The Christmas Rose

The Christmas Rose


It is a tradition in Germany to bring a Christmas rose into the house for the weeks before and after Christmas. Helleborus niger is the original species Christmas rose that I have growing in my shade garden at home and at Natureworks. When I pull aside the fall leaves that now cover the crown, the white buds are sitting there patiently, ready to open. In southern CT I have only actually seen Helleborus niger bloom outside in the garden on Christmas day three times- all during very mild Decembers. With a more normal winter, I  lightly cover them with evergreen boughs, now and then pull the boughs aside in late February to start their bloom cycle.

German breeders have been working for close to 15 years to develop superior varieties of Hellebores. Endless crosses of Helleborus niger with other little know species have resulted in the introduction of  The Helleborus Gold Collection®, also called the Heuger hybrids.  This month we are stocking the variety ‘Jacob’ with pure white flowers that blush pink as they mature.


My Helleborus niger in bloom in my garden in late winter.

I love Hellebores. They are one of the best shade perennials in the gardening world. They flower in the winter and very early spring, when you really need flowers the most. They have leathery dark green leaves that look good every day of the growing season. They are resistant to deer browse and damage from other critters. You can use the leaves in arrangements and the flowers too.


Our CT grown plants have been kept outdoors in unheated cold frames during the ice and snow storms of the past few weeks. We are now starting to bring them into our greenhouse, a few at a time, to force them into full flower to decorate your home or for gift giving.

To bring your Hellebores into the house, you want to acclimate them first. This means to get them used to the warmer, drier air gradually. Bring them into the garage or a shed for a day or two, or perhaps into your mud room or sun porch. Then, keep them in the coolest part of your house for up to 2-3 weeks. Of course, during gatherings, you can place them on the coffee table or anywhere you’d like. They are sure to be a real conversation piece. Combine them with forced bulbs, ferns, ivys, cut holly, or other festive embellishments to make a stunning, unique arrangement.

After the holidays are over, do the reverse. Move them back outside gradually. I store any I bring indoors in my garage or unheated back shed for the winter, right along side my fig trees. I check on them for water every few weeks in the winter, especially as the light gets stronger. Hellebores stored this way can be brought outside in early spring and planted directly in the garden. They will be a welcome perennial for years to come.