Hellebores are not native to the United States. They are herbaceous perennials, members of the family Ranunculaceae, the Buttercup family. Other notable members of this family are Delphinium, Clematis, Hepatica, Anemone and Ranunculus.
There are two main categories of hellebores: stemmed (caulescent) and stemless (acaulescent). The stemmed species produce clumps of rather tall stems, each carrying several evergreen leaves. In early to mid-winter, flowers will appear on top of the stems. Once the flowers have bloomed and completed their cycle, that stem will never blossom again and the next year’s stems will be seen emerging from the ground at about the same time as the flowering of the plant. In early to mid-May, the old stems can be cut to the ground so that the plant’s energy will be used for seed production.
In the stemless species, individual leaves and flower stems arise directly from the ground so it is wise to remove all foliage by the first of December allowing for better enjoyment of the flowers and also rejuvenate the foliage. When happy, these plants will reseed in the garden.
Unlike other perennials, Hellebores are long-lived plants that do not need to be divided to remain vigorous, but if you want more plants, just about all hellebores can be divided. With two or three exceptions, plants can be divided in spring, summer or fall. The keys to successful division and new plants in your garden seem to be:
- Making sure that there are flower buds in each division
- Not allowing divisions to dry out after you replant them
- Establishing a healthy root system for the new plants by doing the dividing and planting well in advance of winter temperatures
All Hellebores are disliked by deer and other animals prone to munching on plants. All parts of the Hellebore plant are poisonous, so take care to keep children and pets away. They are easy to grow, once established and are virtually carefree. In addition, there are wonderful new varieties introduced every year.
To have your questions answered and meet our members, join us on March 20 about 10:30am to hear Felicia discuss this fantastic plant. Garden Club RFD meets on the third Tuesday of the month at The Little Red Schoolhouse, 951 Middletown Lincroft Road in Middletown. Please call Nancy Canade at (973)-452-4846 if you need more information or plan to attend. Check out our Facebook page for Garden Club RFD for gardening information as well as meeting information.
The Club is a member of the Garden Club of New Jersey and the Central Atlantic Region of the National Garden Club, Inc. Check out their websites at http://www.gardenclubofnewjersey.com and http://www.gardenclub.org.