Istrian Hellebore Helleborus multifidus subsp. istriacus

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Hard-care
Istrian deeply-incised-leaved hellebore


The plant known as the Hellebore is characterized by its lush, typically dark green leaves that are divided into narrow segments, giving them a finely cut or serrated appearance. On each leaf, the number of these segments may vary, but they all contribute to the plant's overall delicate and intricate texture. During the blooming period, it produces flowers that add a touch of elegance to the plant's profile. These blooms usually appear in a range of colors from white to pink or even purplish tones. The flowers have a distinctive shape, outward-facing and consisting of several petal-like structures that may sometimes exhibit a subtle, appealing nod. The Hellebore's overall appearance exudes a woodland charm, as it often thrives in the dappled shade of natural settings, presenting a display of foliage and blossoms that are aesthetically delicate and refined.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Istrian Hellebore

    • Common names

      Helleborus bocconei subsp. istriacus, Helleborus dumetorum subsp. istriacus, Helleborus torquatus subsp. istriacus.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Hellebore toxicity to humans is significant. All parts of the hellebore plant are toxic due to the presence of compounds such as protoanemonin and glycosides. If ingested, hellebore can cause severe gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It can also lead to central nervous system issues like dizziness and confusion. Cardiovascular complications such as bradycardia or tachycardia and respiratory difficulties might occur in severe cases. Skin contact with hellebore sap can result in irritation, redness, and blistering. It is essential to handle the plant with care and seek medical attention immediately if ingestion or excessive skin contact occurs.

    • To pets

      Hellebore toxicity to pets is considerable. Hellebore contains toxic compounds that can affect pets if they ingest any part of the plant. Symptoms of hellebore poisoning in pets include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and depression. In more severe cases, it can lead to heart problems, respiratory difficulties, seizures, and even death. It is vital to prevent pets from accessing these plants and to seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested hellebore.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      1-1.5 feet (30-45 cm)

    • Spread

      1.5-2 feet (45-60 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Value: Helleborus multifidus subsp. istriacus, commonly known as Istrian Hellebore, is appreciated for its early-spring flowers that add beauty to gardens when few other plants are blooming.
    • Drought Tolerance: Once established, Istrian Hellebore is quite drought-tolerant, making it suitable for xeriscaping or low-water garden schemes.
    • Shade Tolerance: This plant thrives in partial to full shade, offering a flowering option for darker areas of the garden where other plants might struggle.
    • Deer Resistance: Istrian Hellebore is known to be resistant to deer, which is beneficial for gardens in areas where deer predation is a problem.
    • Pest Resistance: Generally, hellebores are known for their resistance to many pests, reducing the need for chemical treatments.
    • Long Blooming Period: The flowers of hellebores, including Istrian Hellebore, can last for several months, providing a long period of visual interest.
    • Evergreen Foliage: Istrian Hellebore provides year-round greenery with its evergreen leaves, enhancing the winter garden landscape.
    • Low Maintenance: It requires minimal upkeep once established, making it a good choice for gardeners seeking low-maintenance plants.
    • Groundcover Potential: As a clump-forming perennial, it can be used to stabilize soil and prevent erosion on shady slopes.
    • Attracts Pollinators: In early spring, the flowers attract early-season pollinators, providing a food source when other nectar sources are scarce.
    • Ease of Propagation: Can be propagated by division, making it easy to spread around the garden or share with fellow gardeners.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Hellebore seed oil, extracted from the seeds of the Hellebore, can be used in the production of candles and soaps due to its burnable properties.
    • The roots of the Hellebore can be processed to use as a natural dye for fabrics, giving a range of colors from green to yellow depending on the mordant used.
    • Drying and grinding the plant material can yield a powder that may be used as a wood preservative due to its toxicity to wood-destroying organisms.
    • Hellebore has been historically used to deter pests from gardens and fields, as many pests are repelled by its natural chemical composition.
    • The leaves of the Hellebore, when infused into water, can create a bitter solution that is sometimes used as an additive for livestock feed to prevent the animals from overeating.
    • As an ornamental plant, the Hellebore's parts, including petals and leaves, are sometimes used in the art of pressed flower craft for decorative purposes.
    • The distinctive green color of the Hellebore can be used to extract pigments for artist paints or coloring agents for various crafts.
    • Budding Hellebore flowers may be used as indicators of early spring when planted in a phenological garden, which is used to study seasonal changes and climate.
    • Given the high toxicity of the plant, Hellebore can be incorporated as a protective barrier in gardens to minimize the browsing of herbivores such as deer or rabbits.
    • Hellebore is sometimes planted in memorial gardens or places of reflection due to its longstanding symbolic association with tranquility and peace.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Hellebore is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Hellebore is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Resilience: Helleborus is known for its ability to bloom in the early winter or even under snow, symbolizing the ability to endure challenging conditions and overcome adversity.
    • Protection: In medieval times, it was believed that Helleborus could ward off evil spirits and negative influences; therefore, it symbolizes protection from harm.
    • Hope: As one of the first plants to flower after winter, it is often associated with hope and the promise of spring after dark times.
    • Tranquility: The plant's subtle colors and serene appearance can symbolize peace and calm, providing a sense of tranquility to those who behold it.
    • New Beginnings: Because it blooms early, the Helleborus can symbolize new beginnings or starting afresh, as it heralds the coming of spring and new growth.

Every 1-2 weeks
500 - 2500 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring-Early Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    The Lenten Rose, which is a common name for Helleborus multifidus subsp. istriacus, should be watered deeply once the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. During the growing season, this might mean watering once or twice a week, depending on climate conditions. It's important to avoid letting the plant sit in waterlogged soil, so ensure good drainage. A rough estimate is to provide about one gallon of water per square yard every week during dry spells. Cut back on watering in the winter when the plant goes dormant, reducing to only when the soil is dry several inches down and the plant shows signs of needing water.

  • sunLight

    The Lenten Rose prefers partial to full shade, especially in hotter climates where it needs protection from the intense afternoon sun. The ideal spot would be beneath a deciduous tree that allows dappled sunlight through or in a north-facing position where it can receive bright indirect light without direct exposure. This plant thrives in the sheltered light found in woodland gardens or shaded borders.

  • thermometerTemperature

    For the Lenten Rose, the ideal temperature conditions range between 35°F to 85°F. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 5°F and as high as 95°F for short periods; however, extended exposure to extremes may damage the plant. Adequate mulch can help protect the roots from severe cold or heat.

  • scissorsPruning

    Prune the Lenten Rose in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Remove old, damaged, or diseased foliage to encourage fresh growth and improve air circulation. Deadheading, or removing spent flowers, is not necessary for health but can tidy up the plant if desired. Pruning only needs to occur annually, or as often as needed to maintain its appearance.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    The Istrien Hellebore prefers well-draining soil rich in organic matter with a soil pH ranging from neutral to slightly alkaline, approximately 7.0-8.0. A suitable soil mix can be created with equal parts of loam, peat moss, and sharp sand to ensure proper drainage and fertility.

  • plantRepotting

    Istrien Hellebores should be repotted every 2-3 years to refresh the soil and accommodate root growth. They are relatively slow-growing and can remain in the same pot for a few years without becoming root-bound.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Istrien Hellebores thrive in average humidity conditions typical of outdoor environments. They do not require high humidity and will do well with the natural humidity levels found in most temperate climates.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Position in bright, indirect light and ensure soil drains well.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in partial shade, enrich soil with organic matter, water regularly.

    • Hardiness zone

      5-9 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Helleborus multifidus subsp. istriacus, also known as the Istrian hellebore, initiates its life cycle as seeds, which germinate to produce small seedlings. These seedlings grow into juvenile plants with a rosette of leaves at the soil surface. As the plant matures, it develops a deep root system and evergreen foliage that persists through winter. The Istrian hellebore reaches flowering maturity typically in late winter to early spring, producing cup-shaped, greenish-white to purplish flowers. After pollination, typically by insects, the plant sets seed in pods that eventually dry and release seeds for the next generation. The plant's perennial nature allows it to live and continue this cycle for many years, often surviving harsh winters with its robust foliage.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-Early Summer

    • Helleborus multifidus subsp. istriacus, commonly known as the Istrian hellebore, can be propagated most effectively by division. Division should ideally be carried out in late autumn or early spring. This method involves carefully digging up the plant and separating it into smaller parts ensuring that each division has at least a couple of healthy shoots and a portion of the root system. Divisions can then be replanted in well-draining soil at the same depth they were originally growing, with adequate space to accommodate mature growth. Regular watering after division helps the new plants to establish, but it's important to not over-water and cause root rot. Division allows gardeners to quickly expand their collection of hellebores, as this method typically results in flowering plants much quicker than propagation by seed.