Culture: Best grown in organically rich, humusy, alkaline, medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers light to moderate shade. Tolerant of summer heat and humidity. Cut back flowering stems after bloom to promote new foliage growth. Locate plants in areas protected from cold winter winds. These plants possess the unique ability to bloom in subfreezing winter temperatures, often when snow is on the ground. Although the foliage is evergreen, it may become scorched and tattered in extremely harsh winters, particularly if not protected from cold winter winds and/or insulated by snow cover.
Characteristics: The late Helen Ballard of England was one of the great hybridizers of Lenten rose. In the mid-1900s, she began crossing H. orientalis with several other species including H. odorus (yellow), H. purpurescens (purple to gray) and H. torquatus (dark purple to black) to create a strain of Lenten rose hybrids which included many different hues ranging from yellow to pink to red to maroon to blackish-purple. Although Ballard strain plants are sometimes sold as cultivars of H. orientalis, they are by and large garden hybrids which are more accurately described as H. x hybridus and are often sold by color rather than descriptive cultivar name. They are evergreen, bushy, clump-forming perennials which typically grow 12-18″ tall with a similar to slightly larger spread. Nodding, cup-shaped flowers (to 2″ diameter) with overlapping petals and center crowns of conspicuously contrasting yellow stamens appear in clusters (cymes) at the tips of leafy stems from February through April. Bloom period can be longer in mild winters. Glossy, deeply-cut, dark green, deeply-lobed, evergreen leaves. Leaves, stems and roots are poisonous. Zones 4 to 9.
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