Hellebores: Species, Interspecies Hybrids and Cultivars

Hellebores: Species, Interspecies Hybrids and Cultivars

17 species, organised into 6 sections by Mathew 1989 Balkans species very variable

Syncarpus                  H. versicarius

Griphopus                  H. foetidus

Chenopus                  H. argutifolius, H. lividus

Helleborus                  H. niger

Helleborastrum          H. atrorubens, H. cyclophyllus, H. dumetorum, H. multifidus, H. odorus, H. orientalis, H. purpurescens, H. torquatus, H. viridis

Dicarpon                    H. thibetanus



Ashwood Nurseries offer a fine selection of species, interspecies hybrids and cultivars, many of which are excellent garden plants. They all share a subtle natural beauty and charm with many varieties having the added bonus of good architectural foliage. Their intensive breeding programme has resulted in some outstanding new introductions. Their hellebore breeder, Kevin Belcher, is extremely proud of his Ashwood Strains of Helleborus sternii and Helleborus niger, as well as his new inter-species crosses Helleborus x belcheri ‘Pink Ice’ and Helleborus x ashwoodensis ‘Briar Rose’. Please be patient if you are interested in these new varieties as there will always be limited availability.

Hellebore species and their hybrids will generally flower from January to March, depending upon weather conditions.

Helleborus abruzzicus (Northern Italy)

A hardy and most distinctive green flowered form discovered recently, generally at elevations above 1,000 metres. The almost fern-like foliage is dissected into numerous leaflets which is a very desirable feature. Flowering is somewhat later than most because this plant is winter dormant. 20-30cm  (8-12ins)

Helleborus argutifolius AGM (Corsica and Sardinia open rocky hillside and streams up to 7500ft with Euphorbia, C. repandum and Lavendula stoechas) (Caulescent)

A handsome robust, evergreen plant forming an upright clump with prickly greyish-green veined leaves. Large terminal clusters of pale green cup-like flowers. Prefers a well-drained fertile soil in full sun, sheltered from cold winds. Not happy below -10C, dislikes summer wet soil.  Prune out old flowering stems in late spring if you do not require seed. 90cm (35ins).

Helleborus argutifolius ‘Janet Starnes’

A fine form with speckled cream splashed pink through the blue green foliage, flowers pale green and better grown in semi-shade. 45-60cm (18-24ins).

Helleborus argutifolius ‘Large Flowered Form’ AGM

Raised at Bodnant around 1960 possibly not in cultivation today


Helleborus argutifolius 'Little erbert'

A compact bushy form which appeared as a chance seedling at Ashwood. 30-45cm (12-18ins)


Helleborus argutifolius 'Pacific Frost'

A variegated leaf form from the garden of Pam Frost in Vancover, British Columbia Canada, which is better grown in semi-shade. 45-60cm (18-24ins)


Helleborus argutifolius 'Silver Lace'

A lovely silver-leafed form introduced by Lynda Windsor. 45-60cm (18-24ins)


Helleborus x ashwoodensis ‘Briar Rose’ (Helleborus niger x Helleborus versicarius)

An exciting new inter-species cross bred here at Ashwood. It has beautiful deep pink flowers with a bold white centre, born in clusters on strong stems. Soft green foliage that is evergreen. Requires a sheltered position with dappled shade and a rich, well-drained soil. A ‘must-have’ plant for the hellebore enthusiast. Orders are welcome but please be patient as they only have very limited availability. 30cm (12ins).

Helleborus atrorubens (Slovenia and Croatia open woods and upland pasture land with Anemone nemorosa, Galanthus nivalis, Pulmonaria saccharata, Epimedium alpinum and Erythronium dens-canis) (Acaulescent)

A deciduous species with small 3-5cm flowers on tall widely branched stems in February and March. The flower colour is generally a combination of purple and green, with more emphasis on purple on the outside, and predominantly green within. Slow, but easy to establish, requiring a humus rich, well-drained neutral soil in a sunny or slightly shady position. 30-35cm (12-14ins)

Helleborus x ballardiae (Helleborus lividus x Helleborus niger ) (Chenopus x Helleborus sections) after Helen Ballard

A compact, bushy evergreen hybrid with marbled, sometimes veined foliage. Small clusters of cream flowers flushed with various shades of pink, which deepen with age, appear from January to March. Slightly tender: we recommend you container grow your plant in a cold greenhouse, porch or conservatory, using open, free-draining compost. 30cm (12ins).

Helleborus x belcheri 'Pink Ice' (Helleborus nigercors x Helleborus thibetanus)

Another thrilling interspecies cross-bred at Ashwood Nuseries. Beautiful clusters of frosted pink flowers, paler within, delicately frilled and veined. The young, evergreen foliage is soft and pale green, faintly mottled with silver; becoming ‘leathery’ and ‘niger-like’ with age. Requires a sunny position in a fertile well-drained soil. A ‘must-have’ plant for the hellebore enthusiast. Orders are welcome but please be patient as they only have very limited availability. 30-40cm (12-15ins).

Helleborus croaticus (Croatia, open woodlands fields and flood plains or terraces of streams with Carpinus, Betula, Anemone nemorosa, Vinca and Caltha also in fields grazed by cattle) (Acaulescent)

A vigorous, undemanding deciduous hellebore recently introduced by Will McLewin. The foliage is very similar to H. atrorubens, while the flowers are closer to H. torquatus. The flowers are usually pendent and rather conical, in shades of purple or reddish-violet outside, and greenish often veined within. Easy to grow, but prefers a sunny position or slight shade with a rich, moist but well-drained soil. 20-40cm (8-16ins).

Helleborus cyclophyllus (Greece and the former Yugoslavia often near sea level in open woodland and low mountain pastures growing with Crocus biflorus, Corydalis cava and Scilla biflora on rocky limestome slopes of scrub, possibly an intermediate between H. odorus and H. orientalis) (Acaulescent)

The apple-green flowers 5-7cms across are usually flattish or saucer shaped, and are occasionally scented. Up to 7 flowers are carried on widely branched stems. Needs a sheltered position in full sun for best flowers but will grow happily in slight shade but dislikes heavy shade.  Less hardy than other acaulescent types. Enjoys a rich deep loam or clay of neutral Ph 24-40cm (10-16ins).

Helleborus dumetorum (The Balkans in woods and fields, occasionally flat sites but generally close to streams, bas of rocky slopes and large colonies with Anemone nemerosa, Galanthus nivalis, Ajuga reptans and Fritillaria meleagris. Tall summer vegetation often protects foliage from bright sunshine, although needs good spring and early summer sun to produce next seasons flower buds. Occasionally through Betula or Carpinus woodland ) (Acaulescent)

The small cone shaped, greenish-white flowers are followed by attractive, slender divided foliage. A deciduous hellebore of great charm and very frost hardy. Grows best in a rich, well-drained soil in an open position, but tolerates both shade and drought. Prefers a lighter soil than other similar species 20-30cm (8-12ins).

Helleborus x ericsmithii (Helleborus niger x Helleborus x sternii ) (previously known as H. nigristern after Eric Smith)

A very beautiful hardy hybrid, forming an evergreen bushy plant with attractive, grey-green occasionally marbled foliage. The clusters of large ivory-white flowers, flushed pinkish-bronze or green, deepen with age. Requires a sunny position in a rich soil, preferably moist yet free-draining. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Pirouette'

A named selection that has white blooms fading to a soft dusky pink. Good vigorous growth, early to flower and very prolific. 35cm (15ins). 

Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Ruby Glow'

A very beautiful hardy hybrid, forming an evergreen bushy plant with attractive pink buds that open to mid pink flowers that slowly deepen to green and deep pink tones in late winter-early spring. It has bluish-green foliage with silvery veins. 35cm (15ins)

Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Silver Moon'

A fine silver-leaved selection. Large ivory white flowers, flushed pinkish-bronze or green, deepening as they mature. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Walberton's Ivory Prince'

‘Ivory Prince‘ is bred by David Tristram, son of Major Guy Tristan who named Helleborus ‘niger ‘Potters Wheel’ in 1995 at his Walberton Nursery in England.  The parents are according to the plant patent unknown but are hybrids of the species niger, x nigercors, and x ericsmithii.  The legal cultivar name is ‘Walhelivor’.

This superb introduction has a profusion of ivory white flowers produced early in the season. Attractive marbled foliage. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Winter Moonbeam'

A named selection that has white blooms fading to a soft dusky-pink. Good vigorous growth, early to flower and very prolific. 35cm (15ins).


Helleborus foetidus AGM (Stinking Hellebore or Bear’s Foot) (Western Europe, Portugal to Hungary and Britain, from sea level to 7000ft amongst Fagus and Carpinus and mixed Pinus sp. woodland, often limestone  derived soils with Cyclamen hederifolium and Hedera species) (Caulescent) (Cross fertile and very variable)

An architectural evergreen plant with dark green leathery, divided leaves. The clusters of hanging green flowers edged with purple-brown last from January through to June. A tough native plant that is easy to grow. Prefers light to partial shade in an alkaline or neutral soil that is not too dry, with plenty of added humus. 45cm (18ins).

Helleborus foetidus ‘Bowles’

An older strain originating from Italy and grown at Middleton House with finely divided leaves similar to H. f. ‘Italian Form’


Helleborus foetidus ‘Gold Bullion’

Distinctive chartreuse-green foliage, golden when young. Avoid full in the middle of the day to prevent scorching. 45cm (18ins).

Helleborus foetidus 'Ruth'

Elegant leaves, turning very dark green, forming a wonderful contrast to the bright green flowers. Introduced by Will McLewin. 45cm (18ins).

Helleborus foetidus 'Wester Flisk'

This is a superb form, found at a site on the banks of the river Tay in Scotland. The leaves are greyish-green, almost lead-like in colour with deep purple-red stems and leaf stalks. 45cm (18ins).

Helleborus foetidus 'Yellow Wilgenbroek'

Excellent garden plant with new growth flushed yellow maturing to green. Avoid full sun in the middle of the day to prevent scorching. 45cm (18ins).

Helleborus liguricus

A recent introduction to our hellebore collection with the large flowers that are very pale white-green, and are held well above the foliage. Perhaps the greatest attribute is the relatively strong and sweet fragrance the flowers produce. It has good healthy vigour and longevity. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus lividus AGM (Majorca)

A tender, but very beautiful evergreen Hellebore. The deep green, glossy leaves, red underneath, are marbled with grey and conspicuous silvery-cream veins. Elegant cream-green cup shaped flowers, flushed pinkish-purple are borne in clusters. An excellent container plant for a conservatory or cold greenhouse during winter, requiring an open, well-drained gritty compost. Plunge outside in a semi-shaded position for the summer. 38cm (15ins).

Helleborus lividus 'White Marble'

A beautiful white marbled-leaved selection.

Helleborus multifidus

A deciduous species, with green flowers that may either be rounded or star-shaped and are faintly scented of Ribes. The foliage is finely divided to varying degrees. Requires a sheltered, sunny position with excellent drainage. 20-30cm (8-12ins).

Helleborus multifidus subsp. multifidus (Croatia)

Leaves generally divided with between 20-45 segments.

Helleborus multifidus subsp. bocconei (Southern Italy)

The most garden worthy plant within this species, being more vigorous and having larger flowers.

Helleborus multifidus subsp. istriacus (North Eastern Italy)

Leaves with fewer divisions, between 10-14 segments.

Helleborus niger Ashwood Strain

The Christmas Rose. A very popular and beautiful evergreen plant, not easy to establish in the garden. This selection has well formed, cup-shaped rounded flowers of purest white and strong stems. Grows best in semi-shade, planted in a deeply cultivated, moist but fairly well-drained stony soil, with added humus. Try it against a wall or close to an evergreen shrub. 15-20cm (6-8ins).

Helleborus niger Ashwood Marbled form

A new selection with evergreen green leaves that have a  delicate silver marbling. Also featuring our well formed, cup-shaped rounded flowers of purest white and strong stems from our Ashwood Strain.

Helleborus niger Ashwood Pink form

Our newest introduction of this very popular and beautiful evergreen plant. This selection has well formed, cup-shaped rounded pale pink flowers with a dark central flush.

Helleborus niger Harvington Hybrids

A vigorous large flowered strain from Liz and Hugh Nunn.

Helleborus x nigercors AGM (Helleborus niger and Helleborus argutifolius first exhibited 1931 JE H Stooke) (Flowers Caulescent and Aculescent) (Propagate by division in autumn or micropropagation)

A very beautiful hybrid and an excellent evergreen, garden plant. Large ivory, flattish flowers with just a hint of green. The long-lasting clusters are borne in such profusion that you may need to trim off a few leaves to see all the flowers. Prefers a sunny position in a fairly rich soil, which is moist but free-draining. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus x nigercors ‘Alabaster’

Raised at Washfield Nurseries using H. n. ‘Potters Wheel’ as seed parent

Helleborus x nigercors ‘Blackthorn Strain’

A seed strain raised each year with flowers either pure white or green and white


Helleborus x nigercors 'Candy Love'

A named selection with masses of creamy-white flowers held above the compact greyish-green foliage. Long flowering from December to March. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus x nigercors 'Snow Love'

A named selection with a profusion of creamy-pink blooms fading to chocolate above green foliage that is red veined. Long flowering from December to March. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus odorus (Balkans)

A showy, easily grown, early flowering hellebore. Large green flowers, 5-7cm in diameter, often smelling of blackcurrants and tend to be outward facing. The new foliage is often covered with silvery hairs. Prefers either partial shade, or a rich soil in full sun. 50cm (20ins).

Helleborus orientalis subsp. abchasicus (Russia - West Caucasus)

This hardy subspecies is easy to grow, free-flowering and long-lived. Flowers generally mulberry purple and the foliage can be almost deciduous. 30-45cm (12-18ins).

Helleborus orientalis subsp. abchasicus ‘Early Purple’

An excellent garden hybrid, easy, robust and trouble-free. Long-lasting plum-coloured flowers appear as early as December. An old variety but still worthy of a place in the garden.

Helleborus purpurascens (Balkans)

A charming, subtle hellebore. The cup-shaped flowers are generally lilac-mauve and often green within. The attractive foliage is divided and more palmate. 5-20cms (2-8ins).

Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) 'Anna's Red'

A new evergreen inter-species hybrid bearing a profusion of red flowers from February to April. In spring marbled foliage emerges, flushed pink when young. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) 'Penny's Pink'

A new evergreen inter-species hybrid bearing a profusion of pink flowers from February to April. In spring marbled foliage emerges, flushed pink when young. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus x 'Snow White' (Helleborus niger x Helleborus orientalis)

A stunning free-flowering hybrid producing a profusion of star-shaped ivory white flowers over a very long period. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus x sternii

Helleborus argutifolius and H. lividus of the Chenopus section can be crossed either way to give H. x sternii, named after Sir Fredrick Stern in whose garden it originated. It has given rise to many desirable strains. It must be remembered that H. lividus is not very hardy while H. argutifolius only slightly hardier coming from Crete and Corsica respectively.


Helleborus x sternii Ashwood Strain

Ashwood’s beautiful improved strain has been produced after several years of reselection and breeding. Lovely greyish-green marbled leaves are conspicuously toothed. The small green cup-shaped flowers are flushed-pink. A slightly tender plant, best in a sheltered, sunny, well-drained position. We find it performs best under the canopy of a needle conifer e.g. pine or cedar. 30-40cm (12-15ins).

Helleborus x sternii Beatrice Le Blanc Strain

An Ashwood introduction that flourishes in John’s garden underneath a large cedar.Excellent vigorous form with purple stems and pewter foliage. 45cm (18ins). 

Helleborus x sternii Boughton Beauty Strain

Another compact strain with fine slate-grey foliage, stained red underneath. Dark red stems, and flowers flushed with purplish-pink. 45cm (18ins).

Helleborus x sternii ’Bulmers Blush’

Narrow marbled leaves red stems and chartreuse flowers aging to dusky pink, raised by Mrs Bulmer from seedlings sold at plant fair and introduced by Ashwood Nurseries

Helleborus x sternii ‘Honeyhill Joy’

Raised by Jim & Audrey Metcalfe in Oregon, micro propagated by Terra Nova for commercial release a most striking plant with good vigour. Grey green leaves and numerous cream blooms


Helleborus x sternii 'Silver Dollar'

Quite outstanding with bright silver serrated leaves and small green cup-shaped flowers flushed with pink. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus thibetanus (Sichaun, China)

The delicate looking pale pink veined flowers are bell -shaped and borne in clusters. The conspicuous large bracts have an almost silvery sheen. The deciduous foliage dies down rapidly by the end of July. Require plenty of moisture in the growing season. The seedlings emerge without any cotyledon. 30-50cm (12-20ins).

Helleborus torquatus (Fomer Yugoslavia)

A very variable deciduous species. The flowers can be saucer-shaped and outward facing, to nodding and rather conical. The colour varies from green to dark violet-black, sometimes with a greyish bloom. Inside the flower colour may be same, or occasionally veined with purple. The attractive foliage is deeply divided, and generally pedate. A fine garden plant, slow but easy to grow. 20-40cms (8-16ins).

Helleborus vesicarius (Southern Turkey)

Small pendent, bell-shaped flowers, green with a reddish-brown overlay; followed by large inflated seed heads. A deciduous, summer dormant hellebore, with bright fresh-green foliage, which requires drying off as the leaves die back. It needs to be pot-grown, using an open, free-draining compost, and should be kept in a greenhouse or cold frame during summer. It requires plenty of water when it is actively growing (from autumn to spring), but as the leaves die off, watering should be gradually be reduced. Once the plant is dormant, it should not be watered at all until growth resumes in autumn. From autumn onwards, it can go outside in its pot as it is completely frost hardy. Definitely only a plant for the enthusiast! Very limited availability. 45-60cm (18-24ins).

Helleborus x 'Walberton's Rosemary' (Helleborus niger x Helleborus orientalis)

 A first-rate introduction very free-flowering, producing a profusion of star-shaped pink flowers over a very long period. 35cm (15ins).

Helleborus virdis (Europe)

A charming deciduous, native species with dark green nodding flowers (3.5cm diameter), which appear in clusters on long stems just above the foliage. Best planted in a semi-shaded position in a heavy, humus enriched soil, which does not dry out. 20-40cm (8-16ins).

Helleborus  virdis subsp. occidentalis (Europe)

Formerly a sub-species of H. viridis but now recognised as a species in its own right. Dark green nodding flowers (3.5cm diameter) which appear in clusters on long stems. Smaller in stature than H. viridis with distinctively divided and serrated deciduous foliage, and having a more westerly distribution. Best planted in a semi-shaded position in a heavy, humus enriched soil, which does not dry out. 20-30cm (8-12ins).

Champion (Winter’s Bliss)

Large, creamy white blooms age to dark pink 15–18" 24" Mid-Jan–Mar 4 H. x ericsmithii

Cinnamon Snow

Very early to bloom, with creamy white flowers that age to cinnamon 15–18" 24" Dec–Feb 5 H. x ballardiae


Pure white blossoms atop burgundy stems 9–12" 13" Dec–Jan 4 H. niger

Josef Lemper

Very large, white blooms and superior landscape performance 15–18" 21" Dec–Feb 4 H. niger

Mahogany Snow

Large cream blossoms with light pink reverse 12–15" 20" Jan–Feb 5 H. x ballardiae

Pink Frost

Burgundy and white buds open to soft pink shades; a spectrum of color 12–15" 24" Mid-Jan–Mar 5 H. x ballardiae


Spring Party (Moonlit Marble)

Creamy white blooms and attractive, green and white, marbled foliage 10–14" 20" Feb–Mar 5 H. x ballardiae


© 2016 Howard Drury, Ashwood Nurseries and others January 2016. Not to be used, copied in part or full by any means without prior permission. email  

Parent Category: Gardening Fact Sheets
Category: Fact Sheets 2016
Created: 30 January 2016
Last Updated: 30 January 2016
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