Flower of the Month – Hellebores

Family: Ranunculaceae

This bewitching and magical Winter bloom is historically known for both beauty and it’s bite. Historians believe it to be one of the plants (part of herbal mixture) responsible for death of Alexander the Great and according to a legend, witches used hellebore for the awakening of demons.

Christmas rose, Winter rose and Lenten rose are popular varieties of hellebores though despite their name, they are in no way genetically linked with roses.  This beautiful flower can be divided in two groups: those that have stem (caulescent) and those without stem (acaulescent). Acaulescent hellebores have basal leaves and a “naked” (leafless) flowering stalk.

Hellebore is propagated from seed and division and can reach 12 to 48 inches in height and 18 to 36 inches in width. They produce flowers 3 years after being sown and flower throughout Winter into early Spring.   Hellebore produces palmate, glossy, green colored leaves which on many species remain on the plant all year round.

Hellebore produces individual flowers that consist of 5 sepals and cup-shaped nectaries which are actually modified petals. New varieties of hellebores (created artificially, through hybridization of existing species) produce white, yellow, pink, red, grey, deep purple or nearly black flowers. Showy varieties of hellebores have one or more rows of extra petals and anemone-scented flowers. Our Victorian Grower of the Month, Baguley Flowers have recently patented two new varieties – a mauve and purple colour which are available through Dakota Flower Company at Epping Wholesale Flower Market. Download the fact sheet (and brand it with your business) to give out as a ‘take away’ to your customers buying Hellebores here.

The Hellebore flowers are a rich source of nectar which attracts insects. Thanks to specific anatomy of flowers, various types of insects can successfully pollinate these plants. Hellebore produces flowers with both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers). They can perform self-pollination in the case that natural pollinators are not available.

The name “Helleborus” originates from Greek words “helle” which means “to take away” and “bora” which means “food” which refers to the properties of the plant which were used medically to induce vomiting! It contains substances that can induce skin irritation in sensitive individuals.

Black hellebore was used for cleansing of the body and in treatment of paralysis, gout and mental disorders in the past. Black hellebore was also frequently used in treatment of intestinal worms. Unfortunately the unregulated dose of hellebore root was often fatal for children.

Cut Flower Tips:

– split the end of the stem vertically 2cm

– Submerge bottom few inches in hot water for about 10-15 minutes

– Re-snip stems and place in fresh water

– Change water daily

– Keep away from direct sun and heat