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

What Are Lenten Roses?

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.

Growing Lenten Rose

  • 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: Division in late summer or autumn is the most common lenten rose propagation method. Hellebores can also be grown from seed but take three years to bloom.

Lenten Rose Varieties to Consider

Flower of a Pink Lady hellebore (lenten rose)
Pink Lady lenten rose. Photo by Jackie Tweddle
  • ‘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

Cutting Hellebores for Arrangements

Pink spotted hellebore flowers (lenten rose). One bud, one freshly opened flower with stamens, one flower starting to form seed pods.
The hellebore flower on the right shows the seed pods that have just started forming after the stamens have dropped. It will last significantly longer in a cut flower arrangement than the blossom on the left. Photo by Scisetti Alfio

To get Lenten rose blossoms to last for longer than a day in an arrangement, you need to cut the flowers at the right time. The freshly-opened blossoms loaded with stamens will most likely wilt and hang their heads. Cut hellebore flowers when they have dropped most of their stamens and are starting form a seed pod at the center of the blossom. Their colors may have faded just a bit at this stage, but the flowers will usually last more than a week.

Lenten Rose Arrangements

Hellebores are not only a beautiful harbinger of spring, but a hardy cut flower with a vase life of 10-14 days. Below are some of our most popular arrangements that incorporate Lenten rose flowers.

sullivan owen arrangements

A green and white springtime arrangement by Sullivan Owen. Sullivan Owen | Flower List: hellebores, hyacinths, tulips, lilacs, spray roses, dusty miller. Photo by Alison Conklin

See more Sullivan Owen arrangements.

Rustic blue woven basket filled with flowers arranged by Sybil Sylvester of Wildflower Designs.

This rustic blue basket looks as though floral designer Sybil Sylvester of Wildflower Designs just scooped up a section of early spring garden. The composition includes hellebores, roses, and a mix of fragrant herbs including geranium, mint, sage, and lavender along with maidenhair fern and other flowers.

See more  of Sybil’s arrangements.

Early spring budding branches arrangement
Photo by James Fitzgerald III

Françoise Weeks’ arrangement captures the magic of new growth. Flower List: muscari, hellebores, anemones, ranunculus, sweet peas,  alshemilla, magnolia branches, succulents, moss, maidenhair ferns, and koala ferns. Photo by James Fitzgerald III

See more of Françoise’s springtime arrangements.

Connected two-piece floral arrangement with succulents designed by Susan McLeary

In this two-piece arrangement designed by Susan McLeary, succulents, ranunculus, hellebores, sweet peas, jasmine vine, tulips, muscari, and Fritillaria persica fill a verdigris container and appear to have sprung up from the top of this side table. Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle

See more of Susan McLeary’s springtime arrangements.

Galvanized metal pitcher filled with hellebores, crab apple flowers, and English daisies.

Green-centered hellebores, crab apple blossoms in shades of pink, and English daisies fill a galvanized metal picther. What’s not to love? Photo by Natalia Greeske

By Troy Rhone

See more from Troy Rhone on his website and following him on Instagram.

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