The snow rose is the queen of all early flowering plants. The plants are a ray of light in the cold winter landscape and bring color to the home garden with their pure white to red flowers. They bravely defy ice and snow, and are an interesting eye-catcher even on the balcony. It used to be a tradition to pick the plants known as Christmas roses as table decorations at Christmas time. In the meantime, the fascinating plants have become rare in the wild. One more reason to cultivate them in your own garden.


  • The flowering time of this robust plant is between December and April.
  • Christmas roses belong to the ranunculus family.
  • All parts of the plant are poisonous.
  • The evergreen plant forms black roots and rhizomes.
  • Foliage leaves die off after flowering and only grow back after the fruit has ripened.
  • The buttercup plant can reach a height of 15 to 30 cm.
  • Is known by the nickname Christmas or Christmas roses.

Location and substrate

Helleborus niger is anything but an inconspicuous plant. Its large, pure white flowers appear as early as December. The herbaceous, evergreen plants are extremely true to their location and, under ideal conditions, can decorate the winter garden with their blossoms for decades. The buttercup plant is native to the Alps and the northern Balkans. In their natural habitat, snow roses prefer light forests and bushy slopes. The winter flowers need a partially shaded location. Direct sunlight, such as the related spring roses, is not compatible with snow roses. The same applies to a fully shaded place in the garden.

  • A warm location is preferred.
  • The root area of ​​Helleborus niger should be shaded.
  • In winter, snow roses are very hungry for light, but cannot tolerate direct sunlight.

The plants are sensitive to disturbances. This applies especially to maintenance measures such as mulching or digging. The shallow roots of the snow roses can be damaged quickly. For this reason, choose a planting location where the plants can develop and grow undisturbed. Christmas roses are suitable for planting under trees and larger deciduous trees. In December it is worth carefully removing the dead leaves from the neighboring plants. In this way, Helleborus niger receives enough sunlight and can develop its fascinating floral splendor even in the cold season without the annoying layer of leaves.

Conventional garden soil is a point that snow roses are difficult to cope with in many cases. A calcareous and loamy soil strengthens the growth and resilience of the snow rose. Alpine or Mediterranean garden areas are not suitable for cultivating the beautiful winter bloomers. However, few gardens have the right soil for Helleborus. This can be remedied quickly with little effort. Mix the substrate of the site with large amounts of clay and lime. Fine pebbles also ensure that the soil remains permeable. This makes the plant feel good and does not disappear again after a few years due to deficiency symptoms.

Tip : If you leave snow roses undisturbed and do not move them regularly, they can reach an age of over 25 years.

Watering and fertilizing

Helleborus niger grows extremely slowly. A little patience is necessary before you can enjoy the flowers of the plants. The right supply of water contributes to the fact that the plants feel good and thrive optimally.

  • The root ball must not dry out.
  • Water moderately but evenly.
  • Avoid waterlogging.
  • Water in the morning or evening.
  • Water on frost-free days in autumn or winter.

Snow roses have absolutely no objection to calcareous irrigation water. While lime often clogs the roots’ supply channels in other plants, it promotes growth and resilience in Helleborus.

Tip : Container plants need drainage at the bottom of the pot. This layer of porous material is important for snow roses because waterlogging can quickly cause root rot in these plants.

Helleborus niger has no objection to the supply of nutrients, but this should be done in moderation. Organic material such as compost or horn shavings are applied immediately before flowering. In July it is worth fertilizing the plant again with it. The minerals are sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the plants. Snow roses can be cultivated on the terrace or balcony for a few years in a sufficiently large planter. A liquid fertilizer that is fed directly to the substrate via the irrigation water has proven its worth here.


Christmas roses have been with us since ancient times. From that time, however, it was not the beauty of the flower that was handed down to us, but the healing power of the black roots. In the meantime we only enjoy the early flowering of the Christmas rose. All parts of the Helleborus plant are poisonous, so gloves should be worn during planting and direct care. If you want to cultivate the winter-blooming plants in your home garden, you only need to make a few preparations:

  • Dig a planting hole at the selected location. This should have twice the circumference of the plant’s root ball.
  • Prepare the substrate.
  • Loosen the soil generously all around.
  • Insert the plants and carefully press the prepared soil into place.
  • Pour on vigorously.

Ideally, large plants should already be available at the planting site to provide shade. If you place several Helleborus species or varieties next to each other, a minimum distance of 25-30 cm between the individual plants is recommended. This is enough so that the plants do not compete with each other for nutrients and water. The best time for this type of planting is between October and March. These months are the main growing season for the snow roses and the plant can quickly acclimate to its new location.

Snow roses are available in buckets in stores. These are intended to develop their floral splendor on the windowsill. If you want to enjoy this Helleborus for a long time, you should choose a bright, cool location for the container plants. In winter this is often difficult due to the heated rooms. Dry room air and warmth affect the plants and can cause lasting damage. Christmas roses like to have it as cold as possible. Especially during the flowering period.

Do not plant faded plants outdoors immediately. The temperature difference is too high and the heat-spoiled plants are not yet armed against double-digit minus temperatures. From March onwards, slowly get used to the outdoor weather conditions in the tub. After about 2 to 3 weeks, the plants can move into their final location in the garden. Alternatively, it is possible to leave Helleborus niger in the pot. However, the vessel should be sufficiently wide so that the shallow roots of the plants can develop sufficiently. When moving to another bucket, the following points are recommended:

  • Create a drainage layer in the new planter.
  • A 2 to 3 cm thick substrate layer is applied directly above this.
  • Mix normal potting soil with clay, lime and some humus.
  • Carefully free the snow roses from the old substrate and place them in the new tub.
  • Fill the cavities with the processed soil.
  • Pour carefully.

Repotting takes about 2 to 3 years, depending on the development of the snow roses. If the plants take care and there is no improvement despite proper care and the optimal location, you should definitely move Helleborus niger to the perennial bed.


Christmas roses are easy to propagate. In a heavy, clay-rich soil, the winter bloomers ensure their own reproduction in the form of sowing. Alternatively, you can divide the plants directly over the roots.

Seeds : After the flowers have wilted, the seed heads begin to ripen. The fruits of the snow roses resemble tubular cones. To avoid self-sowing, there is a trick: before opening the fruits, line the bottom with felt or some other water-permeable fabric. The seeds fall on it and can be easily collected. Helleborus niger are light germs and need a cold stimulus to break the germ inhibition. If left untreated, the seeds like to take their time and often only germinate in the following year. But you can also help:

  • Put the seeds in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Spread in a container with loamy soil.
  • Press the seeds only minimally into the substrate, do not cover them.
  • Pour carefully.
  • Place the bucket in a light, warm spot in the garden.

Keep the substrate evenly moist in the container, avoid waterlogging and dryness under all circumstances. The same applies to direct sunlight. As soon as the young seedlings have reached a height of between 5 to 8 cm, you can move the Christmas roses to their new location. Alternatively, sowing can be done directly in the bed. Mark the spot and keep the spot weed-free. Helleborus niger grown from seeds take a few years before they first flower.

Root division : Snow roses grow slowly, for this reason regular rejuvenation is not necessary. Propagation through root division is simple:

  • Lift the plants out of the ground with a digging fork.
  • Use an ax or a sharp spade to cut the plant into even pieces.
  • Each piece of root should have 2 to 3 eyes or shoots.
  • Plant the parts of the plant again immediately.

As with planting, the ideal time for root division is late autumn. It is important that the root pieces are planted at the same depth as before.

To cut

A pruning is not necessary for snow roses. Immediately after flowering, the first leaves begin to wither. From this point on, the sepals of the flowers are responsible for photosynthesis and keep the plant alive. You can safely cut away wilted or dead leaves during this period. When the plant completely retreats into the ground from May or June, however, you should be patient. Only when the above-ground parts of the plant are completely dead can they be removed. For this maintenance measure, it is advisable to wear gloves to protect against the poisonous plant saps and parts. Then clean the tool thoroughly.


A plant that blooms in December cannot be cold enough. However, the plant has no objection to a warming layer of bark mulch, brushwood or withered leaves. The material slowly decomposes and supplies the site with valuable nutrients and minerals. Just make sure that the young shoots get enough light as they grow.

The roots of the plants cannot protect themselves adequately from frost in the tub. There is a high risk that the entire substrate will freeze completely and the plants will be damaged in the process. Wrap the jar with burlap or fleece.

Diseases and pests

Due to the early flowering period, snow roses have a decisive advantage over many other garden plants: During their main vegetation period, it is simply too cold for a large number of harmful insects. And then, when aphids and Co. are at their peak, the Christmas roses are already wilting and therefore uninteresting for the cell sap sucking pests. But two things can affect Helleborus enormously: drought and waterlogging. Try to avoid both.


Christmas roses bloom in the season when you absolutely do not expect it. Cold does not affect the robust plants very much. Due to their low requirements in terms of location and care, they are ideal for beginners. In the right location, the perennial plant reliably develops its fascinating and fascinating blossoms every winter.

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