Lenten Rose Plant – The Christmas Rose

multiple blooms of the lenten Christmas rose

Though many gardeners believe the Lenten rose to be new, this winter-blooming perennial is actually quite old.

The Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, is a native of Europe. It has been grown in this country for many years.

Legends of The Christmas Rose

Growing abundantly in the Alsatian Mountains.

It is said that this lovely flower first came into bloom at the very hour of the Christ Child’s birth; and so ever since it has been known as the Christmas Rose.

Then again, it is said that it was the one flower that Adam and Eve chose to take with them, upon being driven from the Garden of Eden.

These, of course, are but legends. However, the Christmas Rose is of very ancient origin flourishing in England in the time of the great herbalist, Gerard (17th century).

It was so highly thought of in that day that it was grown extensively at Christmas Time for its bloom, and so from this, really comes its name.

Helleborus – Buttercup Relative

The Helleborus belongs to the Ranuneulaceae, Buttercup family, and there are a number of different species of it, most of them being natives of Europe.

The best known of the European Helleborus is the Christmas Rose, or black Hellebore (Helleborus niger), so called because of its black root stock. This is also the one which is best known to our American gardens.

Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose), was the one with which the ancients were most familiar. It was a native of Greece. In those days it was said to have the virtue of curing insanity.

18th Century Introduction Unappreciated

These interesting plants were introduced into our country as early as the 18th century, but it is only of recent years that they are beginning to be known, or to be revived, and yet they are not appreciated to the extent that such lovely and valuable plants deserve to be!

The Christmas Rose is well and favorably known. Gardeners should add it to their collection if it is not already growing on their premises.

A Winter Bloomer

Now that so much is said about continuous bloom in the garden, the value of the Helleborus should be particularly stressed because of their winter-blooming period. Their time of boom in the Middle Atlantic States is from the latter part of October, to the first of March.

Further North, the blooming period would be later of course. The Helleborus come at a time when the garden is destitute of bloom, and shine out like rare jewels amid their bleak and wintry setting.

They send up their glorious blossoms through snow and bitter cold, with only a slight protection when the weather is at its worst!

It is a plant of rare beauty and perfect hardiness, and makes an excellent cut flower as well, lasting for days, in splendid condition, in the house.

Helleborus Niger has rich evergreen foliage with large, waxen-white blossoms which open flat out, showing, a golden-stained center. The stems shoot straight from the ground to a height of eight or ten inches, hearing a blossom nearly an inch and a half in diameter.

This plant resembles the Japanese anemone more than anything else that I can recall, but is much hardier than that plant.

Helleborus orientalis, (Lenten Rose), blooms somewhat later than Helleborus niger. It comes in varying shades of pink, and is also very lovely.

Growing and Care

The Helleborus are somewhat temperamental, and resent a move, but when once established, increase, both in beauty and value, from year to year.

They like a northern exposure, in half shade, thus making an excellent rock-garden plant, as well as one for the shrubbery border.

The Christmas Rose will grow in ordinary garden soil, but best results are obtained from a mixture of coarse sand and rich loam, over spread with a mulch of well-rotted fertilizer.

Helleborus will grow in full sun, partial shade or shade; however, the soil must be well drained and moderately moist.

Try these beautiful plants in your own garden, and you will surely find them, as I have, a source of continuous interest and never ending delight!

The glistening white flowers 2 inches across that appear intermittently from early November until early spring, usually when the temperature hovers above 40° for a few days.

The foliage is evergreen and grows from 8 to 10 inches high. Although many imported plants that are delivered in the fall have difficulty getting started, they are extremely hardy once established. They can be grown in the most northern states.

helleborus niger the Christmas Rose

Usually more vigorous than the Christmas-rose is the spring-blooming, Helleborus orientalis. It blooms with the snowdrops and winter aconites or sometimes a bit earlier.

The flowers range from white to deep plum. The foliage is not quite as evergreen as that of the Christmas-rose. In spring the new flowers rise above the flattened foliage, appearing quite spectacular for six or eight weeks until the new foliage hides it.

Blooms in Flower Arranging

Few flowers hold greater delight for the flower arranger than does the Christmas rose.

With proper handling, the cut flowers will last 10 or more days. Take a jar of water into the garden and place the stems in it when cutting the blooms. Stems that are frozen can also be cut if handled gently and not bruised. The flowers should then be hardened overnight in deep water in a cold place.

Complete immersion of the blooms for hardening will take away some of the translucence, and the same can be done with other helleborus.

With Lenten roses the period should be shorter. Leaves should never be cut, since they need a full season to develop.

Deep containers that allow stems to stand in two or three inches of water are best, and moisture-holding material should be avoided.

When shallow containers are used, the pin holder containing the arrangement should be lifted and placed in deeper water at night. Any grouping of Christmas roses will last longer if placed where the air is fresh and cool during the night.

When flowers droop indoors, slice a bit off the stem and place in cold water.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

stephen September 5, 2012 at 9:15 am

On a site of this high a caliber, I would expect that you use correct Latin. The name used for a plant might be disputed among various experts. But using clearly incorrect Latin like Hellebores is not. The common name is Hellebore. The Latin is Helleborus. When using the species name, for example Helleborus niger, the second word is never capitalized.

admin September 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm

You are correct… Updated!