Heidi’s February Plant Pick: Corsican Hellebore

My February plant pick is a little late because I was waiting for my favorite hellebore, the Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius), to start blooming.

But since this is one of the earliest blooming hellebores species around, we didn’t have to wait long.

Corsican Hellebore

A Big Beauty

This big beauty is at least 15 years old.  It was originally planted on top of the drystack wall but has since spilled over into the flowerbed below.  This is a full, clumping evergreen hellebore with leaves that mostly look healthy and fresh all year.

Corsican hellebores are said to grow up to 20 inches tall and 36 inches wide.  But I say they get even bigger.

Its soft green flowers first appear in late January or early February in our garden, hardiness zone 8a.   It seems to bloom forever.

corsican hellebore

Sometime in late spring or early summer, the flowers dry out.  But even in that state they are kind of attractive and I usually wait until mid-summer to trim them away.

A Dangerous Beauty

In researching this plant, I was surprised to learn that, not only is it poisonous if ingested (as are all hellebores), but handing any part of it could cause an allergic skin reaction.

I have never suffered a skin rash from this plant, but the leaves look brittle and slightly prickly so I have never wanted to handle it without gloves anyway.  Still it’s probably not the best plant choice if you have children in the house.

Bottom line: Wear gloves, and, no matter how hungry you are, don’t eat this plant.

Location

Many of the trees and plants that are located on the elevated flowerbed behind our drystack wall struggle and eventually need to be replaced.  My theory is that water drains pretty quickly from this area, so even though we have a sprinkler system, things tend to dry out.

But this hellebore likes well-drained soil and is moderately drought-tolerant.  It also likes a part sun exposure, so it has thrived in this location.

Care

It’s a good idea to prune away any dead, dried out or diseased leaves once in a while to keep this plant looking its best.

It also enjoys a layer of leaf mold or leaf mulch at least once a year.  It likes acidic to neutral soil.

It is okay for this plant to dry out between watering (once established) but it does need to be watered on a consistent basis.

I have read that some owners of this plant battle large numbers of seedlings that need to be pulled out or relocated so the original plant won’t be smothered.  I have not had that problem, but soil condition might be a factor.

Hardiness

This hellebore is a hardy evergreen perennial in hardiness zones 6a through 9b.

Pests

Black spots sometimes appear on some leaves.  I usually just cut those leaves out.  It also occasionally falls victim to aphids.

One of Many Beauties Out There

Hellebores are native to Europe and parts of Asia, and there are many species.  This post focuses on my favorite hellebore, but I wanted to mention that there are other hellebore options – lots of them.

Some have flowers in deep, dramatic colors.

Hellebore

Some have filled flowers.

filled hellebore

tiny hellebore hellebores fieldSome are subtle woodland wonders, and others serve as sweet little ground covers.

 

 

 

 

 

New hellebore hybrids are being developed all the time.  Check out a good local nursery and hopefully you will be blown away by the selection.


Sources:

For everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Hellebores, check out Hellebores, A Comprehensive Guide.

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