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davidrt28

Is there a reason Helleborus niger are so hard to find these days?

2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

First of all, let it be known I'm not super into them - the whole genus I mean. I have a few Hellebores here and there in the garden, and even some slightly rare ones, but it's never been an obsession.

That being said, I remember frequently seeing the Christmas Rose listed at Seneca Hill Perennials, for example. So that was < 2010 or whenever Ellen closed up shop forever. [sad emoji] But I'm surprised that, right now, the only current 'name brand' mail order supplier seems to be Plant Delights. Why none of the PNW retailers? Of course those are sadly diminishing in number, with the closure a couple years ago of Colvos Creek. Why doesn't a place like Keeping it Green have them?

I just wonder if, other than perhaps being unfashionably plain white, there's another reason they aren't seen as often. Are they hard to raise from seed compared to various trendy seed strains of H. X hybridus? Is there some kind of virus or pathogen that is affecting stocks of that species?

Comments (22)

  • 2 months ago

    I don't have an explanation why they are not more common with popular mail order sources. They are pretty widely available in my area at local nurseries and garden centers but purchased in from large wholesale growers for resale. And tend to be a very seasonal item as well (as are all other hellebore varieties - not a stock perennial).

    All that I have seen over the last few years have been named forms, developed by the massive German plant breeder Heuger Gartenbaubetriebe, and sold under the trademarked name of HGC or Helleborus Gold Collection. They offer a bunch of nigras (7) with cultivar names like Jacob, Joel, Jasper, Jonas, Jesko......and Diva and Wintergold.

    To be honest, based on my personal experience in the retail nursery industry and as a former perennial buyer, these hellebores are not nearly as popular as the much more colorful xhybridus or the newer interspecific hybrids. They seem to appeal more to serious hellebore aficionados and collectors rather than the general gardening public. And to be fair, nigras tend to flower so early in the season, they are often buried in snow in colder climes. But the plants are out there and to my knowledge, unaffected by any pathogens.

    https://www.helleborus.de/us/winter-flowerers/christmas-roses/popular-varieties

    davidrt28 (zone 7) thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • 2 months ago

    nigras tend to flower so early in the season, they are often buried in snow in colder climes.

    No, they aren't. Here, they flower in March, and while they may get snowed on, March snow doesn't stick around. They aren't more likely to be buried than the early crocus, and less likely than snowdrops.


    davidrt28 (zone 7) thanked mad_gallica (z5 Eastern NY)
  • 2 months ago

    While that may be true where you live, mad gallica, I am not sure that is consistent with everyone's experience. They are not commonly called Christmas Rose for nothing! In an article written by Margret Delves-Broughton, she states: "the best thing about my beloved Helleborus niger – it blooms in December. In fact, it’s loaded with buds in my northwest Connecticut garden right now (article was written on November 16th). It has blossomed every year that I’ve had it at this time, though I must add that some years we’ve had snow cover by this point so technically, I can’t verify that it bloomed during those winters. Any new gardener will laugh when they hear that the first few times it bloomed in December, I asked other gardeners what they thought was going on. Most of them looked at me funny and said that the plant must be “confused.” It turns out that it’s not confused – it’s supposed to do this! According to the Missouri Botanic Garden, “Helleborus niger, commonly called Christmas rose, is a winter-blooming evergreen perennial which blooms around Christmas time in warm winter regions, but later in the cold northern parts of the growing range…. Flowers sometimes bloom in the snow and bloom can survive spurts of sub-zero temperatures.”

    davidrt28 (zone 7) thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • 2 months ago

    So this must be different definitions of 'later', 'Christmas', and 'November'.

    davidrt28 (zone 7) thanked mad_gallica (z5 Eastern NY)
  • 2 months ago

    I thought they were called Lenten rose. Which makes sense where I live, they usually bloom somewhere around this time, March or so. Mine got smushed by a heavy, wet snow this year, they're looking pretty sad. Eh, I can't really see them well from the house anyway, so I don't really care.

    davidrt28 (zone 7) thanked mxk3 z5b_MI
  • 2 months ago

    O, I think it is just fashion, David. A while ago, hellebore niger were largely superceded by various hybrids(ericsmithii, nigercors etc.) and the varied colours of highly bred hellebore orientalis. Imade a rather long car-trip (for me) to buy a single yellow-flowered orientalis in bloom. Not that much call for a plain white, single h.niger (although I dearly love my sole Potter's Wheel and some seed raised 'children of Ushba' plants from Derry Watkins 'Special Plants')...which have been blooming since late January/early Feb - certainly not around Xmas.


    I tend to avoid doing all that chopping back of foliage on the h,nigers since they are never as vigorous as the orientalis, so I tend to leave them be to get as much energy as possible via the (often tattyish) foliage. Might be the wrong thing to do but hey ho, that's where I am at.

    davidrt28 (zone 7) thanked rosaprimula UK (Cambridge) Z8/9
  • 2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Can you identify these two Hellebores? I have a pink one, purple one and one that has greenish-cream flowers, and YES, I have some these bloom here in NJ in December and throughout the winter, I just am not out the yard usually looking for blooms in the Winter. I love this genus of plants, not too much in full bloom in early to mid winter here.





    davidrt28 (zone 7) thanked 41 North (Zone 7a/b, NE, coastal)
  • 2 months ago

    Thanks for the replies! I am relieved there isn't some nefarious reason (like a virus) that they have become uncommon.


  • 2 months ago

    THEY ARE EXPENSIVE, could be a reason!

  • 2 months ago

    " I thought they were called Lenten rose. "

    That is a different type of hellebore. Nigra is often called Christmas rose because it is one of the earliest to bloom........typically in December in its native environment as well as in local gardens.

    Lenten rose is the common name applied to orientalis and the orientalis hybrids (xhybridus). I'd guess they may well bloom at Lent in colder climates but they have been blooming for months here.

  • 2 months ago

    I don't find hellebores to be any more expensive than most other evergreen perennials. Most are around $17-25 for a gallon sized plant in full bloom. I just bought some lupine that were $18.99/gallon!

  • 2 months ago

    Zounds!! And I thought west coast plant prices were high!!

    Just bought 5, 3 gallon sized pieris for a new planting I am doing and they were $49.99 each. $50 bucks for a one gallon would be something you see here with Japanese maples. Never perennials.

  • 2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    No idea why they are so $$$ here, but they ARE!, and perfectly hardy here.

  • 2 months ago

    Most perennials are in the $25 to $35 range for a one gallon size. Hellebores are painfully high.

  • last month

    pine knot had 3 different whites in stock ss laye as April 1. it was mostly the whites in the Gold Collection that were sold out.


    i got interested in whtes bevause i saw some photos of f a huge woodland collection. white helebores were interspersed every several feet. they lit up the planting and made all the other s look more vibrant.

  • last month

    If you want to try growing them from seed, Marie (and they are not difficult), Special Plants sell a strain of orientalis called 'Ushba's Children'. The Original 'Ushba' was bred by Helen Ballard and is far superior to 'Mrs Betty Ranicar' - another famous white (albeit a double). Special Plants do ship to the US - I grow many of her seeds. One of the true test of seed merchant's quality and honesty is transparency regarding seeds which have a short period of viability...notably in the apiaceae and ranunculaceae. families. Derry will only sell these seeds when they are fresh...whereas many seed vendors will sell you any old stuff.

  • last month

    Just a FYI but neither Mrs. Betty Ranicar or Ushba's Children are cultivars of Helleborus niger.

  • last month

    I've thought of ordering from Special Plants...they are interesting nursery with some rarities I've never seen for sale in the US.

    Still I'm not sure I have the patience to grow these from seed. Might just keep my eye open for other sales outlets in the US - for plants.


  • last month

    Rosaprimula

    thanks. you mean in pots, not just haphazardly tossing seeds around on the ground?

    i think it would be good for the pocketbook and the soul to do that. i get SO bored and dispirited in winter. many decades ago, before kids, i germinated tomato seeds and had a house full of plants. it was fun but my ability to feed and care for dependents did not extend to indoor vegetative beings. (things?)

    davidrt28 (zone 7) thanked Marie Tulin
  • last month
    last modified: last month

    Yes, I have grown these myself and know perfectly well what species they are (and believe I stated as much in my post)...but I am responding to Marie's interest in whites (and we have also somewhat diverted away from talking solely about h.niger).

    They are surprisingly easy David, making sturdy little plantlets in their first year (from an autumn sowing). They can be tucked into a quiet part of the garden and left alone and without any further effort from the gardener, plants can be had in bloom in the third year. I do get it about patience though...not really because I am getting less patient, just more aware of the diminishing number of sowing seasons I may have left.(apolsfor existential gloom). Can I really wait years and years to see a mature bloom when I could simply spend some cash...and a smallish amount, considering the pleasure a plant can give.

    davidrt28 (zone 7) thanked rosaprimula UK (Cambridge) Z8/9
  • last month

    I do, Marie. I am really should be a nursery worker rather than a gardener because most of all, I love the whole process of raising my own little plants from seed (and a few from cuttings, less from divisions). Hellebores have nice fat seeds which can be sown singly in small pots and overwintered outside or in a cold frame (you will need to put a covering net over the pots to protect from birds and rodents). By doing nothing, the small seeds will know when to emerge in spring (they are very reliable) and can be put in the garden as soon as they get their first true leaves. Hellebores are one of the more gratifying plants to raise from seed. Indeed, seed sowing is my winter pleasure - you may find it a bit addictive but it is a cheap and easy way to get a lot of plants.

    The fancier intergeneric hellebore hybrids are not likely to release seed (being mostly sterile) but the orientalis seeds are usually plentiful...as anyone rummaging beneath a mature hellebore can plainly see (zillions of seedlings). Sowing in pots is a manageable way to get the plants you want though, rather than randomly scattering (although I do that too, with hardy annuals).