Lenten Rose Lives Up to its Name

(I had another story written and ready to run, but I’ll save it for next week. This sweet little plant won my heart just 36 hours ago and I couldn’t wait to share it with you today.)

I went out yesterday morning to check on some things. The winds were at 35 mph. Temperatures were dropping through the 30s where we live in North Central Texas. It was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and true to form, my little plantings of Hellebores were standing up to it all.

Pastel Lenten rose is blooming as you read this in the Sperry entryway garden.

I learned about hellebores from Jimmy Turner at the Dallas Arboretum 15 or 20 years ago. Then Tucker Reed patiently showed me around beds that he’d planted and tended there after Jimmy had left for Australia.

Those guys were using hellebores in shade, and they were thriving. They provided color from late winter clear into mid-spring. Why, that’s pretty much around Lent. And their flowers are of about the same size and form as roses. Do you think that might be the source of their common name?

Bed of rose-colored hellebores blooms with lovely downward-facing blossoms.

Here are the details you’ll want to remember as you go out to your favorite nursery now to buy yourself some.

Location and planting…
Flowers of many types hang downward, so may be best viewed from elevated locations;

Highly organic planting soil (several to many inches of peat, compost, rotted manure, finely ground bark mulch, humus, etc.);

Raised beds that drain well;

Shade from the hot afternoon sun in the summer.

Go well alongside ferns, hostas, Texas Gold columbines, decorative sedges and other shade-loving plants.

Continued Below

Care during the growing season…
Light application of high-nitrogen fertilizer as new growth begins in late winter;

Keep soil moist at all times;

Dust with Sevin or use snail and slug bait to eliminate these pests as needed;

Groom plants to remove dead foliage as needed.

This close-up of the rose-colored hellebore in the bed above shows its lovely form and color. These show best if planted on a berm or a bed that is slightly elevated, since their flowers tend to hang downward.

Nurseries have hellebores in stock right now, but supplies go very rapidly. They are fairly expensive, so give them great bed preparation before planting, and care for them regularly. They will reward you for years to come.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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