Time to Tidy the Hellebores.

I don’t know if it is just us in the UK that have to tidy our hellebore leaves away so that they don’t spoil the flowers which will come in a couple of months time.  Maybe it is because we live in a warm, damp climate that causes them to get a form of black spot similar to roses and the spores are passed onto the flowers as they emerge through the soil. I know , just once when I didn’t remove the damaged leaves, the flowers looked so awful and had to be cut away. If we all want to have flowers looking as they should, then I’m afraid there is work to be done.  This is what I am hoping to see in a few weeks time.



We are aiming for flowers like these and in the previous photo, with no blemishes, these photos were taken last February.


I had to search through my photos for some time to try and find a picture of a flower showing the black  spots of the fungus, this is the only one I could find, not too bad compared to how it would be if I hadn’t removed the leaves the previous autumn.


This is what I mean by the leaves getting a form of black spot, if it is very bad the whole leaf goes black, only one thing to do, cut it away and get rid of it, but NOT on the compost heap, that would just spread it around.


This leaf is even worse, I just hope this plant survives.


Most of my leaves are like this, just one or two spots, better to be safe than sorry, the leaves have to go and by this time of year they have done their job, providing nourishment for the plants, which don’t seem to mind having their leaves cut away.


Some of them are looking fine and will be left in place, but I will keep an eye on them.


At the same time as cutting the leaves away, I also give them a boost of fertiliser and a mulch of our own home made leaf mould. As well as feeding the plant and looking nicer, the mulch also prevents any spores that are already on the soil from splashing up in the rain onto the flowers as they emerge.


So, hopefully, this is what I will be looking for in 2 months time, lots of nice healthy plants and not a black spot to be seen, then it will all have been worth it.

It would be interesting to know if this problem only occurs in the mild, damp, west of the UK or if it is more widespread around the world, do let me know please if you have the same problem.

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26 Responses to Time to Tidy the Hellebores.

  1. hmm Pauline you have just given me something to watch for as I have recently planted some hellebores for the first time, thanks, yours from February in the bowl look beautiful, Frances

    • Pauline says:

      I have read Frances, that plants that we buy look as if they are free of blackspot, but then the nursery probably doses them with chemicals to keep it at bay, but the spores are in the top inch of soil around the plant, this is where a mulch is beneficial. Hope yours prove to be perfectly healthy.

  2. thanks Pauline, the plants I bought were bareroot plants so no soil came with them, I prefer bareroot plants when I can get them I find they grow better and are ofcourse lighter and easier to send, Frances

    • Pauline says:

      Lucky you Frances, your plants should be fine then, have never seen them offered bare root down here unfortunately, maybe I ought to try mail order.

  3. Deborah at Kilbourne Grove says:

    Pauline, I cut the leaves from my hellebores in the spring, (after the 10 feet of snow melts, lol). Then they are all brown and yucky looking, so I cut off every old leaf. When the new leaves come out, they are fresh looking, I have never seen any black spot on them, and hope I never do. But I shall keep a close eye on them this spring, perhaps I just haven’t noticed.

    • Pauline says:

      So glad you havn’t seen any blackspot Deborah, yes I think your snow may have a lot to do with it ! Our new leaves are nice and fresh and unblemished, its past midsummer when I notice the spots forming. They are such beautiful flowers, flowering in February / March for us when not much else is around. I love them and think they are well worth the extra effort, so glad you like them too.

  4. easygardener says:

    I do think floating the flowers in water is one of the best ways of appreciating the different colours and patterns. Saves getting down on your hands and knees in February!

  5. wellywoman says:

    Beautiful photos. I love hellebores. I’ve got some flowering in my garden at the moment. So maybe I’ll be able to pick some and fill a bowl like yours for the Christmas table.

    • Pauline says:

      How wonderful wellywoman, to be able to pick hellebores for your Christmas table. I only have one in flower at the moment so can’t spare any to do that unfortunately, I will have to wait until February to do that again.

  6. Like Deborah I have always cut the leaves in spring. The floating flowers are an abstract delight.

  7. Alberto says:

    Dear Pauline, useless to say again how much I enjoy your posts, I only have some problems with RSS on WordPress, so now I subscribed via email notifications and I’m sure I won’t miss any of your posts.
    The pictures you posted here are amazing, you have an incredible collection of hellebores! The yellow/green one is my fave though. All arranged in a plate they look fantastic, even though the dark ones almost disappear trough the foliage, in the garden.

    I only have a couple of H. orientalis seedlings in my new garden, which will hopefully flower next season, I have to patient. I use to have many more on my previous garden and I’ve never seen black spot like yours. I think H. argutifolius is the tougher of all, I use to keep it in full sun with no problems at all in summer. Sigh, I must put together again the collection I use to have, meanwhile I’m waiting to enjoy your beautiful pictures in a few weeks!

    • Pauline says:

      Once again, many thanks for your kind comments Alberto . I agree , I think H.argutifolius must be tougher than H. orientalis as I have never seen blackspot on it, even though it is in the woodland, it is in a sunny spot, maybe some of the others would prefer more sunshine ?
      When the weather is so cold in February, floating a selection of flowers in water is the easiest way to enjoy them and stay warm at the same time !

  8. Lyn says:

    Pauline, I always cut the old leaves off my Hellebores in late Autumn or early Winter. They don’t get black like yours (yikes!) but if I don’t cut them off they look old and tired by the time the new flowers come in late winter. They’re easier to cut off before the flower stalks go up, so I do it then. They’re not bare for long and your last picture shows just how lovely Hellebores look with just their new leaves providing frilly collars to show off the flowers.

    • Pauline says:

      Some of mine were pretty awful weren’t they Lyn, but the new leaves grow very quickly, thank goodness and show no sign of the dreaded blackspot.

  9. debsgarden says:

    Thanks for the reminder! Mine also will do better if I cut back the leaves now. The black fungus stuff affects some of my hellebores, too!

    • Pauline says:

      I have also been reading Debs, that mice like to hide under the leaves and eat the flower buds as they come through, another reason to cut them away.

  10. Pauline,
    Thanks for you nice comment at WMG!

    I am very interested in your article, having not read about hellebores disease before. We do get some spots, but I have not noticed them on the flowers, and certainly it has not ruined them. We live in PA, USA where our temps do go down to -20 F/-29C (rarely) and we do have a good snow cover most winters. I did once buy a h. that came up in the spring with contorted leaves, but no blackness. It died off for that whole summer and then came up fine the next year. Puzzling.

    I did a little but of looking up and found this article that might interest you on black spot: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/Profile.aspx?pid=172

    And this one on the new “Hellebores Black Death”:

    Interesting reading. I think I might tear out the contorted h. just to make sure.

    • Pauline says:

      Many thanks for your links, WMG, it was interesting to read what the RHS had to say on the subject. So far I haven’t seen any distorted leaves, thank goodness,cutting the leaves off seems to work, and they are soon replaced by nice clean new ones.

  11. Sue says:

    Thanks for that timely reminder, I am going out there now with the secateurs.

  12. Michaela says:

    Hi, Pauline. Thanks for the post. Your hellebores are gorgeous! I live in NZ (Gisborne), and the problem I have with them is the aphids. They absolutely get swamped with them! Mine have never had the blackspot like yours. Our climate is temperate and very humid. Our coldest winter temperature is, on the odd occasion, -1C. Hope that info is useful to you. Gosh, I’ve just seen how old your posts is….hope you get to see this. Cheers :o)

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Michaela, lovely to hear from someone in New Zealand. We don’t seem to have an aphid problem with our hellebores here, probably because it’s too cold! It’s good to know that you have a climate that they like -apart from the aphids – they are such lovely flowers at a time of year when there isn’t much else flowering.

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