Irrepressible hellebores burst through the cold long before spring to delight us with sweet-looking, long-lasting flowers.

Apparently being fuss-free, shade-tolerant, deer-resistant, drought-tolerant and long-lived is not enough for hellebores (aka Lenten rose). The high-achieving perennials are also among the garden's earliest risers, some even blooming in January.

The 2- to 3-inch flowers remain on the stem for months; their "petals" are actually sepals that fade to a beautiful papery texture at the same time new evergreen foliage emerges.


Varieties of Hellebores

Hybridization has expanded the plant's palette. Styles include single and double blooms, plus flowers with freckles or butterfly veining. Some of our favorites include double-bloom 'Kingston Cardinal', pink Lenten Rose and cheerful yellow 'Golden Sunrise.'

Growing Tips

Hellebores prefer neutral pH soil with good drainage and partial or dappled shade. Mature plants reach about 22 inches tall with a 2-foot spread.

In the Midwest, hellebores can be planted either in spring or fall; if you plant in fall, make sure to allow enough time for the roots to grow (about a month) before the ground freezes.

What to Plant with Hellebores

Plant with spring-flowering bulbs, primroses, ferns, hostas, geraniums, bleeding hearts, azaleas or heuchera. Hellebores especially enliven woodland gardens and shade gardens.

Hellebore type
'Irish Ruffles' hellebore
| Credit: Courtesy of Great Garden Plants

Hellebores That Love a Chill

Michigan breeder Chris Hansen's Winter Thriller series includes rigorous, colorful plants with large flowers. 'Irish Ruffles' dazzles with a rare lime color and 3-inch double blooms.