Adding multiple varieties extends blooming enjoyment. Photo by Janet B. Carson
Hellebores come in single- or double-flowering blooms. Photo by Janet B. Carson

When gardeners think of flowering perennials, they think of plants that bloom in the spring, summer or fall. But there is a tough family of evergreen perennial plants that shows off in the winter months. Hellebores are must-have plants in any shade garden. Not only do they give us color when most plants are dormant, but since they are poisonous, they are deer-resistant as well.

Commonly called Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose, today there are many hybrid options to choose from. Depending on variety, some can begin to bloom as early as November, and some will bloom through April.

Flowers on new varieties are large, upright and come in shades of white, pink and red, with two-tone and speckled options. Flowers can be single or double. After flowers are pollinated, sepals (or outside petals) persist and change colors until seeds are ripe. Left alone, seeds will scatter and self-sow. These plants are not invasive, but you can get a nice colony going over time.

Hellebores come in a wide variety of colors, including almost black. Photo by Janet B. Carson

Hellebores thrive in shady locations with well-drained soil. They do well under deciduous trees; they tolerate more sunlight in cooler months. Their evergreen foliage is relatively coarse and deeply lobed, blending well with other perennials. These low-growing plants rarely exceed 24 inches. They typically begin to grow new foliage in the fall and early winter. When their bloom period ends, they are basically dormant during the warm summer months, retaining their foliage with just a slight amount of water once established. All plants need at least a year or two of regular watering to get root systems established.

While old-fashioned hellebores have their place in the garden, there are some newer options to try.

Ice N’ RosesEarly Red, Frosted Rose, White, BaroloBloom November through January in white, pink, red and bi-colored shades.
Ballard Hellebores hybrids –
early bloomers
Cinnamon Snow, Merlin, Pink FrostBloom mid-to-late December through March.
Spring PromiseAlice, Lily, ConnySingle and double flowers in wide range of colors.
Wedding PartyConfetti Cake, Childhood Sweetheart, Dark and Handsome, Flower GirlDouble flowers. Bloom late winter in shades of
white, yellow, pink, mauve and black.
Winter JewelsApricot Blush, Painted, Double Painted, Cotton CandySingle- and double-flowered forms available in wide range of colors with many bi-colors.