloes elongate, peltate; leaflets 3-9, irregularly toothed or serrate.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Stout, rhizomatous or exposed.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Small Space
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Heavy Shade
    Pollution
    Poor Soil
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Burning of mouth and throat, salivation, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nervous symptoms, depression; skin irritation after contact with cell sap
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Protoanemonin suspected
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Seeds
    Stems