A plant that flowers in winter has a head start in making it onto any plants lover’s list. This perennial is one that can grow in Kentucky gardens from the knobs and bluegrass to Ohio River, making it a plant for all regions, over a wide range of climates. Despite its common name, Lenten Rose is not a garden rose at all.


Native to Asia minor and Eurasia, the Lenten Rose is considered by plant people around the world as an easy-to-grow, winter or early-spring flowering evergreen herbaceous plant that is exquisite in flower and foliage. The large bell-shaped white to purple flowers hang down; some call it drooping. The flowers used to be described as white- to rose- speckled, but breeders have made dramatic strides in very recent years to provide a diversity of colors including dark purple, almost black, red and even yellow. The blooms average 3-4 inches wide and have a relatively long bloom duration of 8-10 weeks. Hardy to zones 4-9; hellebores grow 15-18 inches tall.

Helleborus x hybridus like partial to full shade and a moist alkaline soil, but are tolerant of soil environment and can tolerate a brief drought. Pruning to remove the winter-tattered foliage just before bloom in February to provide a better show for the emerging flowers is recommended.

Helleborus x hybridus does produce seed that can result in numerous plants under and around the original plant that require removal if they are not the same as the original. Seed is a form of propagation of Hellebores, but division will help ensure a desired hybrid is reproduced exactly as the mother plant.

Not only are Lenten Roses lovely in appearance, they are both deer and vole resistant. However, you might see some damage to these attractive plants if slugs are known to invade your garden in early spring.

It is recommended to amend your planting area with compost to help provide the moist, well-drained soil Lenten Roses love. Annually, mulch with organic matter such as hardwood bark or leaf compost. Once the plants are established they are drought tolerant and relatively low maintenance.

Submitted by Alexis Sheffield, Agent for Horticulture, Boyle Co. Cooperative Extension Service