Transplanting mature Hellebores now, in So CA?

Lisa Adams
6 months ago
last modified: 6 months ago

Hello everyone. Over 10 years ago I planted several varieties of Helleborus at my aunts house in San Marcos, CA.(Zone 10a). They’ve since grown happily into sizable clumps. My own home/garden is less than one mile from her place. My Aunt is going to move into a retirement community within the next 6 weeks. This has all come about suddenly, since a long awaited home just recently became available. It’s 4 homes down from the home my parents bought several months ago, so she jumped on it the very day it became available. The two sisters have never lived more than walking distance from each other, so I’m glad they’ll be living so close again soon.

I know it’s an absolutely horrible time of year to transplant them, but it’s now or never. I know Hellebores do well here in our alkaline, Southern CA clay soil. They’ll get a little morning sun and afternoon shade, just like they do at her place now. I have a few that are doing just fine in my own garden, in the same exposure and soil. I’d like them mainly for sentimental reasons, but they are also large healthy clumps, with lovely double blooms. Hellebores of that size cost plenty at the local nurseries, if you can find them at all. They’re not commonly grown in Southern California, although I don’t know why not. They are no fuss, drought tolerant (once established), and make a nice evergreen clump in dry shade. I enjoy using the blooms in arrangements when there’s not much available in the garden for cutting. Most folks have no idea what kind of flowers they are when they see Hellebores of any kind in my garden or in a bouquet, so they aren’t seen very much around here.

I’ve never transplanted mature Hellebores before, only small plants from their pots into the ground. I’ve certainly never messed with them in the middle of our hot dry summers. I’m wondering things like; how much I should cut them back before digging? Should I keep them potted up on my patio until late November (when things cool down around here), or plant them immediately into my garden? I know they aren’t going to like being moved now, and are not likely to bloom the first year or two after transplanting them. That’s ok with me. I just want to give them every chance at surviving possible. I’d love to wait until It’s cooler to move them, but it’s just not possible. My aunt will water the area thoroughly the day or two before I come to dig them out. If anyone knows how I can give them the best chance, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks so much. Lisa

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