Planting Christmas roses: where & how


I am currently studying agricultural and food economics. As a keen hobby gardener, plants take up most of my free time. A few years ago, I got especially interested in herbs, which is why I completed my studies to become a certified herbalist in 2018.

Favourite fruit: apples, cherries
Favourite vegetables: potatoes, fennel

Christmas roses bloom while everything else is dormant under a layer of snow. Let us offer some tips on the perfect location for planting your Christmas roses in the garden.

purple christmas rose plant
The right location is very important for the Christmas rose to thrive [Photo: Max_555/]

The Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), or black hellebore, is among the hardiest of garden plants. The Austrian name “snow rose”, already indicates that this plant copes very well with difficult conditions. This is unusual, because the Christmas rose originally comes from Southeast Asia. Today, however, it grows in the wild in central European countries, as well as in Slovenia, Croatia and northern Italy, where it colonises bushy, sparse forests. You can easily imitate these natural site conditions in your own garden, so that your Christmas rose thrives.

We will explain what to consider when choosing a location for your Christmas rose and how best to proceed when planting, in the following guide.

The perfect location for Christmas roses

Once you have selected a particularly beautiful Christmas rose for your garden, it is necessary to choose the right place for planting. Essentially, it is important that your Christmas rose gets enough space to develop undisturbed in the garden. Because when they feel comfortable, Christmas roses like to spread into large groups of plants. Semi-shaded to shady locations with a nutrient-rich, well-drained humus soil that have a slightly alkaline pH of about 7 to 8.5 are ideal for Christmas roses. They also prefer calcareous soils. If the pH is too low, flowering may fail to occur.

They feel most at home sheltered in partial shade under a tree, where they can enjoy the gentle rays of the winter sun in the cold winter months and are protected from excessive heat in the summer. Make sure that the soil does not dry out and also water regularly in the winter. Waterlogging should be avoided at all costs. Once the flowers conditions are suitable, Christmas roses are extremely durable and can reach an age of up to 30 years.

christmas rose growing in partial shade
Christmas roses feel most at home in a semi-shady spot under trees

Procedure for planting Christmas roses

Once you have chosen the right location for your Christmas rose, you should plant the newly purchased shrub in its new location as soon as possible. The best time to plant Christmas roses in beds is in autumn from September to November. Alternatively, they can also be planted after flowering in late spring (April-May). Be sure to keep a sufficient distance (about 35 centimetres) from other plants so that there is no competition for light, water and nutrients. In the case of taller hybrids, you should maintain a planting distance of around 50 centimetres.

Dip the root ball in a bucket of water before planting so that it can soak up. In the meantime, loosen the soil in the desired location and dig the planting hole, which is about twice the size of the root ball. To provide good starting conditions, it is best to enrich the soil with a shovel of compost and a handful of bone meal. Now take the soaked Christmas rose from the bucket and plant it up to the root neck. Lightly press the soil with your hands to seal any voids. After that, you should water the freshly planted plant well, so that the soil can settle. To ensure evenly moist conditions for the Christmas rose, you can finish by applying a mulch layer of coarse compost or leaves. Now you need to be patient, because young specimens can sometimes take one to two years before they bloom for the first time.

Next, we have prepared a step-by-step guide with the most important points for you:

  1. Immerse the root ball in a bucket of water.
  2. Dig a hole twice as large as the root ball.
  3. Loosen soil and enrich with mature compost.
  4. Place the Christmas rose in the hole up to the root neck.
  5. Fill with soil and lightly press down.
  6. Water well so that the soil can settle.
  7. Apply mulch layer of compost or leaves.

Professional tip: To avoid skin irritation caused by leaking plant sap, be sure to wear gloves when planting Christmas roses.

You should transplant Christmas roses only if absolutely necessary, because they usually do not tolerate a change of location very well. In the worst case, it can even lead to the death of the plant. If it is nevertheless unavoidable, the best time for this is in autumn (September). or spring (March/April). The more root mass is preserved, the greater the chance of a successful relocation. Also make sure that the planting depth is maintained at the new location as far as possible.

Planting Christmas roses in pots

If you have received a potted Christmas rose as a gift and want to cultivate it indoors, it is best to put it in a bright place on the windowsill. However, the optimal average temperature should not exceed 15 °C, because, as a general rule, Christmas roses do not feel comfortable in heated rooms. After flowering, you can then move the potted plant to a shaded spot in the garden.

In order for your Christmas rose in a pot to thrive well, there are already some aspects to consider when planting. Christmas roses are deep-rooted, so you should choose a sufficiently large planter for your specimen. The first step is to place a drainage layer in the pot so that excess water can run off. In this way, waterlogging can be avoided.

For more information on planting, caring for and propagating Christmas roses, see our comprehensive review article.