Collecting Hellebore Seeds for Plant Propagation

Hellebore is a blossoming perennial, which flowers long before spring arrives.

It is a member of the Ranunculaceae family, and you can get it in colors that range from pink and red to green and yellow, and even black or purple.

In (USDA) United States Department of Agriculture Hardness Zones 4 – 9, you might see flowers peeping through the snow as early as January.

These plants make charming additions to any backyard. They have showy blooms resemble climbing roses in colors of deep purple, pink and even yellow.

The blooms of hellebore might vary if you plant its seeds, with the new hellebore plants providing even better variations of color.

If you want to grow this plant from seed, you should adhere to some easy tips. This will make sure you have a successful propagation of hellebore seed.

If you’ve grown hardy Hellebore or thinking about planting it, here, you’ll learn ways of gathering seeds for new plants propagation.

Hellebore seed life cycle

A hellebore bloom’s anatomy has an inner flower referred to as a “nectary”that’s surrounded by colorful sepals.

Helpful insects get to the sweet nectar that’s within the nodding flower heads, get nourishment, and help in pollinating the flowers through cross-pollination.

Ultimately, the nectary falls away from the fertilized bloom as the seed pods form. While there is an enlargement of pods, fading of the petal-like sepals takes place.

Before long, springtime yields summertime and the drying out of the mature takes place, gradually changing from green to brown.

Small, black seeds ripen inside.

Methods of collecting seeds

When left alone, hellebore will self-sow, and drop seeds to germinate the coming winter season. The seeds can also get carried off by wildlife or wind to grow somewhere else.

Not collected, the dry, brown pods usually open and curl up, letting their valuable contents spill out.

When it comes time for harvesting, it is important that you catch the seeds before they fall. As soon as you hear the rattling of seeds inside dry pods, it is time for collection.

4 ways of collecting and extracting the seeds of hellebore.

  1. Bag whole plants

This technique is beneficial if you have plans of pruning back the hellebores after flowering.

You should get some drawstring mesh bags; however, these should have a width and length of about 20 inches, big enough to hold whole plants.

You will still need to make sure the material permits air circulation. This will help in preventing the seed heads from decaying in damp conditions.

When the sepals start fading to brown, and the formation of the seed is evident, it’s best if you use a bag to cover each whole plant.

Then, tighten the drawstring firmly around the stem’s base. It would help if you bag the seed pods right away, or risk getting it wrong when the pods start cracking and dropping their contents.

It is best if you shake each bag every few days to listen for a rattle, which is a sign that the seeds are ready.

After that, it is best if you use razor-sharp pruners for cutting the stems and pruning back the overgrown branches to the ground underneath the bag to get rid of them in their whole.

These plants are perennials and will grow back come the following season. Open these bags over clean cloth or newspaper then separate the chaff (dry plant material) from the seeds.

After that, put the seeds into the right container. Throw away the dry plant material in a compost heap or garden.

The bag methods come with the benefit of significantly minimizing the risk of self-sowing. But these bags work best in dry weather.

Persistent wet conditions might cause the seed inside these bags to get saturated and decay. Breeders sometimes use these bags who want to cross-pollinate plants manually.

This is to make sure they get protected from coming into contact with pollinators in nature.

A disadvantage of the bag techniques is that you might unintentionally collect some seeds that aren’t ripe.

While seed matured on the plant offers the best probability of viability, in undeveloped seed, pods that do not show any cracks and no rattling, might be laid out to complete drying on a clean cloth or newspaper in a dry, well-ventilated spot.

Another drawback is the tiring work involved in bagging whole plants or flower heads.

You can try any technique or techniques that work best with you. A bit of testing will disclose what will work properly for you in the garden.

Once gathered, you will have to sow the seeds right away, a 1/3 – 1/2 inch of depth. If you keep them for long periods, the more likely they will not sprout.

Seeds of Hellebore do not save properly. For this reason, they will need cold stratification prior to direct sowing if not sown right away after harvesting.

  1. Harvesting the Hellebore flower heads

Harvesting the whole flower bed is the simplest way of collecting hellebore seeds.

To achieve this, you can snip off the flower head over a bucket or paper grocery bag using sharp pruners.

As soon as you’ve collected all flower heads, you would like, spread a clean cloth or newspapers on a table and empty the contents in the bucket or bag.

You can use the forefinger and thumb for rubbing the pods until the seeds fall out.

Get rid of the chaff and gather the seeds and put them in your preferred container, jar, or envelope. You can throw away the dry plant material in the compost pile or your garden.

  1. Bag the Hellebore flower heads

When you put bags over the flower heads or even the whole plant, it will help minimize the risk of plant self-sowing, as well as help any loss of seeds. You can buy or use fine-weave material to make small drawstring mesh bags.

This includes organza or cotton, which can have seeds as tiny as 1/16 of an inch without allowing them to fall through.

Some people prefer using string or old stockings. The bags permit the penetration of air, to prevent flower heads rotting during wet weather.

Make sure that each bag is big enough to entirely cover a flower bed that has a diameter as big as four inches.

Once the seed pods start forming, and the sepals start to fade to brown, use a bag to enclose each flower bag and close the drawstring firmly around the plant’s stem.

Make sure you look at the bags every couple of minutes by shaking them. After one to two weeks, based on how early the bags were placed over the flower heads, you will hear a dry rattling sound when shaking the bags.

When you hear the rattling noise from the bag, take out the whole flower head by snipping the stem underneath.

Over a clean cloth or newspaper, separate the dry plant material from the seeds and put the seeds you’ve gathered into your preferred container. Throw away the chaff in the compost heap or garden.

  1. Crumble the Hellebore flower heads

If you do not want to cut all your plant’s flower heads off, you can use your forefinger and thumb to rub each of the flower head over a bucket or paper bag, so the seeds drop.

After that, spread a clean cloth or newspaper on the right flat surface and empty those seed pods onto it.

It is best if you use care to take out the dry plant material.

Then put the seeds in your preferred container, jar, or envelope and throw away the dry plant material.

Be ready for surprises

There are about twenty well-known hellebore species. One species, an especially robust variety referred to as H. Orientalis.

This has been frequently crossed using the others to create colorful hybrids identified collectively as Helleborus x hybridus. You find these plants easily.

Hybrid seeds don’t imitate a plant’s features from which they came.

The reason being, the plant was a cross between a few varieties, and thus not a real species.

What’s the meaning of this to the home gardener?

The plant seeds you gather might generate new plants in any color from white to deep purple, nearly black. Additionally, it is most likely that not all sees will grow. This species is full of viability issues.

It is common for a few seeds to ripen to a non-viable condition. Others might be unintentionally sown too late or harvested early, which threatens germination. Some will always end up being eaten by wildlife.

Are there other ways to propagate Hellebore?

The answer to this question is yes. You can begin with a mature nursery plant. These plants might be widely grouped as Helleborus x hybridus.

This shows that an assortment of hues might present themselves. Or, might be generically labeled by one of their popular names: Christmas rose, Lenten, or winter.

Let the plant establish itself in 12 to 24 months, and then divide it as you might other perennials.

The drawback of dividing is you’ll have a precise “clone” of the parent plant. In addition, you can save seeds for trying “potluck” plantings somewhere else.

The drawback once more is that its expensive to identify nursery-grown hellebore cultivars positively.

Remember that while you may start other plants from the leaf or stem cuttings, hellebores do not grow like this.

An entire part of the plant should be dug up, roots and everything, and dividing the rhizome.

Add the Hellebore plant to your garden

Your garden will look amazing with this plant, as when sown from seed, different shades will emerge.

And when you purchase rare cultivars such as Onyx Odyssey, the local garden club might approach you and ask you to share sought-after divisions with other enthusiasts of hellebore.

Besides propagating by seed and division, you can also use tissue cultures to propagate this captivating plant, a procedure referred to as “micropropagation”.

This year, make sure you harvest your hellebore seeds and multiply your garden’s beauty affordably and simply.

If you do not have a hellebore genus yet, get a division from a friend or buy one, and experience this amazing plant.