U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hellebores Foetidus - A Year-Round Beauty

Hellebores foetidus - another type of Hellebores about which Tina posted an excellent article. Its other names are Bear's foot, Dungwort, Stinking hellebore and Stinkwort. Don't get scared, I never felt any smell. They say you need to crush the leaves to feel the smell. As for the flowers, they have a pleasant smell. Hellebores foetidus has narrow, deeply toothed golden evergreen leaves and pale green bell-shaped flowers. Height - to 32"(80 sm), width - 18"(45sm).

I have two plants. One grows in an area with morning sun, another in a dry shady area. The first one is bushier and looks happier than the second one. It corresponds with the description of this plant which says it needs morning sun. It also likes moist but well-drained organic-rich soil. (I should say that my plants grow in average soil). Blooming time is mid winter - mid spring. This is what they say. I have a picture of a blooming helleborus foetidus taken in the end of May! Even after the bloom, the plants stand out thanks to their pale green foliage that looks stunning among dark colors. On the following pictur, it is in the left lower corner.

Last summer I noticed several baby plants near the mother plant which had self-seeded! This is what I like in plants! I dug them out and put them in small plastic containers. Right now, they are inside the house, but I feel like they would be good in a cool garage as well.

It looks like some seeds fell into the succulant bowl, because I found a little one there.

Hellebores foetidus makes a wonderful addition to a flower bed or border. On the following picture, all plants went wild. It was October, but everyone looked pretty healthy including a tomato plant that grew from a seed brought on the flower bed with compost.

This is the picture of it that I took today during an unexpected and not very wanted wet and heavy snow.

These are the pictures of my other hellebores.

This plant is about 4 years old and it looks nice almost year around.

It is useful to know that established plants don't like to be moved.

All parts of Hellebores may cause severe discomfort if ingested, and the sap may irritate skin on contact.
(A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, p.509)
As I mentioned above, my plants, both types, are 4-5 yeas old. I trim them sometimes not wearing gloves. I've never had any signs of skin irritation. There are two German Shepherds and number of neighborhood cats in our yard (as you can guess, not at the same time...), and it doesn't look like they had any problems. But it is always worth to be careful. That is why I am grateful to Hermes who reminded me about this feature of hellebores. I am wondering if hybrid types somehow lose some qualities... Is it a silly guess?


  1. Love it! Love it! Love it! They look great! Your hellebores are so large! They must really like it there. Very wonderful. Thanks for the link. I think I have Helleborus Foetidus but I am not sure. Is that bad? I am awful with keeping track. All the gardeners in your local area are going to be looking you up to see if you wish to share:)

  2. Lovely post on a lovely plant but I think you might mention it is very poisonous and I wouldn't personally grow it if I had animals. Miss Jekyll is one of the very best forms imho.

  3. I just love Hellebores! Your pictures are great, and thanks for the useful information. /Helen

    They are so ... wonderful!

  5. As far as I can find out, Helleborus niger is the worse culprit:

    I can't see anything about hybrids being less so, but I suspect that different people's chemistry means they react more or less. Never caused me any problems I must say. They were once used around doors as a protection against Witches!

  6. Very Nice Plants, and Love your
    Garden photo....

  7. I have been noticing Hellebores lately I guess I need to get some. I have some shady spots they might do well in.

  8. I just purchased about 8 h. foetidus last spring. Cant wait to see how they are doing this year.

  9. It's hellebore time. Mine are popping out of the ground but it will be a few weeks yet. It might help if I get out and move the leaves away.

    I love how you've artfully juxtaposed the hellebore with the Japanese maple. Genius.

  10. Love hellebores! They are looking so good in the garden right now aren't they?

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments! It looks like hellebores is the star of the show on Blotanical these days. There are several good posts about it with useful information and wonderful pictures.

  12. Hi,
    I loved seeing all your beautiful pictures. Thank You for stopping by my blog too(-:

  13. Hi Tatyana
    Thanks for commenting at my blog. Yes, "the black dog", Duke is a german shepherd. Somehow he turned out longhaired although both his parents have "normal" GS coats.
    I too love hellebores, but don't have any in my garden yet. There are so many beautiful varieties.
    The photos from your garden are stunning - I'll cerntainly revisit.

  14. I think you're right about Hellebores being the star of Botanical right now Tatyana! Yours are lovely and must be happy if you are getting little seedlings. All these posts are making me want to go out and buy a few for my own garden. Thanks for all the wonderful information in your post. Oh, I forgot, I was going to say, that poor hellebore looks as miserable in the snow as I feel when I'm out in it!!

  15. I love hellebores! But I love your pictures of hellebores more! You have a special talent in impressioonizm...

  16. I actually sent a letter to the new owners of my former home, asking them to call my friends in the Garden Club if they ever decided to rip out all the plants! LOL I also gave them some history of the plants and tried to explain what was there. I can only hope they appreciated it. They probably simply thought I was crazy. Oh well, I had to try.

  17. My hellebores came from my SIL. She started with about ten hellebores in her garden. Her garden is the perfect place for them for they have reproduced like mad. She lives on the side of a red clay hill with mature trees overhead. There are always little seedlings everywhere.
    Congratulations, Tatyana. You have accomplished your goal of casual elegance in the garden which I must say I love.

  18. Hellebores are fabulous - mine are just starting to bloom, and it's wonderful to see anything blooming this time of year.

    Your garden photos are incredible!

  19. I have just read the last bit about wondering if hybrid types loose some qualities. I have made with different plants (not Hellebores, I can't grow them here)the experience that they loose vigour and are not as tough as the motherplant. They might have bigger Flowers, unusual colours etc. but usually they are much quicker exhausted and they do not reseed. So one has to go and buy a new plant instead of being able to plant all the seedlings which cost nothing.

  20. What an informative post on hellebores. Your white one that your featured in beautiful:) What a contrast from the one photo to the next, covered with snow! I did not know they were poisonous. Thanks for sharing that information!!

  21. Thank you all for the wonderful comments! There are 15 species of Hellebores, so we might have a chance to read more posts on this beautiful plant!


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