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(Zone 6A, the hellebore I have is a perennial here.)

I have a hellebore that I bought from the nursery a few months ago. It has this issue where no matter how little or how much water I give it (even as much as a full blown flood), it doesn't respond in any way at all.

The only time it reacts is when there is rain.

If there isn't any rain, it gradually droops down until it's basically full on sleeping. And since it is the summer time, we've had really, really infrequent rain.

I decided to take a closer look at it today just to see how it was doing, and it feels like the leaves are getting crustier/stiffer. Some of the edges are turning brown too and withering. Slight yellowing on some of them.

When I first bought the hellebore, a few of the leaves died off within the first week, but I shrugged that off since that does happen from time to time with plants, but I think there might be a bigger issue afoot.

There's still a good amount of leaves on it, but it hasn't shown any meaningful growth for months. It's planted in part sun/shade with its original container soil, loosened, and accompanied with triple mix to level out the ground around it.

Should I uproot it and make it a container plant instead, in full shade?

Advice would be most appreciated.

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    Just for clarity, this plant is in the ground, actually in open soil, not in a pot in the ground? Any chance of your adding a photo? When you water, how much and how frequently do you do it when the weather is dry?
    – Bamboo
    Aug 17, 2022 at 10:55
  • Hi @Bamboo, thank you for your comment. Yes, it was transplanted to the ground. And after I made this question, I moved it elsewhere that was full shade instead. I water everyday and rather deeply so long as I see the leaves drooping. Sadly, the entire plant blackened after a proper session of rain, so I'll be bringing it back to the nursery to exchange. Any tips on how to avoid this the next time? Aug 21, 2022 at 16:28

2 Answers 2

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Your Helleborus certaintly does not like "a full blown flood" nor very dry soil in a too sunny place.

Often they do very well in drained containers. I place mine in shadow in the summertime.

But based on your description, I think the most obvious reason to the troubles is improper watering. ("The only time it reacts is when there is rain.")

Until your plant is well established it will need frequent water supplies in a reasonable amount. You must supply as much water as it will reach the deepest level of the roots, but not as much as there will be any kind of standing water. This is especially true if the original container soil is surrounded by clay or heavy soil.

Sometimes it can be useful to dig a small hole near the plant (without disturbing the roots) to check the humidity in the soil.

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    Thank you for your advice. I actually moved the plant to a full shade spot, and noticed that the root ball was hard as a rock—I could not loosen the soil at all. Sadly, the entire plant has blackened after a session of rain, so I have no choice but to exchange it at the nursery. Do you have an advice on how to properly plant and water it? Aug 21, 2022 at 16:29
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    Wait until autumn and you will probably only need to supply water a few times unless the autumn and winter are very dry. There must always be some humidity in soil, but it should not stay wet for days. Dig out twice the height of the rootball and mix with organic matrial like compost or dead leaves. Use a lot if the soil is heavy. I assume your hellebore died because the soil was not well drained. If the soil in your garden becomes very wet during the winter, I advice to use a well drained container. Hellebores are very hardy.
    – Gyrfalcon
    Aug 21, 2022 at 23:27
  • It's certainly possible that the place I moved the hellebore to might've had too much clay; when I dug the hole, it was rather difficult to do so, and looked very dry. I did amend it with new compost and added plenty of water, but I guess that only make things worse. I'll stick to planting the new hellebore in a shady spot with really loosened soil and fresh compost. Aug 25, 2022 at 21:32
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    When dealing with clay, the point is to avoid standing water especially during the winter. Digging a hole in clay is like forming a bucket. When you fill the hole with compost you can not see the water. if you do not have any experience with your soil and standing water, you can investigate by digging the hole now and let it stay empty. If it contains water days after rainfall, then you will need to drain the soil by digging a deeper hole and adding stones and/or sand.
    – Gyrfalcon
    Aug 25, 2022 at 21:52
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I note your description of the rootball when you moved it, i.e. 'hard as rock', which strongly suggests insufficient water supply. At that point, you might have been able to save the plant had you immersed the root ball into a bucket of water for an hour or two, then replanted and watered the area. If your soil is very heavy with a lot of clay, then adding plenty of organic matter to it,either by digging it in or layering on top every six months, will improve it. If you plant a new Hellebore, choose a mostly shady spot, though dappled sunlight is fine, dig over the soil beforehand if it's heavy in an area at least 3 times the size of the plant you've bought. You can add some organic matter (compost or similar) while you are digging if you wish, then make a hole and plant. Water in thoroughly with around 5 litres of water, then keep watered once a week with the same amount of water, applied to the soil directly around or at the base of the plant, if the weather is dry and especially if it's hot. As Fall arrives, you probably won't need to water any more, but it depends on whether it's still warm and dry.

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  • Thank you very much for your reply! That is something I did not know about until now. So I didn't necessarily need to reposition the plant? The issue all along was that the root ball needed to be softened, and the soil needed to be amended? I'll keep this in mind with my new hellebore replacement! Aug 25, 2022 at 21:30
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    The root ball was only hard because it hadn't been getting enough water often enough...putting it in water in a bucket would have given the roots a good drink and softened it.
    – Bamboo
    Aug 25, 2022 at 21:38

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