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Even though the shortest day is nearly a month ago and the days are lengthening imperceptibly, July and August can be the bleakest months of the year. Which is where the delightful hellebores come in . . .

Winter rose is one of the many names given to plants in the increasingly popular hellebores. Their delicate nodding heads in white, pink, purple and red tones are a charming addition to the winter garden.

They have attractive leathery leaves, often with spiny borders, and pretty, open, cup-shaped flowers that do look a bit like single roses (hence the name) in shades of pink, maroon and cream that can age to a fascinating green. The species have been widely hybridised but they all provide interest at a time of year when flowers can be scarce.


Even though they’re quite hardy, just like any other plant, hellebores will perform much better if given good care. They’re shade tolerant and can handle dry periods, which makes them ideal for use as ground covers under established trees.

Before planting, dig in Yates Dynamic Lifter Organic Plant Food to help enrich the soil. Feed well during the flowering season with Yates Thrive Rose & Flower Granular Plant Food.


Hellebores can also be grown in pots. You won’t need a very deep container, look for one at least 200mm deep. Choose a top quality potting mix – like Yates Premium Potting Mix – and feed throughout the year with Yates Thrive Roses & Flowers Liquid Plant Food.


Hellebores grow readily from seed and, if they’re happy, the plants will often spread themselves around the garden. But if you want to try growing numbers of plants from seed, it’s recommended to mix the seeds through some moist peat moss and leave in the freezer for a few weeks before sowing into pots of Yates Black Magic Seed Raising Mix. This is called stratifying, a process that imitates the cold winter the seeds would experience in their natural habitat.

Take care when storing and handling the seeds and flowers – all parts of the plants are poisonous.


Hellebores have very few problems. Most can be solved by growing the plants in congenial conditions (which means adequate food and water). The plants aren’t often attacked by snails, but do provide shelter for these pests. Hence, a judicious sprinkle of snail pellets every so often — Yates Blitzem Slug & Snail Pellets — will help.

If the plants start to look untidy, there’s no harm in pruning off the ugly bits. New shoots will soon emerge and open into fresh leaves.


The rose-like flowers of hellebores look charming in mixed posies, but very young blooms are inclined to droop quickly. Pick mature blooms early in the morning, and split the stems vertically. Then plunge into water for a good soak before arranging.

— Courtesy of Yates

WHITE MAGIC: Hellebores in the Bolton Street Cemetery in Wellington.
DELICATE: The rose-like blooms of the hellebore can be pink, maroon or cream but as they age, they turn a fascinating green.