All it takes is some yearly grooming.

By Steve Bender
January 27, 2020

With showy winter flowers in colors of red, pink, purple, white, yellow, and everything in-between, hellebores are among our most popular perennials for shade. They’re easy to grow and undemanding, but there’s one quick thing you can do to make them look even better. Every winter, just before the flowers appear, give them a haircut. Remove all leaves that began growing the previous winter and spring. Compost healthy-looking leaves and throw out spotted, brown, or yellow leaves with the trash.

Yellow Lenten Roses (Hellebores)
Credit: Ralph Anderson

Why do this when their glossy, evergreen leaves are such an asset? Three reasons.

First, the longer a leaf remains, the more likely it is to contract a disease, such as leaf spot. Splashing water can spread the disease from leaf to leaf and soon you have a hospital ward instead of a garden. Removing old leaves keeps disease under control.

Second, the longer the leaves remain, the more that weather takes a toll on their appearance. Eventually, they get ragged and torn and turn yellow. Removing them makes way for fresh, young foliage.

Finally, removing old foliage reveals the rising flower stalks that aren’t attached to the leaves. The blooms have much more impact without those ugly, old leaves.

Don’t worry – cutting off the leaves won’t reduce the vigor of the plants. They’ll quickly sprout new leaves. And don’t flip out if you accidentally cut off a flower stalk. Hellebores make outstanding, long-lasting cut flowers. Just place the stalk in a vase of water.