The Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) is a unique and interesting plant. Believe it or not, it blooms in the middle of winter, even in Idaho. It’s a great, hardy garden perennial that’s also ideal for indoor holiday decorating. Although they are available for purchase in the perennial department at the garden center in the spring, most people prefer to purchase them this time of year and enjoy their beautiful blossoms inside for the holidays. When they are done blooming just keep them in a cool, well-lit area for the winter. Then plant it outside in a shady spot after the last frost in the spring.
I’m told that the name Christmas rose comes from Christian mythology. The story is told of a young girl whose tears fell onto newly fallen snow causing a group of Hellebores to burst into bloom, thus giving her a gift for the newborn Christ Child. Regardless, Christmas rose is certainly an appropriate name for something that flowers at Christmas time.
Blooming time can actually vary from early November to early February depending on the variety and the climate it is grown in. The variety ‘HGC Jacob’ is an early bloomer usually blooming in December. It is claimed to be hardy to minus 30 degrees F. making it hardy enough to come back year after year, even blooming through the snow. It enjoys the alkaline soil of east Idaho, but not the wind. So be sure to plant it where it is protected from the worst of our winds. Up against the north side of a fence or building is usually a good spot.
So try some different plants for the holidays this year. Along with poinsettias and Christmas cactus, try a Christmas rose or two. They also make a great gift that can be enjoyed inside now, and planted outside in the garden later.