Helleborus argutifolius is an unmistakable plant. Its stout stems, deep green, leathery leaves and large heads of apple green flowers mark it apart from all other hellebores
With bowl shaped, nodding flowers the colour of 'Granny Smith' apples 4 to 5cm (2in) wide, borne in large open clusters. The flowers appear in winter, and remain on the plants for a long time.
This species, formerly known as Helleborus corsicus, the Corsican Hellebore is a delightful evergreen perennial plant that forms dense clumps to 90cm (32in) wide. The stout stems bear leaves composed of three spiny-toothed dark green leaflets.
This popular, evergreen makes an architectural statement in the middle of a mixed or shrub border. It is an easy plant to grow in sun or shade in most soils and excellent for massing under trees, the handsome foliage is a long-lasting source of interest after the flowers have passed.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Helleborus argutifolius was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993.
Sowing: Sow seeds immediately upon receipt, at any time of year.
Hellebore seeds are collected in early summer. If they are planted in the first few months, they will germinate quickly in around 30 days. Once the weather starts to get cold in autumn, they will go dormant and delay germination until the weather warms up in the spring and conditions are more favourable.
Text books quote germination as ‘irregular’ and advise 30 to 545 days, in my experience 30 to 180 days is usual, dependent on the time of year that they are planted.
Sow in moist John Innes seed compost or something similar, place each container in a polythene bag or place a plastic lid onto the container. Place in a cold greenhouse or cold frame. The compost should be kept moist but not wet at all times.
Some of the seeds will germinate straight away, some during the spring and summer, any remaining seeds may lay dormant until the following spring. If any seeds do not germinate in the spring keep them in cool moist conditions throughout the summer.
As each seed germinates transplant it almost immediately into its own 7.5cm (3in) pot to grow on. These strong plants need more nutrients and water than small cells can provide. Keep seedlings in a well lit place, but out of direct sun.
Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out, space 30cm (12in) apart.
Seeds can be left to go through the seasons naturally or germination hastened by “Stratifying” (imitating the seasons)
Soak and sow seeds as above and leave for six weeks. Transplant any seedlings that have germinated. After 6 weeks chill the remaining seeds: put the tray into the refrigerator at -4°C to +4°C (24-39°F), or somewhere with a similar temperature for six to eight weeks. Then remove to around 10°C (50°F)
Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out, space 30cm (12in) apart.
If your soil is high in organic matter, and has a fairly good water holding capacity, then Hellebores will grow wonderfully in your garden. Hellebores have a deep growing root system and they will benefit greatly if the area is prepared before planting. Double digging the area (digging out one shovel depth of soil, and then digging up the second layer of soil, and then putting the top layer back on and digging it all together) with additional organic matter is of great advantage. Add some sharp sand if your soil is especially heavy and sticky.
Hellebores prefer a neutral to alkaline soil Ph (they will grow in a slightly acidic Ph soil too). Mushroom compost or well decomposed garden compost is good as an additive.
Hellebores are Mediterranean plants, and they prefer moist but well drained soil, a period of drying our between watering is of great benefit to good overall growth.
Cut down flowers as they are over to encourage basal growth or leave to set seed. Once the plant has flowered and new foliage shows signs of emerging, you can cut away the old leaves.
Hellebores will set seed with new plants coming up around the main plant. Seedlings are easy to transplant to other parts of the garden.
Plants resent root disturbance and are slow to re-establish when divided and are best left undisturbed for 6 to 7 years before being divided. Should you ever have to move a plant, dig a ball of earth around its roots as you would for a shrub.
Do not use chemical fertilisers as it is extremely sensitive to them and burns easily. Stick to dressing with compost or aged manure in the autumn.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds or Under-planting roses and shrubs.
As a cut flower, these flowers float on water and will stay fresh for many days. Take care when handling the plant as it may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction.
In the wild H. argutifolius is confined to two Mediterranean islands, Corsica and Sardinia, where it is widespread and in Corsica in particular it can be found all over the island.
It is perhaps strange that it has never been found in Italy or France, the two nearest mainland countries to these islands and only 28 miles (45km) away, while its only close relation, H. lividus, grows on Majorca which is 200 miles (320km) away.
The leathery leaves are slightly dull with relatively inconspicuous veins on the upper surface, compared with the more striking pattern seen in its close relation H. lividus.
The genus name Hellebore is from the Greek helleboros., 'elein' meaning to injure, and 'bora' meaning food. This species and the other members of this genus are highly toxic. It is one of the four classic poisons, together with nightshade, hemlock, and aconite.
Formerly known as Helleborus corsicus, the new species name argutifolius derives from the Latin word 'argutus' meaning 'sharp' and 'folius' meaning 'leafed', in reference to the sharply toothed leaves. One of the common names being The 'Holly Leafed Hellebore'.
Native to the island of Corsica in Greece, it also has the common names of the Corsican Hellebore and the Corsican Rose.
The name Helleborus argutifolius is still in review according to the The Plantlist, which lists this name as a synonym for Helleborus lividus subspecies corsicus.
However - It has been pointed out that the two species are geographically isolated with H. lividus coming from far to the west on the island of Majorca, and that Helleborus lividus is a considerably smaller plant with darker purple-toned-foliage. There are also known hybrids between the two species, usually called Helleborus x sternii.
For now, we will stick with the name Helleborus argutifolius until this debate gets fully ironed out.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 20 Seeds Family Ranunculaceae Genus Helleborus Species argutifolius Synonym Helleborus corsicus, Helleborus lividus subsp. corsicus Common Name Corsican Rose, Holly Leafed Hellebore Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Creamy-Pale Green Natural Flower Time Mid Winter to Late Spring Foliage Edible glossy, spiked like holly leaves Height 60-90cm (24-36 in) Spread 24-36 in. (60-90 cm) Spacing Space 30cm (12in) apart. Position Partial shade is ideal but can tolerate full sun. Soil Moist, fertile and humus-rich Time to Sow Sow seeds immediately upon receipt, at any time of year. Germination Irregular, 30-545 days. Notes Please take care when handling the plant as it may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction.