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Native to the mountainous regions of Europe, Greece and Asia Minor, Helleborus niger is a member of the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family. It has pure white blossoms which bloom at Christmas time in the northern hemisphere, hence the common name Christmas Rose. Niger, the species name, means black, and refers to its dark coloured roots.

Plant details

Common name: Hellebore, or Christmas Rose

Botanical name: Helleborus niger

Description: Evergreen plant to about 30cm (12") tall with leathery dark green leaves, black roots and large white pendant flowers in winter. They are propagated from seed or by division.

Best climate: Helleborus niger is more difficult to grow than other hellebores, requiring colder conditions. It is best suited to cool, elevated regions of southern Australia from Sydney to Perth and south.

Best look:

Hellebores are ideal for planting in drifts under trees, in terraced gardens or in pots Good cut flowers if picked when mature (immature flowers will wilt in a vase) Excellent in float bowls. They last for weeks slowly fading and changing colour

Good points:

Naturalise readily Attractive white flowers in winter when gardens often look bare Long flowering


Flowers hang down and cannot be appreciated when viewed from above All parts of the plant are toxic: bruised foliage can cause severe dermatitis

Care and maintenance:

Hellebores prefer a shady, moist situation in alkaline soil, and often grow best under deciduous trees. At planting time incorporate plenty of compost into the soil and keep well mulched. Water well, particularly during summer. Remove dead foliage and flowers, but otherwise do not prune.

Further information

A Special Hellebore Weekend will be held 28 and 29 August, 10am-3pm at Corroboree Park Hall, Paterson Street, Ainslie, ACT. Helleborus niger is available from many nurseries but if you have difficulty you may like to try:

The Greenery Heidelberg, Heidelberg, VIC, phone: (03) 9459 8433

Albert’s Garden, 9 Beltana Road, Pialligo, ACT, phone: (02) 6248 0300

Swane’s Garden Centre, Dural, NSW, phone: (02) 9651 1322

Merry Garth, Mount Wilson, NSW, phone: (02) 4756 2121

Everbloom Nursery, Perth, WA, phone: (08) 9295 1666

Newman’s Nursery & Topiary Tea House, Tea Tree Gully, SA, phone: (08) 8264 2661