Hellebore Niger


I live in the Junction Toronto. I have 2 hellebore niger, one planted in the front of the house facing west, the other planted in a raised bed in the back also facing west. These were transplanted from our country house 6 years ago. The one in the raised bed did not bloom at all this year and the one in the front has some blooms but not nearly as well as in the past. What can I do to help them along?


Your plants already have remarkably sturdy green foliage, with no brown or desiccated leaves visible. Of course, you may have removed those earlier this spring.

However, since Helleborus niger is one of the very earliest to bloom (often called the Christmas rose), you indeed should have seen buds, at least, on all the plants.

Hellebores need very organic rich, moist (but never soggy), well-drained soil. If you haven’t added good compost for some time, the beds may be nutritionally depleted, which would impact the plant’s ability to generate flowers. You should be mulching with well-rotted compost or manure, a layer now, and another in the fall, when the plants are preparing their flower buds.

Those luscious leaves may indicate that the bed has received an overdose of nitrogen-rich fertilizer, which promotes lots of foliage but inhibits flowering. If you have been applying such a commercial fertilizer, stop doing so, and only use compost or manure as described above.

Since this plant forms its buds in the fall for very early spring flowering, you have a good chance to improve the nutrition balance and improve next spring’s flower display.

On a final note, your plants have been in place for 6 years and did bloom previously, so in addition to nutrition concerns, I wonder what other conditions may have changed.

Is there a lot more winter sunlight for some reason? Removal or limbing up of trees, for example? This hellebore does not like bright winter sun and really needs at least significant dappled shade all year.

Good luck improving the soil for your plants and look forward to a flower bounty next spring.