Winter Interests: Helleborus orientalis ‘Onyx Odyssey’

February 21, 2020

Happy Friday & welcome back to our Winter Interests series!

This week, we are going to dive into some roses… roses? In Winter? Not quite! To be more precise, we’re going to look at Lenten Roses (the common name for Helleborus orientalis), and the specific cultivar Helleborus orientalis ‘Onyx Odyssey.’


Lenten roses are herbaceous perennials native to Asia Minor. Commonly grown as an ornamental addition to the garden, these plants are recognized by their unique, large, cup-shaped nodding flowers in shades from exceptionally dark purple, to slate gray, and black. Deep emerald green palmate leaves are leathery and finely serrated along the margins, they are evergreen in warm climates but may become deciduous in extremely cold winters.

Helleborus orientalis as a botanical name has Greek origins, bora meaning food, and helein meaning injures or destroys – in reference to the plant’s toxicity to humans. The specific epithet orientalis means from the Orient.

Moderately growing to 1 – 1.5 feet high and wide, these clumping perennials will self-sow under encouragement and look their best when naturalized. Lenten roses are best grown in fully to partially shaded, moist, organically enriched soil; they also grow well when massed under high-branching trees, on the north or east side of walls, or in protected beds. Here in our San Ramon yard we are already being given a show of blooms, hinting to the approach of spring. However, these flowers are known to bloom anytime from late winter to spring, dependent on their climate. Hellebores grown in milder winter climates will bloom more readily than those grown in colder climates. These are remarkably long living plants, and their addition into the landscape will add an unusually dark note to your color palette during seasonal dormancy.

There are no serious insect or disease problems that affect Hellebores; however, leaf spot and crown rot may present an occasional problem. These rugged and easy-growing plants are often left alone by browsing deer and rodents.


Here at the nursery, we currently carry Helleborus orientalis ‘Onyx Odyssey’ in 1 gallon containers. Call your salesperson today to check availability!


Companion plants for Helleborus: Heuchera (Coral Bells), Hosta (Hosta), Aquilegia (Columbine), Sequoia (Redwood)



Bailey, Liberty H. Manual of Cultivated Plants. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1949.

Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium Staff. Hortus. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1976.

Norris Brenzel, Kathleen, ed. The New Sunset Western Garden Book. 9th ed. New York: Time Home Entertainment, 2012.