Helleborus Name Meaning and Symbolism (Hellebore; Christmas Rose)

Hellebore or Helleborus, comes from the buttercup plant family, and is a genus made up of around 20 species of perennials.

You may also know the hellebore as the Christmas rose or winter rose, but it has no ties to the rose plant family. 

Hellebores hail from Europe and Asia.

Hellebore At A Glance

What you might assume to be flowers are actually false flowers, made up of 5 sepals each, and deep, circular nectaries.

The true flowers sit in the middle of the sepals, which are a group of stamens and very tiny petals.

Despite not being true flowers, the hellebore blooms are dramatic and showy, often pointing toward the ground, weighing down the stems. 

It’s interesting to know that the sepals don’t die off like normal flowers do, and stay on the plant until the plant itself dies.

Sepals come in a huge variety of colors, some of which are bicolored, including green, white, yellow, pink, purple, and black. 

A Note On Toxicity

It’s worth noting that the majority of hellebores are poisonous, which makes them unsuitable for gardens which have pets or children. 

If ingested, hellebores can cause excess drooling, stomach pain, diarrhea, and death.

Hellebore Name Meaning

The name hellebore is made up of two Greek words, elein, and bora, which translate as food injury, essentially, warning of the toxic properties contained in the plant.

The common name Christmas rose stems from the way they flower in the deep winter into spring, and the flower’s resemblance to a single-petalled rose, though they are not related. 

Helleborus niger is usually the cultivar that possesses the name Christmas rose, as there is a legend attached to it, where a girl cried because she had nothing to give baby Jesus in Bethlehem as a gift. From her tears, a hellebore sprung from the snow.

The Symbolism Behind Hellebore Flowers

Hellebore flowers represent peace, stillness, and quietude.

However, it also has some negative connotations, including anxiousness, scandal, crime, and fear.

White hellebores are said to bring good fortune, while it’s believed that anyone foolish enough to pick a black hellebore would bring a host of bad luck on themselves. 

Helleborus Uses

As with many plants that are toxic, it has had some medicinal applications in the past.

Romans and Greeks would use hellebores to treat insanity, gout, and paralysis, but the side effects of these plants often outweighed the benefits.

Hellebore Growing Requirements

All hellebores are perennials, hardy in USDA zones 4 through to 9. They can range from 1 foot to 4 feet tall when these plants mature, and love shady positions with well-draining, damp soil.

They don’t love full sunlight, so make sure you give them at least dappled shade.

Hellebores are not very demanding when it comes to water, but they hate extremes, so avoid completely dry or boggy soil, as they won’t do well in either.

They’re also very low maintenance plants, which you could even have a go at hybridizing them yourself.

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