Struggling Hellebores alive or dead?
I planted 5 hellebores in the beginning of October 2017, 4 hybrids, 1 H. foetidus, all from a very reputable hellebore specific nursery via mail. The foetidus is doing ok, it doesn’t seem like it will flower this year but it did send up a couple new leaves in February. 2 of the hybrids sent up what seems like leaves, but which never really emerged much past the soil line, so it’s hard to tell. The last 2 hybrids have shown no signs of life yet this year and I have no idea how to tell if they are still alive. The 2 no shows are in a prime location and I’d like to replace them now if they are in fact dead...but I would hate to rip up plants that are struggling and could make it with patience and tlc...I guess my question is, if a Helleborus x hybridus has put on no new growth of any kind by the end of March should I assume it’s dead? [I’ll add that I took great care in planting them, untangling their rootbound roots, amending with compost, bonemeal and grit (Turface and perlite), and that other plants have done well in this spot - a few Echinacea did rather well here considering they weren’t getting enough sun, which is why I moved them and replaced them with hellebores. We also had a very extreme winter in Brooklyn, NY z7b, temps dipping below 0’F and extended periods under 32’...and I did not mulch my garden for winter...oof. Established hellebores in a park nearby are in full flower, full glory.)
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Are there any pines, cedars, or any needle dropping tree nearby? This can acidify the soil quite a bit, and these will want to be in near-neutral pH. You can add some dolomitic lime to buffer this to an almost neutral pH, and at the same time, provide calcium and magnesium. They don't seem completely dead, and look like they can be revived. Just apply dolomitic lime, and make sure the area stay just a little moist during dry spells.
This article will give you more information on the care of these: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/hellebore/growing-hellebores.htm