Hellebores

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HelleborusIf you are looking for a minimal care plant with attractive green foliage for your garden, look no further than a hellebore. This plant is an early bloomer with long lasting, colorful sepals. Often fragrant, the plant is disliked by deer and will easily live for several years in zones four through nine.

This cool season perennial is refreshing in the cool months of January and February. The traditionally white or lavender bloom begins in the cool months and will last a couple of months as they are sepals rather than floral petals. With newer cultivars, it is possible to find crosses of pink, red, yellow, purple or green sepal colors available. Some of the new cultivars have been developed so that the flowers face more upward.

When planting a hellebore, choose a place with well drained, organic soil. The plant prefers filtered sun or shade, so a perfect place may be under a deciduous tree or in a shaded natural area. A mature plant averages two feet in width and a foot high and is a good companion of other shade loving plants such as bellflowers, wild blue phlox, ferns and hosta. 

The hellebore is best planted with a topping of two or three inches of organicHellebores compost worked gently into the top layer of soil. Water as needed, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. It is important not to overload the plant with nitrogen when applying fertilizer. Too much nitrogen will cause the plant to produce lush foliage, but will leave you disappointed with a shortage of blooms. To care for the plant, remove older leaves with sharp shears in mid-winter or early spring. Examine the plant occasionally for slug or snail damage. If found, the pests can be controlled with diatomaceous earth. It is not required to divide the plant, but if desired, divide in the spring after flowering or in autumn. Leave a minimum of 3 buds per rhizome when dividing the plant.

The flowers can be removed when the blooms finish. If they are left on the plant, the flowers will turn to fruit starting seed production. Mature seeds are dropped beneath the canopy of foliage and will multiply. The new seedlings are best moved the next year to a new location in your garden.

If you are looking for a plant suggestion for a gardener this would be a good one.