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I started out with six regular hellebores. They have multiplied nicely…

Heather Asked

I started out with six regular hellebores. They have multiplied nicely. They are in shade under the large canopy of a tree. The soil may have been enriched all these years by leaf drop before we moved here. However, I found there was quite a bit of gravel mixed in. I removed what I could, but drainage is probably great. After discovering Yew Dell and other great nurseries, I purchased some hellebore hybrids—Peppermint Ice, Pink Frost, etc. The regular ones look fine, but the hybrids are not thriving. They seem to have gotten smaller and they aren’t blooming as well either. Do they need more light? Better soil? I have another shady area they might like better, but do they dislike being moved? I’m afraid if I don’t move them, they’ll die out anyway. They also get winds from west/northwest.

The Gardener’s Answer

I love that you are growing hellebores. They seem to get overlooked in the garden centers and nurseries, but a nice grouping of them provides four seasons of interest and produces lovely blooms in the late winter when we gardeners are missing them most.

Hellebores are not fans of being transplanted, but if they are not thriving where they are, then this might be an option. First, I would consider how long they have been living there. If they are relatively new additions to the garden, I would give them time to establish their roots; some hybrids are slow to become established. If they have been growing in this same location for several years, it may be that they are not receiving adequate nutrients, sunlight and/or moisture.

Morning sun is ideal with moist but well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. These evergreen perennials will benefit from a side dressing of compost each spring. Even established plants will need additional water during hot, dry summers. Early spring would be the time to move them if all other requirements have been met.

As with all transplants, it is best to have their new homes dug before lifting the roots from the soil. Keep as many roots attached as possible and replant them immediately. Water well and treat like any new planting, in terms of care. As for the wind exposure, evergreens are more susceptible to winter burn if they go into winter without sufficient moisture. If your plants have brown/black foliage, go ahead and cut them back to the stem.

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