Helleborus orientalis subsp. abchasicus (Early Purple Group)
Common Name: hellebore
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Northwestern Balkans
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: December to January
Bloom Description: Purple-red to plum-purple
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Heavy Shade, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil, Air Pollution

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, humusy, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Locate plants in areas protected from cold winter winds. New plants can be obtained from division of the clumps (best in spring) and from seedlings which grow up around the plants as a result of self seeding. Unlike the species, this plant usually blooms closer to the earlier blooming Helleborus niger.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Helleborus orientalis, commonly called Lenten rose, is a clump-forming, late winter-blooming perennial which typically grows 1-1.5' tall. Features large, cup-shaped, rose-like, usually nodding flowers (3-4" diameter) with center crowns of conspicuously contrasting yellow stamens. Flowers usually appear in clusters of 1-4 on thick stems rising above the foliage. Flower color is extremely variable, ranging from white to pink to light rose-purple, frequently with interior spotting. Palmate, serrate, leathery, 8-16" wide, glossy, basal, dark green leaves (7-9 leaflets) are evergreen in warm climates but deciduous in extremely cold winters. In the St. Louis area, plants will remain evergreen in moderate winters, but may become scorched and tattered in extremely cold weather, particularly if not insulated by snow cover. Blooms in late winter (sometimes when snow is still present) and continues into spring, with a long, 8-10 week bloom period. Leaves, stems and roots are poisonous.

Genus name comes from the Greek words bora meaning food and helein meaning injures/destroys in reference to the plant’s toxic leaves, stems and roots which are poisonous to humans if ingested.

Specific epithet means from the Orient.

Early Purple Group grows 9-15" tall. Features large, cup-shaped, rose-like, usually nodding, plum-purple flowers (1.5-2" diameter) with center crowns of conspicuously contrasting yellow stamens. Flowers usually appear in clusters of 2-3 on thick stems rising above the foliage. Bloom period varies considerably depending on winter climate (usually December in warmer regions to February in colder climates).

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Leaf spot and crown rot are occasional problems.

Garden Uses

Clumps of this hellebore blooming in winter can be very special. Locate plants near a kitchen window, patio or walkway so that the early bloom may be enjoyed to the fullest. Group in shady locations under trees or large shrubs, woodland gardens or border fronts. May also be massed to form an attractive ground cover.