If you like value for money when you’re plant shopping, Hellebores are pretty hard to beat. They’re one of those plants that just keep on giving, and you’ll never regret buying one. Plant it in a permanent position in garden soil (they don’t last as long in pots) and it will flower every year between late January and early April, just when the garden needs a bit of colour.
…And there’s more great reasons to grow Hellebores! It won’t die after frost, snow, heat, drought or flood, it won’t need any looking after, it will grow in sun or shade, it will self-set seed so you can enjoy new and varied descendants of your original plant, looks good as a cut flower or alternatively you can float the flowers in water with floating candles, they won’t spread out of control and become a nuisence and they’re bee-friendly too!
As far a choosing plants is concerned, what could be better than a plant that looks after itself and looks this good at the same time?
If you let them set their seeds, you’ll find that they grow in all sorts of lovely colours, from white to pale green, pink to dark purple. Some have spotted markings and others don’t. It depends on the ‘parents’ of the new plant. Bees love Hellebores, and they carry pollen from one plant to another as they pay each flower a visit. If the pollen is mixed from one colour to another, their genetics will be passed on through the next generation and you’ll end up with features from both (like humans!). The best thing is, whatever colour it turns out to be, and I don’t think it matters that it’s not a pure hybrid anymore, they’re all beautiful and I always think it’s a lovely surprise when a new one pops up that’s a different colour to the others!
I have let the Hellebores multiply in the garden I look after, and now I know I’ll never have to buy one again. There are three good ways of getting a free Hellebore:
1. Around this time of year if you look on the ground around a Hellebore, you might find a few baby seedlings that have started to grow from last year’s seed. They have three, shiny green, small oval but pointed leaves with slightly jagged edges. At this time of year these leaves will be sat at the top of a little stalk that’s about 2-3cm tall. These seedlings can be directly transferred to where you want them by scooping them up with a trowel (try and keep the soil in tact) and planting the whole trowel-full somewhere else. If you’re careful with the soil, they won’t even know they’ve moved!
2. It’s very easy to collect seeds from Hellebores, they’re large, dark brown and shiny. If left to naturally self-set, they’re so big they just drop out of the flower and onto the ground, which is why you often end up with baby Hellebores growing around the parent. It’s fine to let them drop seed because you’ll end up with nice group of plants that way. But as soon as the flowers start to fade, look for the seeds inside and gather as many as possible. To get the quickest result when growing them, plant the seeds into a pot. Once they’re established, plant them out into the garden. Otherwise, you can just scatter the seeds where you want them and hope for the best, which is what I do!
3. Dig up a plant and move it somewhere else (that doesn’t mean stealing it off your neighbour!). Only dig up plants that are yours or that are offered to you! Hellebores cope quite well with being moved, so if you’ve got one growing where you can’t really see it, dig it up just after it’s finished flowering and replant it where you want it. Make sure you give it plenty of water just after re-planting.
One thing to remember is that Hellebore seedlings don’t appear quickly. Self-set seeds take up to three years to grow big enough to start flowering, but that said, they tend to surprise you by popping up out of thin air sometimes!