Stinking Hellebore Helleborus foetidus 'Yellow Wilgenbroek'

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
stinking hellebore 'Yellow Wilgenbroek'


The 'Yellow Wilgenbroek' is a variety of the plant commonly known as the stinking hellebore. It is a perennial with a naturally upright habit, and it is most noted for its striking foliage and flowers. The leaves are leathery in texture and are deeply divided into narrow segments, creating a palm-like appearance. These leaves are a dark, blue-green color, which provides a striking backdrop to the plant's distinctive flowers. The flowers of the 'Yellow Wilgenbroek' are bell-shaped and hang in clusters from a single central stem. They have a unique yellowish-green hue, a subtle color that adds a touch of brightness to the winter garden when other plants are dormant. The flowers are edged with reddish-purple, which provides a delicate contrast and highlights their shape. Typically, these blooms appear in late winter to early spring, creating an attractive display against the dark foliage. The plant itself maintains a rather bushy form, dense with foliage and stems that bear the characteristic flowers. The stinking hellebore is named for the unpleasant odor it can emit when its foliage is crushed, a feature that is typically not overtly noticeable unless the plant is disturbed. Despite this characteristic, the 'Yellow Wilgenbroek' is desirable for its ability to thrive in shady conditions and its contribution to the garden during a time of year when few other plants are in flower. Overall, this particular cultivar presents a subtle yet refined beauty that can enhance the aesthetic of a garden space, particularly in areas where it can naturalize and form an understated but elegant ground cover.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Synonyms

      Stinking Hellebore, Bear's Foot, Setterwort, Dunghill Plant.

    • Common names

      Helleborus foetidus 'Yellow Wilgenbroek'.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      The plant commonly known as stinking hellebore is toxic to humans. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause a variety of symptoms due to its various toxic compounds. Symptoms of poisoning by stinking hellebore may include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, depression of the central nervous system could occur. Contact with the skin can cause local irritation, and if the sap gets into the eyes, it can cause damage, so caution is advised when handling this plant.

    • To pets

      Stinking hellebore is also toxic to pets. If your pet ingests any part of this plant, it could experience similar symptoms to humans, such as drooling, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. In some cases, it could also lead to depression, weakness, or an abnormal heart rhythm. If you suspect your pet has ingested stinking hellebore, it is important to seek veterinary attention immediately.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2 feet (60 cm)

    • Spread

      1.5 feet (45 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Attractive Foliage – The plant has distinctive evergreen leaves that add texture and year-round interest to gardens.
    • Drought Tolerance – Once established, it has a good tolerance for drought conditions, making it suitable for xeric or low-water gardens.
    • Winter Blooming – As one of the few plants that bloom in late winter to early spring, it provides color when many other plants are dormant.
    • Shade Tolerance – It performs well in partial shade, which makes it a versatile choice for garden spots that don't receive full sunlight.
    • Deer Resistance – It is known to be resistant to deer, which makes it suitable for areas where deer browsing is a problem.
    • Pest Resistance – This plant is generally resistant to pests and diseases, reducing the need for chemical interventions.
    • Attracts Pollinators – The flowers of the Stinking Hellebore can attract pollinators such as bees early in the season when few other food sources are available.
    • Architectural Shape – The plant can provide an architectural shape with its upright form and structure in a border or container.
    • Easy to Cultivate – Helleborus foetidus is easy to cultivate and can be propagated by seeds or division, making it an accessible plant for gardeners of varying experience levels.
    • Non-Invasive – Unlike some garden plants, it does not spread aggressively and thus maintains its position without overcrowding nearby plants.
    • Multiseason Interest – With attractive foliage, long-lasting flowers, and upright seed heads, it provides interest across multiple seasons.
    • Ground Cover – It can serve as ground cover in shaded areas, helping to suppress weeds and maintain soil moisture.

  • 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

    • Helleborus foetidus, also known as the stinking hellebore, can be used as a natural insect repellent due to its strong, unpleasant odor, helping to keep pests away from other garden plants.
    • The distinct foliage of the stinking hellebore may be used in floral arrangements, especially during winter months when other greenery is scarce.
    • Considering its resilience, the plant can be incorporated into garden designs for erosion control on slopes or in areas prone to soil degradation.
    • The stinking hellebore can serve as a visual barrier in gardens, thanks to its dense growth, providing a an effective, low hedge or garden border.
    • Its evergreen leaves and early flowering make it a valuable plant for winter gardens, offering a splash of greenery and color in the drab season.
    • When strategically planted, the stinking hellebore can be used to provide ground cover in shaded areas where other plants might struggle to grow.
    • This plant's unique aesthetic, with deep green leaves and bell-shaped flowers, can be utilized for thematic garden designs, like gothic or "witch" gardens.
    • In educational settings, the stinking hellebore can be employed as a teaching tool for plant adaptation and survival strategies in horticultural classes.
    • The seed pods of Helleborus foetidus offer an architectural element in the garden, adding visual interest even after the flowering season ends.
    • The stinking hellebore can serve as a companion plant for spring bulbs, as it emerges early in the year and can help to indicate where bulbs are planted in a dormant garden.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    Stinking hellebore is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    Stinking hellebore is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Protection: Helleborus, commonly known as the "Stinking Hellebore," has been used historically to ward off negative influences and is thought to offer protection.
    • Resilience: As a winter-blooming plant, stinking hellebore symbolizes resilience and the ability to overcome challenges, even during the darkest times.
    • Healing: Historically, Helleborus was used in medicine, which gives it the symbolic meaning of healing and alleviating ailments.
    • Scandal or Folly: Due to its unpleasant smell when crushed, stinking hellebore can represent scandal or bringing attention to foolishness.
    • Conquest of harsh conditions: Blooming in the cold season, stinking hellebore signifies triumph over adversity and the perseverance to succeed in harsh conditions.

Every week to 10 days
500 - 2500 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring-Early Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    Stinking hellebore requires consistent moisture, so water when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch, typically about once a week. During hot dry spells, you may need to water more frequently, ensuring that you provide deep, thorough watering to help establish a strong root system. It is less tolerant of drought than some of its relatives, so regular watering is key, with approximately 1 gallon of water per week, depending on weather conditions and soil drainage. Adjust the amount of water during rainy periods or if the plant is in a more shaded and cool location, as it will require less.

  • sunLight

    Stinking hellebore thrives in partial shade to full shade conditions. This plant prefers a spot that is protected from the harsh afternoon sun, which can scorch its leaves. The ideal location offers morning light or dappled shade throughout the day, providing a perfect balance for this plant’s growth and flower production.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Stinking hellebore is hardy and can tolerate a range of temperatures, enduring minimums down to 0°F and maximums up to 90°F, though it prefers cooler conditions. The ideal temperatures for this plant are between 50°F and 75°F. It is a tough plant that can survive winter frosts and temporary freezes without significant damage, making it suitable for a variety of temperate climates.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning stinking hellebore is mainly done to remove old, damaged, or diseased foliage and to maintain plant shape. Pruning in late winter or early spring, just before new growth starts, is ideal. Cut back last year's leaves to the base when you see the flower buds appearing, which cleans up the plant and makes the flowers more visible. Pruning too often is not necessary as this is a low-maintenance plant with a naturally tidy habit.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Hellebore, commonly known as Stinking Hellebore, thrives best in well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter, such as a mix of leaf mold, compost, and perlite or coarse sand. Aiming for a slightly acidic to neutral pH of 6.0-7.0 will support healthy growth.

  • plantRepotting

    Stinking Hellebores rarely need repotting and can remain in the same pot for several years. They should be repotted only if the plant has outgrown its pot or the soil has degraded, typically every 3-5 years.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Stinking Hellebore is tolerant of a wide range of humidity levels and does not require high humidity; average room humidity is generally sufficient for this plant.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place Stinking Hellebore near bright, indirect light and ensure well-draining soil.

    • Outdoor

      Plant Stinking Hellebore in part shade with moist, rich soil.

    • Hardiness zone

      5-9 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Helleborus foetidus 'Yellow Wilgenbroek', commonly known as the Stinking Hellebore, begins its life cycle when seeds germinate, preferably in moist, well-drained soil and some shade. After germination, the seedlings grow into juvenile plants with a rosette of dark green, palmate leaves. As the plant matures, it develops a thick, fleshy stem and reaches its adult form, which typically includes a taller stem with more leaves and sometimes multiple stems from the base. The Stinking Hellebore then blooms in late winter or early spring, producing clusters of nodding, chartreuse flowers with a unique, strong odor. Following pollination by insects attracted by the scent, the flowers set seed in late spring to early summer, which are distributed by wind and gravity. After setting seed, the plant might die back, especially if it's a biennial form; however, many cultivars are perennial and will continue to grow and repeat the cycle in subsequent years.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-Early Summer

    • Helleborus foetidus 'Yellow Wilgenbroek', commonly known as Stinking Hellebore, is typically propagated through seed. The best time to sow seeds is in late spring or early summer just after they mature, ensuring a higher germination rate. To propagate, collect the seeds from ripe pods and sow them immediately in a cold frame or a shaded nursery bed since they are short-lived and do not store well. Cover the seeds lightly with soil as they require light for germination, keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and expect seedlings to emerge by the following spring. Thin the seedlings to about 12 inches (approximately 30 centimeters) apart once they are large enough to handle. It is also important to note that germination can be erratic, so patience is necessary when propagating Stinking Hellebore from seeds.