JoAnne Skelly: Hellebores — the Lenten roses

Last week, I went to visit Greenhouse Garden Center in Carson City with my plant buddy Peggy. While a bit early for full inventory, they had some amazing hellebores. They’re also called Lenten roses because they bloom at the beginning of Lent. Because most are lower light lovers, I had never looked at them for our full-sun yard. However, now that our trees are mature, I have many more shady spots to incorporate shade-tolerant plants.

Hellebores are in the Ranunculus family, which explains their gorgeous cup- or bell-shaped flower structure, with paper thin petal-like structures called sepals. The sepals may be in single or multiple layers with beautiful old-fashioned colors from deep magenta with yellow anthers and filaments rising above the petals (Helloborus Gold Collection “Ice N’ Roses” Red) to a variety with a maroon-tinged throat, butter yellow petal edges and an orange interior (Helloborus Honeymoon “Rio Carnival”). Another plant had a multi-petaled pale yellow flower (Helloborus Winter Thriller “Sunshine”). One plant reminded me of a fuchsia with its bright pink multiple petals and its pale cream throat (Helleborus Winter Jewels “Cotton Candy”). I’ve read there’s a dark purple hellebore that’s almost black. There are many other colors available. Colors usually fade to green over time.

Hellebores are cool season bloomers with deep green leaves. They require well-drained soil and do thrive in our alkaline soils. Once planted, let them stay where they are rather than disturbing them by replanting. If happy in their location, they might self-seed and the seedlings can be transplanted in early spring.

With all parts being poisonous if ingested, rodents and deer seem to avoid these beauties, an added bonus.

Here are some upcoming garden events to put on your calendar:

Foothill Garden Education Series — Free class, 11 a.m. to noon April 5: “Growing Superb Strawberries!,” outdoors, weather permitting, at the Foothill Garden, 1535 Medical Parkway in North Carson, behind the Carson Tahoe Hospital Cancer Institute. Seating is limited, so bring a chair.

The Greenhouse Project Plant Sale — 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 13, located to the east of Carson High School at 1111 Saliman Road — turn left onto Robinson next to Carson High School. Get your cool season vegetable transplants — kale, chard, spinach and more.

The Carson City Community Garden has a few spots left. Call University of Nevada Cooperative Extension at 775-887-2252 for information.

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment