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Oriental Hellebore

Helleborus orientalis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres tall
Gardens, rocky places, wasteland, woodland.

White, 5 petals
Oriental Hellebore features beautiful, creamy white flowers with a blushed pink edge and a yellow center. The flowers bloom in late winter and can last until early spring.
The fruit of the Helleborus orientalis is a small, green capsule that contains several small, black seeds. The fruits are not edible, but the seeds can be dried and used for medicinal purposes.
The foliage is deep green and glossy, with deeply-cut and lobed leaves. This plant is a great addition to any garden, providing a show of color in the depths of winter. It prefers a well-drained, humus-rich soil in partial shade and needs a sheltered spot from winter winds. It can also make an excellent groundcover in shady areas.
Other Names:
Asian Hellebore, Christmas Rose, Lenten Rose.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Oriental hellebore (Helleborus orientalis) is a flowering perennial that is native to Turkey and parts of the Caucasus Mountains. It produces large, saucer-shaped flowers in a variety of colors, including white, pink, purple, and green. The flowers can last up to 8 weeks and have a characteristic, sweet fragrance. Oriental hellebore is an excellent choice for shady gardens and woodland areas and is a popular choice for naturalizing in the landscape.


Oriental hellebore, scientifically known as Helleborus orientalis, is a perennial flowering plant that belongs to the Ranunculaceae family. This beautiful plant is native to the eastern Mediterranean region, including Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Oriental hellebore is also commonly called Lenten rose or winter rose because it typically blooms in late winter or early spring around the time of Lent.

Description and Characteristics

Oriental hellebore is a clump-forming plant that grows up to 1 to 2 feet in height and spread. The plant has leathery, evergreen leaves that are deeply lobed and grow in a rosette shape. The leaves are dark green and have a glossy appearance. The flowers of the Oriental hellebore are bell-shaped, and they come in a range of colors, including white, pink, red, purple, and green. The flowers typically appear in late winter and early spring, and they can last for several weeks. After the flowers fade, the plant produces seed pods that turn green as they mature.


Oriental hellebore is a hardy and low-maintenance plant that is well-suited for a variety of garden settings. It grows best in partial shade and well-drained, moist soil that is rich in organic matter. The plant can tolerate a wide range of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soil. It is important to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged, especially during the growing season.


Oriental hellebore can be propagated from seed or by division. The best time to divide the plant is in the fall or early spring before new growth begins. To divide the plant, carefully dig up the clump and gently pull the roots apart. Replant the divided sections in a suitable location.


Oriental hellebore is a popular ornamental plant that is often grown for its beautiful flowers. It is a great addition to garden beds, borders, and containers. The flowers of the Oriental hellebore are also popular for cut flower arrangements. The plant is also known for its medicinal properties, as it contains several compounds that have been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, including arthritis, gout, and nerve pain.

The Oriental hellebore is a beautiful and versatile plant that is well-suited for a wide range of garden settings. Its stunning flowers, easy maintenance, and medicinal properties make it a must-have for any garden enthusiast. If you are looking to add a touch of color and beauty to your garden, consider adding the Oriental hellebore to your collection.

Growing and Care Tips

Oriental hellebore prefers a cool and moist environment, so it's important to provide it with enough water during dry periods. However, it's also important to avoid overwatering, as the plant is susceptible to root rot. In terms of fertilization, you can use a slow-release, organic fertilizer in the spring to promote healthy growth.


There are several cultivars of Oriental hellebore that have been developed, each with its unique flower color and characteristics. Some popular cultivars include:

  • 'Double Ellen' - a variety with double flowers in shades of pink and purple.
  • 'Green Corsican' - a variety with green-tinged flowers that fade to pink or white.
  • 'Winter Moonbeam' - a variety with creamy white flowers that have yellow centers.


Although Oriental hellebore has medicinal uses, it is also considered toxic if ingested. The plant contains several toxic compounds, including helleborin and hellebrin, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms if consumed. It's important to keep the plant out of reach of children and pets.


In traditional folklore, Oriental hellebore was believed to have protective powers against evil spirits and witchcraft. In Greek mythology, the plant was associated with the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, and was used to heal wounds and protect against sickness. Today, the plant is often associated with rebirth and renewal, as it blooms in late winter or early spring when other plants are still dormant.

Oriental hellebore is a fascinating plant with a rich history and many uses. Whether you're looking to add some color to your garden, explore traditional medicine, or simply appreciate the beauty of nature, the Oriental hellebore is definitely worth considering. With its stunning flowers and easy maintenance, it's no wonder that this plant has become a beloved favorite of gardeners around the world.

Interesting Facts

  • The name "hellebore" comes from the Greek words "elein" (to injure) and "bora" (food), as the plant was used in ancient times to poison the food of enemy soldiers.
  • Oriental hellebore is sometimes confused with another type of hellebore, Helleborus niger, which is also known as Christmas rose because it blooms in late winter. However, Christmas rose has white flowers, while Oriental hellebore has a wider range of colors.
  • Oriental hellebore is also sometimes called "Lenten rose" because it typically blooms around the time of Lent, which is the Christian season of fasting and penitence that precedes Easter.

Growing Regions

Oriental hellebore is native to the eastern Mediterranean region, including Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. However, it has been widely cultivated and is now grown in many regions around the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia.

Insect Pests and Diseases

Oriental hellebore is generally resistant to most insect pests and diseases, but it can be susceptible to aphids, slugs, and snails. To prevent these pests, you can use insecticidal soap or diatomaceous earth. The plant is also susceptible to fungal diseases, such as leaf spot and powdery mildew, which can be treated with fungicides.

Folklore and Superstitions

In addition to its medicinal and symbolic uses, Oriental hellebore has also been associated with several superstitions and beliefs throughout history. In some cultures, it was believed that the plant could protect against lightning strikes, while in others, it was thought to bring good luck and prosperity. However, in some European cultures, it was also believed that bringing the flowers into the house would cause misfortune or even death.

In conclusion, Oriental hellebore is a fascinating and beautiful plant with a rich history and many uses. Whether you're a gardener, a fan of traditional medicine, or simply appreciate the beauty of nature, this plant is definitely worth exploring. With its stunning flowers, easy maintenance, and fascinating folklore, Oriental hellebore is sure to captivate and delight anyone who encounters it.


Oriental Hellebore filmed in Lancashire on the 22nd February 2023.


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