Hybrid hellebores

Combinations of species have yielded varieties for almost all situations.


Recent years have seen an explosion in the range of helleborus hybrids available to gardeners. The great thing is that that careful selection has created a number of varieties of real elegance, adaptability and durability. Unlike many snowdrop varieties, most are grown commercially, usually via tissue culture, making them more widely available and easier on the wallet!

The characteristics of each parent are also represented. Besides producing a gorgeous range of long-lasting flowers, this has also boosted the ornamental qualities of their foliage, with shapely leaves and silvery patterning a characteristic of many. The habitat preferences of the parents are also embodied in the various varieties, which means they are able to thrive in situations that the run of traditional Lenten roses, or Helleborus hybridus, would not tolerate.

H. hybridus is in reality a complex race of hybrids involving five or six related species. Over time it has resulted in an astonishing range of flowers, reaching various states of doubleness and flower colours from almost black to red, yellow and peachy shades, self-coloured, or spotted or blotched, with various double or anemone forms. It prefers moist soil or even clay in semi-shade, struggling in dry soil in sun.

H. lemonnierae, developed in Germany, has produced a vigorous plant with large forward-facing flowers on tall stems, which again prefers damp soil and semi-shade, but is also good in pots. Conversely H. ballardiae, H. ericsmithii and H. nigercors have variously used shade tolerant Christmas rose H. niger with drought tolerant H. argutifolius and sun-loving H. lividus enabling them to tolerate more exposure to sun and drier soil, with H. nigricors even tolerating dry shade if watered until established. There has never been so much choice in hellebores, and now everyone can try their hand and be successful.