One of the finest ground covers for shade, Lenten rose combines handsome evergreen foliage with lovely, late winter flowers.

Purple Lenten Rose
Credit: Getty Images/49pauly

WANTED–Attractive, easy-to-grow perennial. Must be shade-loving and evergreen. Showy flowers a definite plus. If you have what it takes, respond in writing to Heart & Soil.

Dear Heart & Soil,

Your prayers have been answered. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). And if I do say so myself, I'm everything you could ever want in a perennial.

Attractive? Just take a look at the enclosed snapshots. My leathery, evergreen leaves radiate from a central point, just like the fingers of your hand. They stand about 8 inches tall and blend well with ferns, hostas, and other shade-loving plants. Forming a loosely woven blanket covering the ground, they permit spring bulbs to come up through them, if that's what you want.

Showy flowers? You've hit the jackpot. I stay in bloom for six weeks or more. Nodding blossoms first appear around Valentine's Day in the Lower South and about a month later in the Upper South. White is the dominant color, but for every three plants with white flowers, you'll find one with rose blossoms. Either color makes a long-lasting cut flower. Just place the stems in water.

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Easy to grow? That's me all over. The only places I refuse to grow are the coastal and tropical South. I like moist, fertile, well-drained soil that contains lots of organic matter. If the soil is too acid (pH 6.0 or lower), sprinkle a little lime over the soil surface once a year. While you're at it, sprinkle slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote 14-14-14 too. Shade is a must, especially in the hot afternoon.

Frankly, yours truly is about the best investment you could make. I'm easy to propagate. Just divide established plants in fall or spring. Or transplant my seedlings that sprout in spring.

Well, I've made my case. I anxiously await your response.


  • Size: 6 to 8 inches; 10 to 14 inches with flowers
  • Light: shade, especially in the afternoon
  • Soil: moist, fertile, well drained
  • Propagation: seed, division
  • Range: Upper, Middle, Lower South