The Christmas Rose: Helleborus niger

The Christmas Rose is one of the earliest flowering hellebores, often blooming in November and December in this area. It is smaller than the Lenten Rose, usually only 9 to 12 inches tall and wide. The flowers are white aging to pink and bloom for months. In the wild they are a little sparing with their blooms but selected cultivars are quite prolific bloomers.

Helleborus niger is native to Europe where is has been cultivated for centuries as a medicinal plant, even though it is poisonous. It is normally found on slopes in higher elevations. This explains why it is a little more challenging to grow in our climate. It is worthy of some extra effort however, for its ability to grow in full shade and to flower in the dead of winter. The Christmas Rose likes the semi-mythical moist, rich well drained soil. This is easier to accomplish in a raised bed. Well drained is the most important factor. It will rot in damp areas.  It also prefers alkaline soil, not our native acid soil, so the addition of lime every year is beneficial. Otherwise, like all hellebores it is pretty much carefree, while rewarding us with cool, elegant and beautiful blooms in the winter’s dark and cold. Learn more about hellebores.