If you crave a colour during the darkest days of winter, there’s no more a reliable performer than the hellebore. These winter stars are perfect for borders that would otherwise lie barren – sites under deciduous trees and shrubs are ideal, allowing light to penetrate during the short days but benefitting from dappled shade during warmer months.
Hellebores like rich, well-drained soil but won’t tolerate waterlogging or bone-dry sites. Prior to autumn planting, dig in well-rotted compost, then plant at the same level as in their pot, as they also don’t care for deep planting. Mulching will help to lock in moisture, but take care to avoid mulch touching the base of stems, which can lead to rot.
Don’t worry if flowering stems of hellebores are flattened after a hard frost, as they recover quickly – often within a few hours – and will soon stand proud once more.
The Christmas rose (H. niger) is one of the most commonly grown semi-evergreens but it demands good drainage, while H. sternii is a good choice for sites in full sun. Oriental hybrids (H. hybridus) are hardy and easy to grow, while H. foetidus will tolerate deep shade. All hellebores will thank you for shelter from cold winds and the prompt removal of diseased leaves.