Christmas rose – Helleborus niger

Welcome early flowers. Will it or won’t it flower at Christmas time? You can never tell with Christmas rose. But whenever its lovely flowers appear in winter, they are always welcome as some of the earliest blooms in the garden.

ANNUAL CALENDAR

SPRING

March:

Remove dead blooms. A good time to propagate plants by division.

April:

Mulch (cover ground) with garden compost or composted bark around the plants.

SUMMER

June-August:

Water plants if the soil shows signs of drying out in hot, dry spells.

AUTUMN

October:

A good time to plant Christmas rose.

WINTER

December:

Place a sheet of glass or a cloche (transparent cover) over plants intended for indoor display.

Before planting, dig in leaf-mould or well-rotted compost. This helps the soil to retain moisture. Alternatively, mix some composted bark into the soil.

Planting

Mid-autumn is a good time for planting pot-grown specimens. Disturb the root ball as little as possible, and make sure it is moist.

Dig a hole.

Centre the root ball in it.

Trickle fine soil around it.

Firm in with your fists.

Plant groups of three to five plants 40cm apart. –

KEEPING CLEAN

If you want to use

Christmas rose for cut flowers, protect the blooms from strong winds and rain. Cover plants with a pane of glass or cloche (transparent cover). This is unsightly in the flower garden, so grow plants for cutting in the vegetable plot.

Alternatively, pick flower buds as they open, and place in water in a warm room to develop fully.

C hristmas rose is.not a rose at all, but a low-growing, hardy evergreen perennial that bears its simple flowers in winter, between December and March.

Despite its name, Christmas rose often does not flower until the New Year. However, the subspecies mac-ranthus really does produce its large blooms at the end of December. It can be hard to find but is worth seeking out if you want a display for the festive season.

The leaves of Christmas rose are evergreen, remaining on the plant all year round. They are dark green and lobed.

Christmas rose survives extreme cold and grows successfully in any part of Britain.

Planting schemes

Christmas rose does not combine well with many hardy perennials, but

It does look good when grouped with bergenia. You could also try planting it near hardy ferns. Include some snowdrops, which may flower at the same time as Christmas rose.

Christmas rose makes an excellent companion for shrubs. You can even plant it under large shrubs, where it enjoys the dappled shade they shed.

Ideal situation

Christmas rose is an easy plant to grow if provided with the best possible conditions, especially of light and soil.

A position that stays semi-shaded, particularly during the main part of the day, is ideal. However, the plant does not thrive in deep shade, so avoid planting it under a very dense canopy of shrubs or trees.

Preparing the soil

Christmas rose has particular soil requirements, so it pays to prepare the planting position well. It needs deep, well-drained soil which can still retain moisture during dry spells.

IMPORTANT

To propagate

Christmas rose, lift and divide the plant just after flowering.

Otherwise, leave it alone, as it does not like disturbance.

To divide, carefully lift a well-established plant with a garden fork, shake off the soil and pull it apart into a number of small pieces. Replant the sections immediately.

Christmas rose

SITUATION

A site shaded for part of the day with protection from strong sunlight. Avoid very windy sites.

SOIL

Well-drained yet moisture-retentive, deep, fertile and rich in organic matter. Lime-free or chalky.

CARE

Cut down flower stems when flowering is over. Remove dead leaves as necessary. Mulch (cover ground) each spring with organic matter to help retain moisture.

LIGHT:, FLOWERING:, HEIGHT:, SOIL:

Partial shade December-March 30-45cm Well-drained but moisture-retentive.

As Christmas rose blooms at a time of year when the weather is harsh, it is best to plant it in a sheltered spot.

PLANT HEALTH

Christmas rose is generally free from pests, although slugs and aphids can be troublesome. Pick these off or apply an insecticide spray or slug pellets, as appropriate.

The fungal disease leaf spot is common, with round or oval black spots appearing on the foliage. The affected leaves wither and eventually die, weakening the growth.

Remove and destroy badly affected and dead leaves. If desired, follow with several sprayings of a fungicide containing copper.

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