Why Is My Hellebore Drooping? (9 Reasons)

I have only recently discovered Hellebores and find them to be a great flowering option through the winter and into spring.

They are also called the Christmas or Lenten Rose, and come in a variety of colours.

Hellebores are perfect for difficult shaded areas, and their evergreen foliage provides interest and coverage.

They can suddenly flop however, so if you are wondering: Why Is My Hellebore Drooping? – read on to find out.

1. Natural Design
2. Too Much Sun
3. Not Enough Water
4. Too Much Water
5. Poor Drainage
6. Root Disturbance
7. Pests – Aphids
8. Fungus – Hellebore Leaf Spot
9. Virus – Hellebore Black Death

Natural Design

Before we get to the factors that can negatively affect Hellebores it is worth noting that by natural design, many Hellebore flowers will face slightly downwards in a bell like fashion.

This is nothing to be worried about and is a feature that protects the flowers from rain and snow through the colder months.

Why Is My Hellebore Drooping (9 Reasons) - Hellebore Flower

Too Much Sun

In their natural habitat, Hellebores are found on the edge of woodlands at high altitudes in Europe.

They like dappled shade and most will actually do fine in full shade, although some prefer more light.

This means that for some varieties, too much sun can cause wilting and dehydration of the flowers and foliage.

How to fix:

  • A good place to plant Hellebores is at the base of a deciduous tree.
  • This will provide shade from the hot summer sun, but access to light in the winter when the tree drops it’s leaves.
  • There are some varieties of Hellebore that don’t mind plentiful sunshine.
  • One example is Helleborus × sternii, another is Helleborus argutifolius which has unusual green petals.

Why Is My Hellebore Drooping (9 Reasons) - Helleborus Argutifolius

Not Enough Water

Hellebores are known for being drought tolerant, however this is slightly misleading.

Young or newly planted Hellebores will need additional water for the first few months, if rainfall levels are low.

When they are established they will usually manage to find enough water, however with the recent changes to our climate here in the UK and elsewhere, higher temperatures for sustained periods of time will mean extra irrigation will likely be needed in the summer.

Dehydrated Hellebores will flop and droop, and the foliage will feel soft and wilted.

How to fix:

  • If you have recently planted a Hellebore then water in well.
  • Monitor over the next few months and provide extra irrigation as needed.
  • This is especially so if your soil is very free draining, if the weather is very warm and dry, or if your Hellebore is in a sunny spot.
  • The soil should be consistently moist but not wet.
  • Don’t water by spraying water over the plant as this can cause fungal disease on the foliage.
  • Water at the base using a hose or watering can.

Why Is My Hellebore Drooping (9 Reasons) - Green Hellebore Flower

Too Much Water

This is a far more likely problem for Hellebores, they will not cope in water saturated soil.

Foliage will start to turn yellow, and may even turn black around the edges as the roots become saturated and unable to perform.

Stems may start to rot and collapse at the base.

How to fix:

  • It is unlikely that your Hellebore will need additional water through the colder months, so only water in newly planted Hellebores until they become established and only if there has not been enough rainfall.
  • If your Hellebore is in a pot then check the soil before you water, if it is already moist then do not add any more.
  • If you are watering, try to do it early in the day so the plant is set up for the day and does not sit in wet soil through the night.

Why Is My Hellebore Drooping (9 Reasons) - Pale Pink Hellebore

Poor Drainage

This is related to the section above as poorly draining soil can cause water to sit around the roots.

As above this can cause the roots to rot, and the foliage and flowers to collapse.

It also increases the risk of fungal disease.

How to fix:

  • If your soil is dense and prone to compacting, work in some sand or grit to increase drainage.
  • Don’t plant Hellebores in natural dips or depressions as water will accumulate in these areas.
  • In my garden, one of my Hellebores is planted below an apple tree.
  • In autumn the fallen apples can cause that area to become very moist as they rot down, so I have to make sure I regularly clear them from around the Hellebore.

Why Is My Hellebore Drooping (9 Reasons) - Hellebore Foliage

Root Disturbance

Hellebores dislike being disturbed once settled.

Their roots are quite deep so are prone to damage if improperly moved.

If you do have to move a Hellebore, or are wanting to split a large plant, make sure to carefully dig out all of the root system rather than cutting it.

Try to take some of the surrounding soil also to support the root system and to maintain the established soil microbiome.

How to fix:

  • Choose the right time – late summer when the Hellebore has finished flowering and has gone to seed is best.
  • Wait until the weather starts to cool (ie not peak summer) to avoid heat stress.
  • Make the transfer early in the morning when the plant’s moisture content is highest.
  • Wear waterproof gloves, Hellebore sap can cause irritation to the skin.
  • Once removed from the ground, make sure to place the Hellebore in water if there is any wait before replanting, as it must not dry out.
  • Once replanted, don’t firm in with your foot as this could damage the delicate roots, use your hand.

Pests – Aphids

These small insects feed by sucking the sap from Hellebore’s foliage and new shoots.

They produce a sweet sticky waste product called Honeydew.

This attracts a black sooty mould that can stick to the leaves.

How to fix:

  • Although foliage and buds can suffer slight damage, aphids are unlikely to cause severe harm to a Hellebore.
  • Their effects are mainly cosmetic, although the black sooty mould can hinder sunlight absorption.
  • A simple fix is to wipe off the mould and the aphids with a mild dish soap solution.
  • Encourage natural predators like ladybirds and wasps by having high levels of biodiversity in your garden.

Why Is My Hellebore Drooping (9 Reasons) - Ladybug Eating An Aphid

Fungus – Hellebore Leaf Spot

This is a common fungal infection and presents as quite large round brown to black spots of dead leaf tissue.

The dead tissue can then fall away, leaving large ragged holes and edges.

It can also affect the stems and buds causing similar dead patches.

How to fix:

  • If you spot the signs (no pun intended) then remove any affected leaves/stems/flowers and dispose of them (not in the compost heap).
  • Sanitise any tools or gloves used.
  • Regularly clear debris from around the base of the plant to maintain good ventilation.

Virus – Hellebore Black Death

This sounds quite alarming and indeed is usually fatal to Hellebores that contract it.

It is the Helleborus net necrosis virus, or HeNNV, and is thought to be spread by aphids.

Luckily it is quite rare in domestic gardens and more likely to appear in plant nurseries, but it is definitely worth knowing what to look out for.

In appearance, it can be similar to the Leaf Spot fungal disease above, but instead of round spots the black dead tissue is more streaky, and follows the veins of the plant.

How to fix:

  • If you see the symptoms of Hellebore Black Death then it must be addressed immediately.
  • The whole plant will need to be removed and disposed of (not in the compost heap) and potentially any surrounding Hellebores as they can harbour the virus for some time without showing symptoms.
  • Sanitise any tools, containers or gloves used.
  • If you have recently bought your Hellebores from a garden centre or nursery, let them know you have found Hellebore Black Death.
  • Keep an eye on aphid levels and manage infestations as above.

Why Is My Hellebore Drooping (9 Reasons) - Hellebores In A Shaded Location

Final Thoughts

Hellebores are attractive and unusual plants.

They are perfect for difficult shady areas in the garden, and also for winter colour and coverage.

If you are looking for other evergreen flowering plants, Camellias are also a great choice.

Hopefully I have covered the main problems that can affect Hellebores, but if you see something you can’t identify, then drop me a message and I will do my best to help.

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