11 Reasons Your Hellebores Aren’t Blooming and How to Fix it

Did you recently plant hellebore flowers but are frustrated by the fact that they don't seem to be blooming? Hellebores can be picky, which means you have to meet their essential needs for them to flowers to show at their best. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago walks through common reasons your hellebores aren't blooming, and how to fix it!

hellebore not blooming

Hellebores are such a unique flowering perennial because their flowers mark the beginning of spring for some, or just the beginning of warmer temperatures for others. They bloom so much earlier than other perennials it is difficult not to look forward to their happy flowers.

How sad it would be to be patiently waiting for your hellebore to bloom and end up with no flowers! Unfortunately this is a situation that plays out with both novice hellebore gardeners, and those that are more experienced with their care.

If you find that your hellebore has not bloomed yet this season or has not bloomed for a season or two, you may not be in trouble yet. Read on for some tips that will help you troubleshoot why it is that your hellebores don’t seem to be blooming, and how to fix it!

Lack of Winter Light

Hellebores blooming through a snow covered ground
Despite the fact that the hellebore is a shade-loving plant, they need sunlight to bloom in winter.

Hellebores are known for being a shade loving perennial flower. The shade from deciduous trees provides the right amount of dappled sunlight and shade, keeping them protected from the hot summer sun. On the flip side, hellebores really need some more sunlight in the winter.

When air temperatures are cooler and water is more available in the soil the plants will be more tolerant of the heat of the sunshine.

This sunshine is what helps plants produce flower buds which lead to beautiful flowers. Because these plants are winter and early spring bloomers they will warm up with this winter sun and get ready to bloom and grow.

Lack of Fertilizer

Hellebores fertilizer
To help your hellebore bloom better, fertilize in the fall.

Because hellebores bloom in the winter and early spring they really benefit from a fall feeding. This fall feeding helps the hellebore initiate the process of flowering.

Using a liquid fertilizer or a slow release fertilizer labeled for flowering plants or roses will be your best bet here. These fertilizers have the perfect balance of nutrients to help your hellebore flower the best it can.

Not Mature Enough

hellebores planting in the garden
When growing hellebore from seeds, do not expect flowering for the first 2-3 years.

Hellebores take about three years until they are mature enough to flower. Because these plants are considered to be slow growing you may need to be a bit more patient if you have grown your hellebores from seed.

In the first two to three years of its life the hellebore plant will be focusing on producing strong roots along with strong leaves and stems. After three years your hellebore should be flowering as expected.

Root Binding in Pots

hellebore in a pot
Control the development of hellebore roots in time to transplant it into a larger pot.

If you have been growing your hellebores in a container for a season or two, there is a good chance that your plant has become pot bound, or root bound. All this means is that the plant has outgrown the container.

It can be diagnosed by looking at the root system, if they have begun to wrap themselves around the outside of the soil it is time for a larger pot, or for this specific hellebore to be transplanted into the ground.

Forced Blooms

Helleborus bloom in the garden
Hellebore that has been grown for “forced blooming” will take a year or two to adjust itself and start blooming again.

If you picked up your hellebore from a florist or garden center when it was in full bloom in early December your plant was grown specifically to bloom at that time. We call this “forced blooming”. This plant has been put through a rigorous growing process so it could be available to you as a houseplant during the holidays. That’s great!

However, if you have planted it in the ground just a few months later and were expecting blooms you may be disappointed. It will take this hellebore a year or two to regulate itself and get back on schedule. Fear not, as long as the rest of the plant looks healthy your flowers will show up when they are ready.

New Transplants

Hellebores Transplanting
If your plants were just transplanted, it may take some time to get adjusted to their new climate.

Transplant shock can happen to the best of us. Even if you follow transplant instructions to a T, you can still have a plant that takes a while to get adjusted to its new home. Continue to care for it as you normally would, making sure the soil is nice and moist until the plant has become established in your garden.

The Watering Balance

Close-up of hellebore flowers covered in beads of water.
Although hellebore is drought tolerant, it needs a bit of water to bloom.

Marketed and well known for being low maintenance plants, and somewhat drought tolerant it is important not to ignore your hellebores even after they have established themselves in your garden.

While, yes, they can go a bit longer without water than some of your other perennials it is important to water them regularly. I like to water my hellebores just like I water the rest of my garden. If your soil is well draining your plant will be able to handle regular watering with no problem.

Hellebores prefer well draining soil. Whether you have sandy soil, or heavy clay soil you can amend your soil by adding some organic matter such as compost or peat. Hellebores will not perform well if their roots are soaked all of the time. In fact this can lead to root rot and death of the plant.

Aphids

Aphids on a Helllebore flower
To get rid of aphids, you need to shake them off the plant or gently hose the plant with water.

Aphids can be found just about anywhere in your garden. An infestation can be devastating to your plants. They are not picky about the plant parts they eat either, they can be found on leaves, stems, and occupying flowers.

The best way to get rid of aphids is by gently hosing your plant down, or by knocking them off the plant with your hand. There are many beneficial insects such as ladybugs that love to snack on  aphids.

Plant Depth

Bush of hellebore flowers in the garden
Make sure that the crown of the plant is above the soil surface otherwise, it will weaken and stop flowering.

It is important to keep the crown of the plant above the soil surface. The crown of the plant is where the stems of the hellebore meet the roots. Burying the crown will cause plant decline and oftentimes will lead to plant death.

In these instances, the plant will be focusing on strengthening its roots and producing leaves to produce food for itself and it may forgo flower production.

This can be remedied by transplanting the hellebore, and ensuring that the crown is sitting up higher than it was previously. It may be too late for the plant to completely revive itself, but it is easy enough to give it a try.

Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases
Hellebore, like other plants, can be subject to fungal infection.

When fungus makes itself at home on your plant it can be really detrimental to the overall health of your plant if you let it go without treatment. Hellebores are no exception. They are susceptible to downy mildew and fungal leaf spot, both of which will attack all parts of your plant leading to poor bud production, and possibly decline of your plant.

If you think you have a fungal disease on your hellebore head on over to the garden center and grab a bottle of a broad spectrum fungicide. It is also a good idea to remove any infected plant tissue from the plant itself, but also from around the base of the plant.

Downy Mildew

Downy Mildew
To reduce powdery mildew symptoms use a broad spectrum fungicide found at your garden centers.

A common wet weather disease that can affect hellebores is downy mildew. The tell tale signs of downy mildew will be a plant that has the appearance of being covered in mildew. Pair this with brown and black spots on the leaves and you’ve got yourself some downy mildew.

This disease can be prevented by watering only at the base of the plant, eliminating sitting water on the surface of the leaves. You can also use a broad spectrum fungicide found at your local garden centers after the onset of the disease. Removing any infected leaves will also help keep the disease under control.

Leaf Spot

Leaf Spot
If you notice black or brown spots on hellebore leaves, this is leaf spot disease.

The leaf spot, or black spot, on hellebores is caused by a fungus. It will present itself to you as black spots on the leaves. At the first sign of this infection you should remove any of the affected leaves. If you don’t remove the infected plant tissue it will spread and can lead to long term issues with the plant.

This disease is more prevalent in hot and humid climates. If you are experiencing a humid period, think twice before watering your plant as it may not be needed. You can use a broad spectrum fungicide to control leaf spot. The best way to prevent this disease is by doing a good fall clean up.

Cut the plants back, and remove all of the leaf litter around the plant. This will allow the plant to get a maximum amount of airflow while also removing any possible remaining fungus that could be responsible for spreading this disease in the spring

You May Have Just Missed it

Christmas rose flowers growing in the garden
Pay attention to your hardiness zone as hellebore blooms differently depending on where they are grown.

Hellebores can bloom anywhere from December- April depending on the type of hellebore you have planted and where you live. Warmer climates will see hellebore flowers earlier than cooler climates will. Cooler climates will see hellebore bloom later in the spring.

If you are unfamiliar with your zone, or the type of hellebore you have selected you could have missed the bloom time! Or, on the same hand, you could be too early and the flowers just haven’t come around yet.

Final Thoughts

Of course there will be instances where a hellebore is not blooming because of something that cannot be fixed by you. It could be old age, or some unknown or unmanageable disease. However, I know that if you follow the above tips you will be able to bring your hellebore back to its healthy habits.

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