I puchased a beautiful hellebore at Canada Blooms in 2019. I planted it in my front garden, and it seemed to do very well. It came back on April 2020, it had lots of blooms and seemed healthy. Over the summer, one by one all the evergreen leaves turned brown and died. The plant is dead, and there was no sign of life this spring. Heartbroken that it died! It was so pretty. It gets sun in the spring before our maple tree grows its leaves and after that gets shade or at the very most some dappled sun during the summer. The soil drains well, so sogginess wasn’t an issue. Can you tell me what went wrong with the hellebore? I’ve read they are tough plants, so I’m really not sure what happened. Would love to know what to do/not do if I buy another. Thank you!
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners. I’m sorry to hear about your Hellebore. They are such beautiful plants.
They are usually hardy, reliable, relatively easy-going and need little maintenance. It sounds like you planted yours in a good spot, in well-drained soil (Hellebores also like the soil to be organically rich) and with early spring sun followed by shade / dappled shade once your maple tree leafs out. And since your Hellebore flowered well and seemed healthy after its first winter, it also sounds like it was correctly planted, not too deep which would have reduced flowering, with its crown just above the soil line, and that it was protected from cold winter winds.
Since the leaves on your Hellebore dropped one by one during the summer, it sounds like it’s not a deciduous variety whose leaves drop at the end of the season. Hellebores are relatively drought tolerant once established which can take several years depending on the species or hybrid or cultivar. Generally they thrive in evenly moist soil, and need more watering during hot, dry spells. Perhaps your plant didn’t get enough water last summer and since it wasn’t yet fully established it was stressed and slowly died.
Another possibility is that your Hellebore suffered from Hellebore leaf spot, a common fungal disease in Hellebores that causes brown spots on leaves that develop into holes where dead tissue falls out and drops to the ground. This fungus spreads to cover the whole leaf and can also spread to the stems. It usually affects new growth and begins to develop in the wet conditions of late winter, then continues to flourish as the plant develops throughout the summer. Leaf spot is typically not very harmful to older, established plants unless the disease keeps reoccurring, but in younger plants it can spread quickly and cause the plant to die. As soon as leaf spot is observed, affected leaves should be removed and destroyed. Any dead leaves should be removed from around the plant because this will be a source of infection the following year. Removing old leaves from the plant in late winter or early spring can help to control leaf spot. It is also important to have good air circulation around the plant. Some Hellebore species are more susceptible to leaf spot than others.
Here are a couple of sources of information about growing Hellebores that might be helpful :
Good luck with any future Hellebores !