Why do we cut leaves off hellebores?

Hellebores are now to be found in every garden centre and even supermarket shelf. Wider acceptance of winter flowers and some dedicated breeding work and propagation, often pushing the limits of what is possible, has made them popular and profitable. It is all very different to when I first planted some hellebores in my parents garden, a long, long time ago. They were more of a curiosity but proved tough and reliable even in sticky, grey, chalky clay – I was hooked.

The vast majority of hellebores are H. x hybridus (formerly H. orientalis until it was decided that their ancestry was so confused and mixed up). These are hardy herbaceous plants but they are evergreen and they do retain their leaves from one season to the next. As flowering begins, and before the new foliage emerges, the old leaves splay out against the soil. Because of this they hardly cover the blooms but it is good practice to cut off the old leaves in winter. It does/may show off the flowers better but the main benefit is to prevent any disease on the leaves, infecting the new foliage.

The plants above are HGC Ice and Roses (R) which are not straight H. x hybridus but have H. niger in their breeding which gives them more interesting foliage which actually looks good for longer than most. But you can see how the flowers show up better if the leaves are removed – plant on left – even in this photo taken last in the day. Incidentally, although rather expensive, the HGC (Helleborus Gold Collection) hellebores, are great plants and have proved to be easy to grow and very colourful.

I have posted about hellebores lots of time, including here.

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3 Comments on “Why do we cut leaves off hellebores?”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    January 22, 2022 at 9:24 am #

    Ashwood Nursery is a great source of hellebores. They used sell plug plants which were cheap and of good colours etc. Re trees in small gardens (Sunday Times) – Sorbus ‘Autumn Spire’ is a topper, of Irish origin/breeding. It is tidily upright with good flower, berry and autumn colour.

    • thebikinggardener
      January 23, 2022 at 10:03 am #

      Yes, Ashwood are good – shame we can’t get them now. Thank you for the comment about ‘Autumn Spire’. I am a bit wary of sorbus in the garden – the few I have planted have all got canker really badly for some reason. I will try again but am just a bit nervous. The quince seeds are sown and I am waiting patiently!

  2. tonytomeo
    January 22, 2022 at 8:14 pm #

    This is why foliage should be plucked from roses during pruning, and raked from the ground prior to foliation in spring.

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