It is a flower that can be seen in sun rooms or on the balconies of some houses, if not at the foot of some trees, during the holiday season. Try planting it at home, as it is easy-to-grow and highly decorative. Just follow the tips mentioned in this article to know its characteristics in order to grow a beautiful plant. You do not need a green thumb to get there.

As its name suggests, it is during the Christmas period, or more accurately during the end-of-the-year holidays, that the Christmas rose blooms. Its scientific name is Helleborus Niger or black hellebore. It belongs to the Ranunculaceae family. It is a flower native to Asia and Mediterranean Europe. The petals are of different colours and hues depending on variety, and the Christmas rose grows to an approximate height of 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm), forming dense clumps about 16 inches (40 cm) in diameter. The foliage is abundant and evergreen. It is its annual bloom, occuring from December to March, that sets this plant apart and makes it so special.

Christmas rose varieties

Generally, the different varieties come with long 12 to 24-inch (30 to 60 cm) stems bearing large dark green leaves. Each variety is distinguished by the colour of its flowers. Hybrids are also possible. Helleborus Niger, for example, has pure white flowers, while those of Helleborus foetidus are yellow-green with purple edges; Helleborus purpurascens’ flowers are purple on the outside of the petals and green on the inside; Helleborus orientalis has cream-coloured flowers speckled with purple; those of Helleborus viridis are green, and Helleborus odorus also has yellow-green flowers but they are more fragrant. Helleborus sternii, native to the Mediterranean region, is the only variety that can withstand the sun. The list is long because there are about twenty varieties of hellebores, without taking into account all of the hybrids.

How to plant Helleborus Niger?

In the garden, the hellebore is easy to grow, whether it is to delineate a border, as a bush or in a container. First of all, the seedling is obtained either from seeds or by transplanting young shoots found around the stump. For young shoots, simply separate them at their base and plant them one by one, preferably in fall, that is to say, around September-October. For seedlings, it is best to plant them in spring: around March-April. If you plant in-ground, leave a 16-inch (40 cm) space between plants as they will form small bushes of which the height and width will be approximately 16 inches (40 cm). Plant them in the shade, in undergrowth, along walls, or under a tree, in any case in a place where there is little sunshine, and at a depth of about 14 inches (35 cm). The plant accepts all types of land, but its preference is for clay, rich, organic, moist, and well-drained soil. This last point is very important. An accumulation of water is harmful to the roots which will start to rot, causing the plant’s death. If you put the plant in a container, you must ensure good drainage. And concerning these plants, regardless of whether they are planted in-ground or potted, remember to always put them away from direct sunlight and sheltered from the wind. The pot will preferably be made of clay and will have a diameter of at least 16 inches (40 cm). Potting or transplanting needs to be carried out with a large clod of earth, to avoid exposing the roots and damaging the plant. Potting soil for perennials will be used as fertilizer.

How to maintain the black hellebore?

The Christmas rose may be subject to disease, especially when planted in poor conditions. In that case, black spots will start to appear on the leaves. All of the infected leaves must be removed prior to treating the plant with Bordeaux mixture. One should also occasionally check that there are no slugs hiding in the bushes, as these little creatures will destroy all of the leaves. As soon as you come across leaves with scalloped edges, look for the responsible parasites. Also check that there are no aphids infecting the plants. In such cases, the use of insecticide becomes mandatory. Take the habit of removing wilted leaves, as this airs out the foliage a bit and provides more comfort to young buds located on the stems. Think about mulching the plants’ bases in winter, even though they are capable of withstanding extreme cold. If the flowers are very exposed, build a roof to shelter them from gusts of wind. If, instead, you choose to grow the Christmas rose in a container to decorate your home’s interior by taking advantage of its long flowering, remember to bring it out from time to time to let it breathe some fresh air.

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Published in Flower guide by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011