For many ornamental gardeners, winter-blooming plants can provide a needed burst of color in an otherwise barren cold-season landscape. Winter-flowering plants are often hard to come by, especially in regions that experience frequent frosts. Plants like Christmas rose (Helleborus) can be a good choice. Learning more about the blooming season and growing conditions of this ornamental plant will help you, as a landscaper, decide if it is suitable for beds and borders and how to care for your Christmas rose.
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What is a Christmas rose
Christmas rose is a plant of the hellebore family. Like other species of hellebores, these flowers are known for their early blooming season. The flowering time of Christmas rose depends largely on its own climate. While in warmer climates the plant begins to bloom just before Christmas, in most cases it blooms in late winter or very early spring. The hellebore is an evergreen plant that bears glossy foliage even in winter. As soon as the weather warms, it produces large masses of bright white flowers on short stems. As with many garden plants, it should be noted that all parts of the Christmas rose plant are poisonous to humans and pets.
Growing conditions and care for the plant.
Christmas roses prefer a shady and sheltered location in the garden. Many growers also note that the plants require neutral or slightly alkaline soil. These growing conditions for Christmas roses can be achieved by adding soil amendments such as lime. A fertile, well-drained sandy soil is optimal for Christmas rose. The suitable pH of the soil is 6.5-7.5: more or less neutral. It can survive in poor soil, but adequate nutrients will promote growth and flowering. If the soil is poor, improve it by mixing in potting soil or organic fertilizer. Planting sites should be well drained and allow adequate air circulation.
Once the Christmas rose is established, maintenance is minimal. If growing conditions are particularly harsh, foliage may show signs of damage during the coldest part of winter. You can remove damaged leaves to make room for new growth, which will resume in due course. Damage to leaves can also be caused by intense sunlight.
The optimum temperatures for growth are 10 – 15 ℃. It can withstand cold up to -35 ℃ degrees in winter . During the summer heat, it goes into a semi-dormant phase. Being a moisture lover, it does not tolerate drought or waterlogging. Avoid dry and windy locations. Also, since it is a slow-growing plant that takes 3 to 5 years to grow and bloom, don’t plant other fast-growing plants nearby that could take the Christmas rose’s place.
Care for Christmas rose in a pot
If you are planting the Christmas rose in a pot, choose a deep pot and place a layer of small stones on the bottom to help water drain away. Make sure the pot is well ventilated to avoid yellowing of the leaves, pests and diseases. Don’t forget to wear gloves when transplanting, as all parts of the Christmas rose are poisonous.
Keep your potted plant in as cool a place as possible when you are not enjoying it, preferably in a place with bright light. Water sparingly, but don’t let the plant get so dry that it wilts.
When caring for your Christmas rose, note that the plant prefers a moist environment. Plants that have been growing for many years are more drought tolerant and can be watered when the topsoil is dry. Christmas rose is in dormancy in mid-summer, so it should only be watered to prevent the soil from drying out. Another tip is to water the soil (and not the plant) to prevent pests and diseases.
If the soil is already mixed with organic fertilizer or slow-release fertilizer at planting, no additional fertilizer is needed in the spring. It is sufficient to apply organic fertilizer or slow-release fertilizer once a year in late summer. Fertilizers high in nitrogen will suppress flowering. Avoid fertilizer applications during flowering or within 2 weeks of division, or flowers may fall off.
To maintain your Christmas rose, cut off some of the older leaves after the new ones have sprouted. This not only keeps the plant aesthetically pleasing, but also helps control pests and diseases due to the dense foliage.
Remove faded flowers from the base immediately after blooming to concentrate nutrients on the leaves. The sap of Christmas rose can cause skin irritation, so wear gloves when cutting. Wash the scissors and gloves after cutting.
Propagation of the ornamental plant
You can also sow Christmas roses from seed, although it often takes up to a year for the seeds to emerge. Sow 2-3 seeds 40 inches apart in the topsoil of your garden or in a pot. Keep the soil moist (but not waterlogged) after sowing. Don’t forget to mark the spot where you sow the seeds!
When propagating by division, maintain the same flower color as the parent plants. Divide the plants in early spring, after flowering. Before digging up the whole plant, moisten and loosen the soil. Dig as deep as possible to avoid damaging the plant’s roots. Then clean the soil from the roots, look for new shoots at the base of the stem and divide the plant into clumps with at least two new shoots.
Plant them immediately after division, keep the soil moist and do not fertilize for two weeks. Even though the ornamental plant can be propagated by division, its roots do not tolerate transplanting well and stop growing for a while after division.