Photo: Joanne Pavia
Helleborus orientalis

Quick facts and care essentials

Sunset  – September 23, 2004

• Zones 2–10, 14–24, 31–41
• Full sun in winter; partial to full shade for rest of year
• Regular watering

Lenten rose blooms late in winter, bearing nodding, 2-inch flowers in shades of whitish green, soft purple, or rose, often spotted with purple. The “petals” are actually sepals that shelter the tiny true flowers, which are nestled in the blossom center surrounded by a clump of yellow stamens.

These petal-like sepals remain on the plant for several months, long after the true flowers have faded and seeds have set. Leaves are large (to 1 foot across) and dark green, divided into five to 11 tooth-edged leaflets; they’re evergreen in mild-winter climates, though you may want to remove tattered foliage during fall cleanup. Both foliage and flower stems emerge from a central point; plants eventually form clumps about 2 feet tall and wide.

Grow Lenten rose in a spot that receives winter sun but is later shaded by deciduous trees or shrubs. It prefers rich, well-amended, neutral to alkaline soil. Don’t fertilize more than once or twice a year.

Lenten rose can be divided, but doing so is not recommended, since divided plants take several years to recuperate. However, plants self-sow readily―so to gain additional plants, simply let spent flowers go to seed.