Hellebore plants (Helleborus spp.) are cool-season perennials that bloom in a wide range of colors at a time of year when few outdoor flowers bloom. Also known as Christmas rose and Lenten rose, hellebores often spring up through openings in late-winter snow. There are several hellebore species and varieties, hardy from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, but all have the same basic needs. The plants grow best in semi-shaded, well-draining areas, where they flourish and multiply with little maintenance or care. Well cared for hellebore are relatively pest- and disease-free.
Remove the previous year's foliage from hellebore plants as midwinter approaches. The old foliage detracts from the blooms that will soon arrive. Use sharp garden shears to cut foliage cleanly. Sterilize the blades with household disinfectant before and after your prune. This prevents the spread of disease to or from your plant.
Water hellebores as needed to supplemental natural precipitation. Mature plants withstand drought, but they prefer moist, well-drained soil. Good drainage is especially important to prevent roots from damage. Water thoroughly when you water, then allow the area to dry out before you water again.
Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic compost around hellebore plants, and work it lightly into the top layer of soil. This provides gentle nutrients, and it is all the fertilizer your hellebores need. An extra layer of compost as mulch provides nutrients, helps retain soil moisture and prevents weeds.
Keep hellebore plants pest-free by regularly checking plants. They have very few pests and are not attractive to rabbits, voles or deer. Slugs may bother hellebores in moist situations. If slugs are a problem, take a piece of annual melon rind, such as canteloupe (Cucumis melo), and turn it upside down. Slugs will come to the rind overnight and can then be destroyed.
Remove hellebore flowers when blooms finish if you don't want more hellebores in your garden. When spent blooms are left in place, the plants set seed and multiply. If you allow hellebores to increase, the seedlings can easily be moved to a new location the next year. Seedlings are not true to seed, so the color of new plants will be a surprise.