Helleborus argutifolius
Common Name: Corsican hellebore
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Corsica, Sardinia
Zone: 6 to 8
Height: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: February to April
Bloom Description: Pale green
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Heavy Shade

Culture

Easily grown in moist, organically rich, humusy, neutral to alkaline, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers light to moderate shade. H. argutifolius tolerates periods of full sun more than most other species of hellebore. Established plants tolerate periods of drought. Plants grown near the northern edge of the growing range (winter hardy to USDA Zone 6) should be located in areas protected from cold winter winds. Prolonged cold spells in winter will damage the foliage (browns up). Cut back damaged leaves in late winter (before flowering) and flowering stems after bloom in order to promote new foliage growth. Plants may self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Helleborus argutifolius, commonly called Corsican hellebore, is a clump forming evergreen perennial that is native to a variety of locations (hillsides, ravines, woodlands and roadsides) in Corsica and Sardinia. This hellebore is one of the larger species in the genus. It typically grows to 18-24” tall and as wide on stout leafy stems, but will occasionally reach 3-4' tall in some environments. It is a caulescent (leafy stems but no basal leaves) species which is grown not only for its late winter/early spring flowers but also for its coarse but bold evergreen foliage which is attractive year round. Each trifoliate leaf (unusual for hellebores) has three rough, thick, spiny-toothed, elliptic, blue-green to gray-green leaflets (each leaflet to 5-7" long). Although foliage is evergreen, it may become scorched and tattered in extremely harsh winters, particularly if not insulated by snow cover. Nodding, bowl-shaped flowers (to 2" across), each with five large, showy, petal-like, pale green sepals (petals are quite small and inconspicuous), bloom February–April in large open clusters at the stem ends.

Some authorities now consider Helleborus argutifolius to be a synonym of Helleborus lividus subsp. corsicus.

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 comes from the Latin words argutus meaning sharp and folius meaning leaf in reference to the sharply-toothed leaf margins.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Crown rot and leaf spot are occasional problems. Watch for aphids and slugs.

Garden Uses

Flowers that bloom in February in St. Louis are true harbingers of spring. Locate plants near a kitchen window, patio or walkway so that the early bloom may be enjoyed to the fullest. Group in part shady locations under trees, large shrubs or in woodland gardens. May also be incorporated into a naturalized area where the clumps will slowly spread through self-seeding. Mass for an attractive year round ground cover.