Lenten Roses 101
While other plants are fast asleep, these evergreen perennials spring up early to put on a show in your garden.
Hellebores, or Lenten roses, get their ecclesiastical nickname from their growing season. It begins in winter and extends into spring, surrounding the season of Lent. Barry Glick has the staggering collection of the flower―more than 100,000―and knows each plant on his 60-acre Renick, West Virginia nursery, Sunshine Farms and Gardens. “They’re kinda like snowflakes,” he explains. “Each bloom is unique.”
To learn more or to order Barry’s hellebores (and a whole lot of other great plants), visit sunfarm.com.
Lenten roses aren’t really roses at all. They’re shade-loving evergreen perennials that have beautiful bell- or cup-shaped flowers―either single or double blooms―and lacy, umbrella-like foliage. Lenten roses come in shades of pink, purple, white, yellow―even black (blooms can have freckles). Blossoms sometimes face outward but more often nod gently downward. As they mature and form seeds, the flowers fade to light pastel shades.
Once seeds drop and sprout, you’ll be rewarded with new plants to transplant into your garden (do this in the fall) or to share with friends.
Lenten roses are great as cut flowers. Keep in mind that mature flowers will last longer than newer ones just starting to bloom. Use them alone in small bouquets, or mix them with other flowers. Try floating several blooms in a shallow dish (such as the single blooms pictured), just like you’d float camellias. Or drop a few into a small vase, and put it on your windowsill. However you display them, Lenten roses will lift your spirits on a chilly winter’s day.
Fellow gardener and West Virginia native Sparrow Huffman (pictured) has known Barry all her life and finds his garden inspirational. “To have that amount of color and life in the dead of winter is simply magical,” she says.
- Plant small groups (three to five plants together), spacing plant groups about 18 to 24 inches apart.
- Be sure not to plant too deep. Do not bury the crown of the plant.
- Plant Lenten roses with other shade-loving perennials, such as ferns, hostas, gingers, foamflowers, and toad lilies, in a wooded garden.
- For a great ground cover, plant them en masse (plants are 12 to 24 inches tall) by themselves.