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Bear's Foot, Stinking Hellebore

Helleborus foetidus

Family: Ranunculaceae (ra-nun-kew-LAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Helleborus (hel-eh-BORE-us) (Info)
Species: foetidus (FET-uh-dus) (Info)
View this plant in a garden



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:

Light Shade

Partial to Full Shade

Full Shade


All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:


Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Mid Spring


Grown for foliage



Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

From herbaceous stem cuttings

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:


Oakland, California

Sacramento, California

Vallejo, California

Townsend, Delaware

Gary, Indiana

Fallston, Maryland

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts

Grand Marais, Michigan

Basking Ridge, New Jersey

Hudson, New York

New York City, New York

Panama, New York

Cary, North Carolina

Davidson, North Carolina

Greenville, North Carolina

New Bern, North Carolina

Weaverville, North Carolina

Eugene, Oregon

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Barto, Pennsylvania

Norristown, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Scottdale, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

Charlottesville, Virginia

Leesburg, Virginia

Arlington, Washington

Bellevue, Washington

Kalama, Washington

Olympia, Washington

Port Townsend, Washington

South Prairie, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Aug 22, 2015, wakingdream from Allentown, PA wrote:

I received as a gift a small potted specimen of this Hellebore which grew nearly 3 feet tall in sheltered half sun and bloomed spectacularly the following spring. The green tones of the blossoms followed by the attractive seedheads make this a winner in my book. Bloom was April in PA.

Stinking Hellebore will self sow to a noticeable degree and create a colony, near and far. I was able to share it with other gardeners who were appreciative. Some seedlings were moved to a more exposed location to grow on but winter winds desiccated the buds (failed to kill the plants, luckily.) When I stroke the foliage, I am reminded of coffee, a slight aroma, not overwhelming. Seedlings grow fast and look attractive with their dark green, lobed foliage.

The Bear's foot appe... read more


On Mar 13, 2011, Hudson3 from Hudson, NY wrote:

Stately, beautiful and mysterious plant for the woodland garden. Blooms very early --often through the snow, would probably be happier in zone 6. Self-sows. Nice with other hellebores (it's taller and has more delicate leaves). A unique and beautiful plant.


On Apr 26, 2009, fel from Wynnewood, PA (Zone 7a) wrote:

Unusual looking plant for the person who wants a varied, rather tropical looking shade garden. Not really the kind of thing for a traditional border. I like them -- they self-seed after a few years, and they grow in shade, between rocks, or enmeshed in tree roots, without any trouble.


On Apr 16, 2005, PurplePansies from Deal, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:

I'll give this plant a neutral because it grew like a pro.... very easy.... looks lush and "perfect" with minimal care..... however its NOT MUCH TO LOOK AT....! ..... the evergreen leaves are nice (because they are evergreen!) but the flower are TOTALLY UNIMPRESSIVE...... small green things that don't stand out and hand down so you can hardly see them..... this may be nice used as a ground cover in "unwalked on" areas so that its foliage could provide winter green the the small green flowers would be a "bonus".... don't use as any sort of specimen..... as alone or used in such a manner it is very unimpressive.....
NOTE: this plant sap/juice/leaves bracts etc. can cause EXTREME DERMATITIS. It can lead to PAINFUL burning of the skin especially "open" areas. Even washing with soap ... read more


On Nov 30, 2004, jklewis from Cambridge, MA wrote:

I got this plant from The Primrose Path in Scottdale PA, where it has naturalized in shady areas. It is doing well here in Cambridge MA. The two-year-old plant set its flowers this fall, and I expect full bloom early next year. The foliage is lovely and evergreen. I understand that this plant's origin is Asia.


On Jul 12, 2003, jkom51 from Oakland, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

I have a very vigorous unnamed specimen of H.foetidus. It was put in the ground from a 1-qt size in September and started flowering in December. That flower stalk lasted until April. The plant continued to expand vigorously and put up a second flower stalk which has just started to open up blooms (today is July 11th). This is my first experience with hellebores (I have three H. orientalis as well) here in coastal Northern CA/Sunset zone 17, and it looks like they are very consistent bloomers for well over half a year. With such attractive evergreen foliage I'm surprised they are not grown more often in gardens here.


On Aug 30, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

The plant has very large flowers which appear in groups and hang downwards due to their weight. These flowers are pale green and remain tightly closed and are therefore not very noticeable.

Warning, though...all parts of this plant are poisonous. Possibly causing burning of mouth and throat, salivation, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nervous symptoms, depression.