“Sparkling Diamond” is part of the Winter Jewels Series, and features pure sparkling white double blooms that face forward. (Photo by Ginny Rosenkranz)

March may be warm but it can also be very cold and windy.
Helleborus, or Lenten Roses, are the perfect plant to have that is guaranteed to bloom despite the weather moods of March.
Lenten Roses are not really roses but clump forming herbaceous perennials that have very dark evergreen leaves made up of five leathery leaflets that are joined together in one spot, forming a star.
They thrive in light to moderate shade, and prefer rich organic, well-drained soils. Because the leaves are evergreen, it is a good idea to plant them out of strong winter winds that can tear them apart.
The rose shaped flowers can start to emerge from the center of the plants in February, but they are all in full bloom in March, filling the gardens with deep purple, reds, pinks, pure white and white with pink picoting edging.
The cup shaped 2-3 inch flowers can be single petals or double petals, and are held on stems that can grow 12 -15 inches tall.
Most of the Lenten Rose flowers node downwards, but the newer cultivars have their flowers face forwards, making them easier to enjoy.
“Fire and Ice” is part of the Winter Jewels series, with large, fully double snow white petals that are banded with rose red margins.
“Ice N’ Roses Red” is a part of the Gold series, with single deep red petals and outwardly facing flowers. “Sparkling Diamond” is also a part of the Winter Jewels Series, and has pure sparkling white double blooms that face forward.
The flowers can be picked to create a lovely bouquet or float the flowers in a clear glass bowl for an elegant centerpiece.
The plants can brighten up a woodland path or group them under large trees to create a lovely evergreen ground cover.
Plant them where you can see them all year long to enjoy the very first flowers. They can self-seed and will spread slowly.
The plants should be planted away from pets as they are poisonous, but that also means that bunnies and deer will never eat them.
(Editor’s Note: Ginny Rosenkranz is a commercial horticulture specialist with the University of Maryland Extension.)