Should I cut my hellebores back?

Now is the time of year when this question always comes up.  In milder climates where the winter foliage on hellebores stays halfway decent year-round it’s more of a question, but here it’s a no-brainer.  As soon as the weather eases up and I can work outside without being miserable, all the hellebore foliage comes off, brown or not.  This winter especially, the normally attractive leaves are a disaster and won’t be missed at all by the plants.removing hellebore foliage

They look this way all over the garden and now that the snow is in retreat (hopefully) I can’t wait to clear this mess out.  Even in years when the leaves are looking ok I still get rid of them and the plants don’t miss a beat.  I think the blooms show off much better against a clean background and fresh leaves will be coming up soon enough 🙂

Just for the record, when I first started with hellebores I used to treasure each and every green leaf that made it through winter, and carefully left them in place while removing only the damaged ones.  My thinking of course was that every green bit helped the plant produce food.  While that’s true, the few weeks of photosynthesis lost doesn’t seem to make a difference, and I’ve learned the plants are much tougher than I give them credit for.  The only exception to this rule would be if you’re growing any of the taller stemmed (caulescent type) hellebores.  Don’t cut them to the ground, the tall stem will be sprouting blooms at this time of year, and you’ll only want to remove damaged leaves.

Hopefully my “little Gem” southern magnolia will be as resilient as the hellebores.  cold damaged southern magnoliaIt’s also sporting brown and damaged leaves, but I suspect it will also pull through.  My scenario for this plant will be a complete loss of leaves once the weather warms, and then new growth in May…. it will look worse for a while, but my fingers are crossed and even with temps back down in the single digits tonight I’m trying for optimism 🙂