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Lenten Rose Care

Holy hellebores! Landscape designer Troy Rhone tells all about Lenten roses, including tips for their care and some of his favorite varieties to consider for your garden
helleborus lenten rose care
Photo by Nikolay Kurzenko, Shutterstock

The Helleborus x hybrids, or Lenten rose, was given its nickname because it blooms from February to April—that 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter known as Lent. Just when the winter doldrums begin to set in, this glorious plant springs to life—a burst of light and hope echoing the promise of resurrection in the midst of darkness.

Although these particular hellebores resemble wild roses, they are not true roses. They belong to the Ranunculacaea family. The most widely known Lenten rose has rich dark-green foliage and light yellow-green to vibrant red petals. However, there are many varieties, and colors can range from a deep blood-red to pure white and subtle variations in between. The bloom has five petals surrounding a ring of small, cuplike pods. Unlike most flowers, the sepals don’t fall but hold on until spring arrives.

helleborus lenten rose care
Try a frothy gathering of Lenten roses in a small, round ceramic container, or one to three blooms in a silver trumpet vase, or even a Lenten wire wreath to celebrate the season. Photo by Ivora Obrazy, Shutterstock

The foliage and flowers of the Lenten rose are perfect for cut-flower arrangements. When cutting a stem from a plant, be sure to cut at an angle and then cut vertically into the stem about 1 inch. This will help the stem and flower absorb more water and survive for at least a week or longer.

Lenten Rose Care

  • Culture: Plant a Lenten rose in rich, loose, woodsy soil, and fertilize in early spring. This slow-growing plant dislikes being disturbed and will be slow to recover when moved.
  • Light: Heavy to light shade
  • Moisture: Prefers moist, well-drained soil but is adaptable to drier situations
  • Hardiness: Zones 4–9, remains evergreen from Zones 6–9
  • Propagation: By division in late summer or autumn. Can also be grown from seed but take three years to bloom.

Lenten Rose Varieties to Consider

  • ‘Red Lady’: single petal, deep red
  • ‘Pink Lady’: single petal, white with blushed pink
  • ‘Winter Queen’: single petal with red, lavender to pink petals
  • ‘Mrs. Betty Ranicar’: heavy double bloom, snow white

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