6:00am

Sat February 22, 2014
Garden Report

Forget The Groundhog, This Plant Predicts An Early Spring

Hellebores can bloom as early as February in Colorado.
Credit Scrappy Annie / Flickr - Creative Commons

That Pennsylvania rodent may have seen his shadow, but spring is just around the corner. Hellebores, a winter and early spring bloomer, are proving that point. As the snow melts on the lowlands, green hellebore leaves and plump flower buds are popping out well before most perennials.

Tom Throgmorton explains how to maintain early blooming hellebores.

It’s not unusual to see these perennials coming back to life this early in the season. Along the Front Range they bloom from February to April, giving them the common name of the Lenten Rose.

The pink, maroon, red and white pedals brighten the indoors as cut flowers. Blasting the newly cut stems in boiling water before putting them in a vase will give the flowers a longer shelf life.

The leaves may need to be occasionally cut if they develop spots during wet weather. Now is a good time to clean up any leaves damaged by wind or snow to highlight the vivid colors of the blossom.

Hellebores prefer a well-drained soil. In heavy clay soils, add humus or compost to keep them healthy. Amend the garden in a wide area around the plant to allow growth year after year. Once established, hellebores are drought tolerant, but partial shade under shrubs or ornamental trees is essential to keep the leaves from scorching in Colorado’s intense summer sun rays.

The sap from hellebores contains a mild toxin that deters pests like rabbits, dear or the neighborhood dog. Some people develop a rash when exposed skin comes in contact with the sap. Wearing gloves when working with this perennial is recommended.

These plants are a great way to add beauty to your garden at a time of year when most flowering plants are still dormant. The 20 different varieties are widely available online or at your local garden center.

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