Log in Sign up
Log in Sign up
Since 1988, THE source for buying native, rare, and unique perennials.

Lenten Roses aka: Helleborus orientalis for Color in the Shade Garden

Most gardeners know lenten roses are great perennial plants for adding color to a woodland shade garden, but many folks including mail order nurseries still call them by the incorrect name Helleborus orientalis. Helleborus orientalis is actually the correct name for a single species of lenten rose that hails from Turkey, Ukraine, and the Caucuses. Unfortunately, 99.99% of the lenten roses sold in America as Helleborus orientalis are incorrectly named and are actually Helleborus x hybridus. Other than both being hellebores, the true, white-flowered Helleborus orientalis looks nothing like the hellebores sold commercially, which are actually complex hybrids combining the best traits of many lenten rose species, like Helleborus torquatus, Helleborus purpurascens, Helleborus croaticus, Helleborus viridis, Helleborus atrorubens, and possibly some traces of Helleborus orientalis. It would be like trying to claim yourself eligible for a Federal Native American government subsidy if you had only 10% Native American heritage.

Do plant names really matter? To some folks, no. But, let’s put the shoe on the other foot…do correct human names matter? As humans, we seem to go through quite a bit of trouble to keep our identities correctly matched to the correct person, from Social Security numbers to a barrage of passwords. We do this so that information and identification about the person remains correct. By calling all hybrid hellebores, Helleborus orientalis, we confuse information that pertains only to the true species Helleborus orientalis with plants should be correctly called Helleborus x hybridus. A good example are the many hellebore species that are winter deciduous, while most all Helleborus x hybridus are evergreen.

To us, the lack of effort in keeping plant names correct is often a simply a function of a larger problem…a lack of attention to detail. In other words, if a nursery doesn’t spend enough effort to keep plant names correct, what other important details, like good plant culture, receive the same lack of adequate attention.

While Helleborus orientalis is an interesting plant botanically, it is much less vigorous and less showy than Helleborus x hybridus, therefore, be sure when buying plants for your garden that you are purchasing hellebore plants from a nursery who have their lenten roses correctly named. The array of colors, shapes, and forms of Helleborus x hybridus available now is truly amazing. We hope when you are looking to buy lenten roses for your shade garden, you’ll think of Plant Delights Nursery, and check out our amazing selection.