Prune Your Hellebores: A Public Service Announcement

by Genevieve on August 14, 2011

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Lenten roses, Helleborus orientalis, are gorgeous in winter. They’re gorgeous in spring, too.

But if you don’t deadhead them once they’re done blooming, they stop being gorgeous and start looking ratty.

Then, they turn into spawning hellcats, dropping masses of seeds that sprout into masses of tiny, slow-growing, hard-to-remove seedlings that, yes, could theoretically turn into fresh new hellebores if you wait ten years, transplant them into better locations, and coddle them, but practically speaking, will look like weeds and use up the water and nutrients meant for your parent plant without giving anything substantial in return.

Deadhead them.

It’s simple: if a stalk has a bloom on it, cut the whole stalk down to the ground. You’ll be left with a lovely mass of foliage.

Then, in winter, when the blooms come up, you do the opposite: cut out any stalks that are obviously last year’s leaves (there may be a few brand-new leaves coming from the base, but those are easy to spot and leave be). Your Hellebore will then look like this:

helleborus orientalis pruned

Easy, right?

If you’re a Humboldt County local and you need help getting to all of this, give me a call. My pruning and fine perennial maintenance crew is happy to take care of all of these things at the right times of the year, so that all you have to do is relax and enjoy your space.

More about Hellebores here.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie/GardenofPossibilities August 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Gen, I definitely needed to see that PSA. I’m guilty of just letting my hellebores do their thing. Perhaps that’s why they never quite look their best. I’ll take your advice and prune appropriately. Do you think it’s too late to prune out old flower stalks now?

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Genevieve August 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Debbie – it’s never too late! I think the improved looks and airflow is reason enough to get to it right now. It’s hard to get to your own when you’re a pro and always thinking about someone else’s garden, though. I can sympathize for sure!

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fred currence September 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Should I remove the old leaves as soon S I see new growth coming in or wait until the blooms form?

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