Helleborus foetidus

Buds of Helleborus foetidus in late autumn

Helleborus foetidus (ht 80 cm) is a hellebore species from West and Central Europe, with attractive finely dissected leaves. I have found that it is not as long lived as some of the other hellebores that grow in Sydney, but it lasts for a few years and where happy, it will self-seed, providing replacements for the original plant when it becomes woody and unproductive. These seedlings can be transplanted, if care is taken not to disturb the roots too much. The species has green leaves and bunches of pale green bell-shaped flowers in winter and early spring.

Sedum mexicanum Gold Mound, right, with Helleborus foetidus Gold Bullion

A recent cultivar, 'Gold Bullion', has golden leaves in spring (which age to chartreuse) and gold-infused bell-shaped flowers. It grows about 50 cm tall. It prefers a slightly alkaline soil in sun or part shade. I cut back the flowered stems at the end of the blooming season - which does last a very long time.

It is best to buy these plants from a specialist nursery. Cutting off most of the flower stems before the seeds fully develop (leaving one or two to produce seeds for new seedlings) may help prolong the plant's life.

Flowers in May, June, July, August, September, October.