I have a hellebore plant that I transferred from the ground to a pot a couple of months ago because it didn't seem to be doing well. The leaves were turning brown and crispy on the ends and it was getting too big for the area anyway. I'd like to replant in the ground but in another spot next year. I thought they preferred total shade (which the original spot was), but I've seen different opinions about whether or not they like a bit of sun. Would a party shady/ full sun briefly at mid-day be OK? I live on the coast in the PNW, so it never gets too hot or blazingly sunny. I've also read that they prefer to be in the ground as opposed to pots, but don't particularly like to be transplanted. Well, that's a dilemma. I'd leave it in the pot but sometimes I'm gone for 2-3 week periods when it wouldn't get any water :/

1st photo is of hellebore in pot on deck

2nd photo is of the area where I'd like to eventually plant it. It is a southwest location with lots of trees around it.

3rd photo is area where it was originally planted. North side of wall with gravel scattered on ground.

Additional info: I originally planted it as a very young plant about a year ago in the area pictured in photo three. It was in total shade but the soil had gravel on top of it. Perhaps that is what caused the leaves to brown on the edges? It was next to a concrete walkway. I planted it with garden soil amended with some bagged compost. No additional fertilizer. I watered it weekly and it seemed to do well other than the browning. It started to grow out over the edge of the walkway, so because of that and the browning I moved it into the pot about 2 months ago.. The pot is on my back deck, mostly in shade but does get a bit of sun. The plant seems to be doing well there - no further browning of the leaves, just the old ones still there - but I'd like to move it to the area pictured in photo 2, which would get more sun, mostly filtered. This area has concrete block around the edge, but surrounded by other plants and grass.

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  • Is it the soil humid? Not acid? Maybe if you can add a picture, we can understand better the problem. Sep 12, 2018 at 12:22
  • It is quite damp here, especially in the mornings. The soil stays quite moist unless we have several days of sun. I've not had the soil tested, but I assume it is on the acidic side. I added some photos with edited explanations.
    – Anne
    Sep 12, 2018 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


Hellebore planted in partial to full shade should be very happy in the PNW. How long has this plant been in the ground? How long has it been in a pot? Transplanting a plant from the garden out of doors used to the garden soil and sunlight into a pot is major stress. Is this pot out of doors? Or is it indoors?

Moving a plant used to one set of environmental conditions to an entirely different set of conditions is usually the kiss of death. Moving a plant from out of doors, for instance, takes a few weeks of acclimation to be able to live indoors. Plants aren't meant to be moving around and changing environments so quickly.

Moving a plant used to the indoors to the out of doors takes the same amount of work acclimating the plant to be able to survive out of doors. Part of that is the thickening of the epidermis to be able handle real sunlight, temperature changes, wind.

How long ago did you dig this plant up and put it in a pot (with garden soil)? There is a problem where this plant used to live we need to fix as well as getting that plant back out of doors where it was acclimated. There is a problem causing the margins to blacken, turn crispy? That needs to be addressed first. High salts, over fertilization...what did you add to the soil before the Helebore's leaves browned?

Digging it up and putting it in a pot was a huge stressor. I know you wanted to help this plant but we'll convince you soon to never do that again. Hellebores are a low maintenance plant that works well with hosta and yews and other low light plants...rhododendrons.

Need to know what was added before you saw these symptoms. Definitely a few pictures are very necessary. It shouldn't be a problem to acclimate this plant and replant in the garden, depending on how long it has been in a pot and/or indoors.

What have you done for fertilizer? Plants in shade need less fertilizer than plants in the sun. Too much fertilizer will cause major health problems for plants or lawns in shade.

Burned margins of leaves usually indicate too high of salts (fertilizer, actual salt)...there are other reasons but we need to see pictures of your plant and its environment. Please tell us every little detail when you send a few more pictures. Watering habits, fertilizer, concrete in the environment (side walks curbs and foundations) how close is this plant to the concrete? Hellebores need acidic soils, planted near concrete means they are getting too high of a pH from the lime. Our advice will help you with all your plants, not just your Hellebore.

The PNW I know well. Clay soils, acidic because of all the rain, drainage is critical, what have you added for fertilizer, is there a lawn nearby?

New plants, plants in pots are never going to be able to survive without your input over one week, much less 2 or more. There are ways to deal with this issue, there is only one plant I am able to imagine that could survive without water, fertilizer, light...Iron Plant. But this is an exception.

Just because you have to leave for periods of time doesn't mean you can't have plants, heck pets? Babysitters that you TRUST. Automatic watering. Plant sitters for hire.


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