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What is a Lenten Rose?

By M. Schultz
Updated: May 16, 2024

A lenten rose is an herbaceous perennial plant that is a member of the Helleborus genus. It is also known as Helleborus orientalis and commonly as hellebores. Even though this plant is known as a “rose,” it does not belong to the rose family. The name Lenten rose was coined because it flowers in the early spring, during the period of Lent. Helleborus orientalis is the parent of many types of hybrids.

These plants are native to Europe. They are found in Spain, Portugal, central Europe and Turkey. They are not commonly found in gardens, but they grow well in raised beds and on slopes as ground cover.

Lenten roses are easy to care for because they are resistant to frost and do not require a great deal of upkeep. They should be planted in rich soil in the early spring and should not be moved to a different location after they begin to bloom. Compost-enriched soil should be added, and shade should be provided for the plants. The soil can be moist and should have good drainage, but these plants will adapt to dry soil.

Between winter and early spring, the lenten rose will flower. Its foliage is dark green, with leaves that grow up to 18 inches (45.7 cm) long and 16 inches (40.6 cm) wide. The Lenten rose's flowers, which resemble roses, are 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) long and blossom white or greenish white. There are also varieties with flowers that are rose, purple, pink or white with spots of color.

The Lenten rose's blooms can last two or more months. As the plant blooms each year, more flowers are produced. These plants should be pruned to the ground in the winter.

This plant and various other species of hellebores are toxic and have caused skin irritation in people after extensive handling. Therefore, gardeners should always wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt when handling the plant. These plants are also known to be deer-resistant.

Lenten rose grow well with other plants, especially spring bulbs and wildflowers. The seedlings of established Lenten rose can be moved to new locations, but the flowers will not bloom for about two to three years. The flowers might differ from the parent plant because of cross-pollination.

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