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In total, the genus Helleborus includes 19 perennials that are native to Europe, some parts of China and the Near East. All species contain Helleborin, a very toxic substance whose name is composed of the Greek words "hellin" (kill) and "bora" (food). This owes the genus belonging to the family Ranunculaceae (Ranunculaceae) genus also their botanical name.

The plants of the genus Helleborus carry many German, popular names: one calls them hellebore, the other Christmas rose, oracle flower, devil herb, snow rose or Lenzrose. However, the most commonly used are the name hellebore (due to the sneezing caused by the grated plant parts of Helleborus), Christmas rose (due to the heyday of Helleborus niger in time for the Christmas season) and Lenz rose. As Lenzrose or Oriental hellebore are mainly referred to the spring-flowering hybrids of Helleborus orientalis. The German name Nieswurz carry several species, but usually with a name addition, which derives from the botanical species name. For example, there is a green hellebore (H. viridis), a stinking hellebore (H. foetidus) or a fragrant hellebore (H. odorus).

Christmas rose at the nature site

In nature, the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) grows in the light shade of large trees

Appearance and growth

The species of the genus Helleborus can be divided into two groups: the stemless and the stem forming. They are summer or evergreen, depending on the species. Most species belong to the group of stemless Helleborus. Leaves and flowers separate from each other from the woody rootstock and they rarely reach heights of growth of over 45 centimeters. In contrast to the group of stem-forming species - which are rarely older than two to four years - they are very long-lived and could even be up to 25 years old under optimal site conditions. The stem-forming Helleborus include only four species: the stinking hellebore, the Corsican hellebore (H. argutifolius), the Balearic hellebore (H. lividus) and H. x sternii, a cross between Corsican and Balearic hellebore. In these species, upright, woody shoots develop, from which the leaves and flowers spring. They can grow up to 120 centimeters high. When the seeds have formed after flowering, the stems die off.

Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius)

The Korsische Nieswurz (Helleborus argutifolius) belongs to the trunk-forming kinds and is rather short-lived

The leaves of the Nieswurzen, Christ and Lenzrosen are very distinctive and usually dark or strong green. They each originate from a petiole, are hand-shaped pinnate and the individual leaflets often have a sawn or toothed edge. Young leaves are still quite soft, the older they get, the thicker and leatherier they become. The size of the leaves varies from species to species. While they are only 7.5 centimeters wide in one, they can reach diameter of almost one meter in the trunk-forming species.

The Helleborus species are very popular with gardeners, especially because of their early flowering in winter and spring. Already in December, the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) shows its showy, pure white flowers. It is the first species to flower and therefore the only true "Christmas rose". It is followed by the lenten roses (Helleborus Orientalis hybrids) between February and April. There are a variety of colors and shapes, which is why they are particularly interesting for horticultural use. The spectrum ranges from unfilled to filled, from white to pink and red to speckled or almost black flowers. At the same time, the Stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) native to our country blooms, whose flowers exude a slightly unpleasant odor. This evergreen species can reach up to 50 centimeters high and broad and charms in early spring with small, bright green flowers.

The most important species for the garden

Christmas rose (Helleborus niger): The Christmas roses are especially for Christmas time popular perennials for the pot planting. The evergreen species and its varieties bear pretty, usually pure white flowers.

Lenzrosen (H. x orientalis): The Orientalis hybrids show probably the largest color spectrum within the genus and provide in spring for mighty color in the garden. They are also evergreen and form dense clumps, from which flowers with diameters of up to ten centimeters spring. Thanks to intensive breeding, there are now also filled and multicolored varieties.

Stinking hellebore (H. foetidus): This native species is rather short-lived. Striking are their unlike other species bell-shaped bright green flowers.

Christmas rose (Helleborus niger)

The Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) is particularly popular because of its early flowering around Christmas

Location and ground

All Helleborus species love slightly absound to partially shaded locations.Direct winter sun is not optimal as it often causes the leaves to dry up. The soil should be moderately moist to moist, rather loamy and calcareous.

Use in the garden

In the garden, Christian and Lenzrosen are almost indispensable because of their dark green foliage, the magnificent flower colors and their very early flowering in winter and spring. Because when most other plants are still in hibernation, they already have their big show in the bed or in the pot on the terrace and balcony. Lenz roses are best used when combining varieties with different flower colors. Other early-flowering perennials such as the lungwort are also suitable as planting partners. To dark-flowering varieties also onion flowers with bright flowers form a nice contrast, for example white daffodils and tulips. In order for the bulbous flowers to have enough space for development, they should not be planted too densely.

Lenten rose (Helleborus x orientalis)

In the garden, lenten roses, especially the Helleborus Orientalis hybrids, are indispensable spring bloomers because of their bright flower colors


The planting time for Christmas and Lenzrosen lasts from late autumn to spring. During this period, the roots grow the most. Optimal is a half-shady planting place under a deciduous tree or shrub. In summer, for example, the perennial stands in the shade and gets a protective blanket in the winter due to the falling leaves. A fully shaded location should be avoided as the plants will otherwise form fewer flower buds. Many Helleborus Orientalis hybrids also tolerate a sunny planting place, but only if the soil is consistently moist. In general, the sunnier the location, the more moisture the plants need. However, lily roses are sensitive to waterlogging. Since they form a shallow root system, they should be planted in a place where they are not disturbed by tillage. Light sandy soils are best improved before planting with plenty of mature garden compost.

To cut

The old foliage should be cut off before the flowering budding. So not only the flowers are more effective. The care measure also serves to prevent the black spot disease.

Stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)

The stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) delights with bright green, bellflower-like flowers


The stemless species can be roughly divided during or shortly after flowering in the spring. If you want to multiply the plant by dividing it and need several, small parts, September is the best time for it. In the first winter, however, the cuts should receive protection from foliage and fir twigs.

Further care tips

Overall, all Helleborus species - if they have been planted in the right place - hardly need care. In addition, they are very durable and conjure up over the years, right on time for every season start a lush flowery in the garden. And the best part is that they become more beautiful year by year. Therefore, if possible, let the perennials grow undisturbed and only divide your helleborus if you want to multiply.


Helleborus species form prominent seed levels in the flower center. These turn brown over time and open. Then they can be used for propagation. Dry the seeds first and then sow them into pots. The propagation of seeds is not for the hurry: It can take up to four years before the plant flowers for the first time. This type of propagation is suitable for all types of sneeze. Root-forming species such as the stinging hellebore can even be propagated only by sowing, while in stemless species also the division comes into question, preferably in early autumn. However, do not be surprised if the seed of the new plant does not exactly match the parent plant: Helleborus species intersect with each other and even different varieties of one species can produce completely different flower colors after crossing.

Seed Pods of Stinking hellebore

The Helleborus species form after flowering conspicuous seeds that can be used for propagation

Diseases and pests

Nieswurze, Lenz and Christosen are not very caring and little susceptible to diseases and pests. Very common, however, is the black spot disease. This fungus forms on the leaves in the spring brown to black spots that can become larger with time. To prevent this, the leaves from the previous year should already be cut back near the ground in spring. The advantage of this care measure: You have unobstructed view of the flowers. If fine black lines or streaks appear on the leaves instead of spots, this is not a leaf spot disease, but a viral disease: the Black Death. If the infestation is low, the leaves should be removed urgently. If the disease has spread further, one can only choose the most painful solution - excavate the perennial seed and dispose of it as household waste.

Occasionally it can come to an infestation with aphids or weeping weasels and also with snails stand the young leaves of the Helleborus kinds on the menu.

Video Board: Planting Hellebores // Garden Answer.

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