Hellebore - A Great Plant for Shade that Deer Don't Eat

photo by Didier Willery 

What is evergeen, deer resistant, thrives in shade, has flowers and comes back every year?

You could answer Andromeda (Pieris) - but it doesn't really like shade.
Perhaps you answered Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass) but it doesn't have flowers.
Barberry (berberis) and Daffodils are not evergreen.
Grasses, Boxwood and sedges don't meet this criteria either....

The problem free, shade loving Hellebore (Helleborus) is the answer. They are a perfect plant for a shade garden in deer country ....

The Perennial Plant Association's Plant of the Year for 2005, Hellebores bloom from winter to spring across the United States, depending on USDA zone and variety. They like light to moderate shade, with sun when they flower and protection from summer heat.

Hellebores sport drooping, buttercup-like flowers colors of pink, mauve, white, green, burgundy, yellow, black-purple, bi-colored, speckled and more. These flowers last into the summer, becoming greener or darker with maturity.

They make a spectacular cut flower and you can float the blooms in a shallow bowl.

HGC Winters Song

Helleborus are native to Eastern Europe and Asian and have been used in gardens for centuries. In Elizabethan times, hellebores planted near your door were believed to keep your home free of evil spirits and witches (maybe this is because every part of the plant is poisonous).

HGC Cinnamon Snow

Interestingly, hellebore flowers don't have petals but have colorful, cold hardy sepals. Sepals attract early season pollinators (honey bees, wasps) and protect the plant's reproductive parts. Unlike petals, sepals actively photosynthesize, which is why they stay intact and darken through the season.

Their  dark green, leathery clumps of evergreen foliage grow larger as the years pass and they look great in winter. They are hardy from Zone 5 - 9.   Adequate moisture, particularly in spring, is essential. One plant can be 12" to 18" tall, 18" to 24" wide and container plants can be planted at almost any time.

The two most commonly seen species are known as Christmas Rose (H. niger) and Lenten Rose (H. orientalis), due to the time of year they flower and their rose-like blooms. But many are simply called hybridus, due to interbreeding.

Sunshine Farm Hellebores

Barry Glick, aka Glicksterus maximus aka The Cyber-Plantsman has devoted more than six West Virginia acres to his 'Sunshine Selections' of hellebores.  

HGC Pink Frost

He cultivates some 68,000 hellebores (click here) on the hills of Sunshine Farm & Gardens in Renick. You can visit him in mid winter and see for yourself!

Pine Knot Farms

Pine Knot Farms in Virginia is a premier Hellebore nursery.. Every Winter they have a Hellebore Festival. If you live nearby please check it out! with speakers, tours, etc.

Helleborus hybridus, Anemone blanda,  Saxifraga rotundifolia in garden of Didier Willery 


  1. And they tolerate dry shade!!

    1. you are right - I should have added that! Thanks.


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