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Keep hellebores healthy

I inherited a fairly large garden of hellebores when I moved into my current house. There is a problem with black spots on the leaves that I researched on the internet. I have cleaned out the dead leaves from the winter to improve their appearance and air circulation. What is the best way to deal with this problem?

Hellebore-webIf you’ve cut off the dead leaves of the hellebores and gotten any infected foliage around the plants cleaned up and destroyed, you’ve already gotten a good start on controlling the problem by non-chemical means. Leaf spot disease seems to be a fairly common affliction of Helleborus, caused by a fungus, and the first line of defense is to avoid spreading it around, and keep the area inhospitable to fungal growth.

The best information I found about diseases that affect hellebores is at the website of the Royal Horticultural Society. RHS experts note that there are no fungicides specifically designed to treat leaf spot disease on hellebores, but that fungicides labeled for other ornamental plants may help control hellebore leaf spot. (I always recommend the non-chemical methods first).

Hellebores are a beautiful addition to a garden because they bloom when not much else is happening – in late winter and very early spring. In Middle Tennessee (where The Garden Bench calls home), we often enjoy watching the flowers open in January, sometimes peeking cheerfully through light dustings of snow.

Hellebores grow best in rich, well-drained soil that is somewhat alkaline or neutral pH; they may suffer in soil that is too dry or that stays too wet. The plants enjoy a little sun but thrive in dappled shade. Once established, they may resent being moved, but hellebores that are doing well may self-sow, and you can transplant seedlings in early spring.

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