Using Hellebores as Cut Flowers

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince with sprigs of Foxtail Asparagus and Pink Flax leaves

Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince with sprigs of Foxtail Asparagus and Pink Flax leaves

The end of winter is upon us and the first Hellebores have begun to open, providing lush exotic blossoms for Slow Flower arranging, at last. I couldn’t help myself a couple of weeks ago and cut a bouquet from plants growing in the cold frame. Alas, after only a few hours, they had begun to flop over and looked wilted in the vase. I don’t recall this happening before, so I did some research.

Here’s a little botany. There are basically 2 categories of Hellebores: the caulescent group, which means the blossoms are born in multiples on stems produced the previous year (includes the species foetidus and argutifolus) and acaulescent group, which send up flowering stems from the plants base as winter’s end draws near (i.e. the orientalis hybrids, commonly known as Lenten Rose). In the past few decades, breeders have been crossing the 2 groups and we now have hellebores that fall somewhere in between.  The acaulescent types, meaning the showy Lenten Roses, should be picked when the flowers have aged a bit and the ovary (the seed pod in the center) has begun to swell, which is the same time that its pollen and anthers will have begun to drop. These slightly aged blossoms last longer cut (in the past, I must have unwittingly cut older blossoms). If you must pick young just opened buds, cut short stems. Note that the caulescent types, such as H.  foetidus, hold up better without flopping.   Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’, shown here, is a cross between the 2 types, and offers the best traits of both.

Cut stems, Hot water, Dip cut stems for 30 seconds

Cut stems, Hot water, Dip cut stems for 30 seconds

The next step is to condition the stems in hot, almost boiling water. Dip the stems into hot water and let sit for 30 seconds. Remove, then place in a vase of water with a tiny bit of vodka, or about 1 T. vodka per quart of tap water.  I have read that some people skip the hot water treatment and instead sear the stems over an open flame, but that makes me hesitate.  Hellebore blossoms will hold up longer in a cool room.

Do you have a tip that you would like to share for keeping Hellebore blossoms fresh?

7 thoughts on “Using Hellebores as Cut Flowers”

  1. My mom was Austrian and taught me many cut flower tips, as in Austria many homes have cut flowers present every day of the year. Helleborus niger is native there; all types of hellebores are often cut just below the blossom and floated in bowls, often crystal bowls. They last a good week or more this way if you change the water regularly. No droopy stems or wilting.

  2. I don’t know what “Mail” and “website” mean in this case, but I put my e-mail address and will see if that works.
    I would cut some hellebores if I could get to them. I do the flowers for my nephew’s restaurant in Warren, RI (Eli’s Kitchen) and it has been a tough winter cut flower wise. I try to always use flowers, fruit and greens from my own garden but have been forced to use bought flowers for about two months. Ok up through Christmas, but in spite of my efforts to force anemones, ranuculus and freesias (which mostly froze when my new heater failed) I couldn’t keep it up. My forced bulbs are beginning to bloom and I did have a lot of paper whites, but some people object to the strong odor. I bought a collection of paperwhites and some varieties did much better than others. I did force some forsythia, quince, pussy willows and redbud which did quite well

  3. Bravo to you, Priscilla for embracing the Slow Flower philosophy and finding creative solutions to arranging what is in season. I have a collection of old gardening books, including Kathryn Taylor’s “Winter Flowers in the Sun Heated Pit Greenhouse”. It wasn’t that long ago that gardeners used low energy pit greenhouses (basically a pit 3′ or more deep dug into the earth and covered with window frames which allowed sunlight in and took advantage of the earth’s geothermic heat to winter over not quite hardy plants, force bulbs and perennials along for early color. We can buy a Stop and Shop bouquet, but there is nothing like cutting flowers and greens from your own property. Take heart, the snow is melting, and it is a matter of weeks before a wealth of new cut botancials are ready in your gardens.

  4. I expect it would be wise to keep these bouquets out of housepets’ reach, so they don’t nibble the flowers or drink the water in the vases. These tips for making the flowers last longer are great, and it would be lovely to have such a seasonally appropriate bouquet in the house.

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