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Learn How To Plant, Grow and Care for Hyacinth

Dutch Hyacinth, Common Hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis, Spring Bulbs, Spring Flowers

Hyacinth, Hyacinths, Dutch Hyacinth, Common Hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis, Spring Bulbs, Spring Flowers

Symbols of peace, commitment, and beauty, hyacinths are wonderfully fragrant spring-flower bulbs boasting colorful flower spikes packed with a multitude of florets. They have been developed from Hyacinthus orientalis, a species named in 1562, originating in central and southern Turkey, North Western Syria, and Lebanon.

All you need to know about Hyacinths

  • Blooming starts in early to mid-spring and lasts about two weeks, depending on the weather. Hyacinths flower only once each year, and they parade their heavily fragrant blooms at the same time as early tulips and mid-season daffodils.
  • Hyacinth is a perennial bulb. It grows back year after year and gently spreads and multiplies under good growing conditions, creating drifts of colorful flowers. This is because hyacinth bulbs produce new little bulbs (bulblets) that develop on the mother bulb. Hyacinth bulbs, however, will generally only last 3 or 4 years.
  • Each hyacinth bulb produces basal, narrowly strap-shaped leaves and one flower stalk that reaches 8-12 in. tall (20-30 cm).
  • There are three types of hyacinths: single hyacinth (with closely-packed single florets), double hyacinth (with closely-packed double florets), and multiflora hyacinth (with loose floret arrangement and multiple flower stalks). They offer a wide range of colors, including blue, pink, lilac, purple, yellow, apricot, red, and white.
  • Hyacinth flowers look great in perennial borders and mixed with other spring flower bulbs such as daffodils, early double tulips, chionodoxa, scilla, and muscari. They are also great candidates for patio containers or indoor pots where their fragrance and beauty can be enjoyed. Hyacinths also make long-lasting cut flowers.
  • The best time to plant hyacinth bulbs is in the fall. Hyacinths can also be forced for indoor blooms in the winter.
  • Hyacinths make gardening easy. Once planted, nothing is left to do: these bulbs can stay right where they are and produce flowers year after year. After blooming, remove the faded flowers, but do not remove the foliage until it withers. Cutting off the foliage before it has died back naturally may prevent the bulbs from storing enough energy for next year’s bloom. As a result, your hyacinths may not bloom next spring.
  • Hyacinths contain oxalic acid, making them deer or rodent resistant. Ingestion may cause severe discomfort. They are toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Handling hyacinth bulbs can also cause mild skin irritation. Protective gloves are recommended.

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 8
Plant Type Bulbs
Genus Hyacinthus
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid)
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Anna Marie’ (Dutch Hyacinth)
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Blue Jacket’ (Dutch Hyacinth)
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘City of Haarlem’ (Dutch Hyacinth)

When to Plant Hyacinth Bulbs?

  • To achieve optimum flowering results, it is important to plant your hyacinth bulbs at the right time. The best time to plant hyacinth bulbs is in the fall, from September to November, depending on your location—any time after your first fall frost and before the ground freezes.
  • When buying bulbs, select the largest ones. The larger the hyacinth bulb, the stronger the stem and the bigger the flowers. The number of florets on the flower stalk depends on the bulb size. Large bulbs can produce 60 to 70 florets.
  • However, such bulbs are less suitable for garden planting because the flower stalks become top-heavy and fall over easily. Sizes 15-16 and 16-17 are best for garden planting.
  • The large sizes, though, are eagerly sought for indoor forcing.

Where to Plant Hyacinth Bulbs?

  • Hyacinths are winter hardy and can be grown in USDA Zones 4-8.
  • Hyacinths are easily grown in moderately fertile, well-drained soils in full sun or part shade. Best flowering occurs with at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. In partial shade, they will do well the first year, but they will bloom less and less in the following years. Do not plant hyacinths in waterlogged soil (they are susceptible to rot) or in deep shade.
  • Versatile, hyacinths are perfect for beds and borders, containers, or window boxes. Plant them close to paths, walkways, or doors so you can enjoy their heady perfume. Plant your hyacinths in groups of 5-9 bulbs for the best visual impact.

How to Plant Hyacinth Bulbs?

  • Dig over the soil to loosen it, and fork in 2-4 in. (5-10 cm) of organic matter to improve fertility and drainage.
  • Plant your hyacinth bulbs with the top or pointy end up.
  • Plant your hyacinth bulbs 4-6 in. deep (10-15 cm). Not planting bulbs deeply enough results in poor rooting. The bulbs will emerge unevenly and produce short spindly plants. Planting too deeply, however, can result in rotting and late emergence.
  • Space your hyacinth bulbs about 5 to 6 in. apart (12-15 cm). In containers, place your bulbs 4 in. deep (10 cm) and about 3 in. (7 cm). Do not allow the bulbs to touch.
  • Water immediately after planting.
  • Mulch around the plants to deter weeds and disease.

Several planting techniques can be used for flower bulbs.

  • One is to lay out the bulbs evenly over the location being planted. It would be advisable to start by laying out the bulbs at the proper distance apart to prevent unwelcome surprises when you come to the end of the border. Before the bulbs are laid out, the soil should be thoroughly loosened to a depth of 10 inches (25 cm). Next, you can plant the bulbs and they can easily root.
  • The easiest planting method uses a raised planting bed. After laying out the flower bulbs, cover them with a layer of soil about 4-6 inches (10 to 15 cm) thick. After planting, the planted area should be evenly raked and then possibly mulched with organic material 1-2 inches (2 to 5 cm) thick. This will keep the soil from drying out, freezing, or panning.
  • If you want a more natural look, it would be best to scatter the bulbs and plant them where they fall.
  • Layered (lasagne) planting extends flowering by planting bulbs with successive flowering periods in layers. The flower bulbs that will bloom last are planted at the deepest level, and the earliest to bloom in the spring will be planted closest to the surface. This method can be applied when planting directly in the soil or in pots and containers.
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Delft Blue’ (Dutch Hyacinth)
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Jan Bos’ (Dutch Hyacinth)
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Top White’ (Dutch Hyacinth)

Forcing Hyacinth Bulbs Indoors

  • Hyacinth bulbs may be forced for indoor display in the winter.
  • Partially fill a container with a well-drained commercial potting mix. Almost any container can be used if it has drainage holes in the bottom.
  • Plant the bulbs with their tops (noses) sticking above the potting soil.  Do not completely cover the bulbs.
  • Water thoroughly.
  • Keep in a dark place at consistently cold temperatures, 40-45°F (4-7°C), for 8-16 weeks to allow roots to develop.
  • Water the bulbs when the potting soil begins to dry out.
  • When the flower stem emerges, then increase light and temperature gradually.
  • Keep the plants well-watered. Avoid wetting the shoots or waterlogging the soil. Turn the containers regularly to promote straight, upright growth.
  •  For a succession of hyacinth blooms indoors, remove pots from storage every 2 weeks.
  • After flowering, forced hyacinths may be transplanted to the garden, and they will flower again in subsequent years. However, most spring-flowering bulbs are usually weakened during the forcing procedure and do not always bloom well when planted outdoors.

Hyacinth Care

Watering

  • Keep the soil moist during the growing season. Reduce watering once the leaves begin to wither and die off.

Feeding

  • Perennial bulbs like those of hyacinths extract a lot of nutrients from the soil, so these bulbs will need supplementary fertilizing. During the growing season, inorganic fertilizers are the best choice since they contain the exact proportions and concentrations of nutrients. They also dissolve easily, so that plants can absorb them more efficiently.
  • Inorganic fertilizers should be used only during the growing season; applied at other times, they will leach out of the soil and be wasted. Also, be careful not to apply too much inorganic fertilizer; excessively rapid growth results in weak plants that are then more vulnerable to diseases and pests. Applying too much fertilizer can also burn plants.
  • Flower bulbs being used for perennial displays in borders will benefit from an application of fertilizer in late winter or early spring.
  • In containers, apply a liquid high-potassium feed from early spring until six weeks after flowering.

Staking

  • The flower spikes are often so top-heavy that they flop over. Carefully insert a stick or small cane next into the soil by the bulb and use garden twine to secure the bloom.
  • Tips to keep your hyacinths from flopping over:
    • Choose a location where your hyacinth gets at least 5 hours of light each day. In too much shade, the stems will be thin and the blooms will easily snap the stalk.
    • Plant hyacinth bulbs 4 inches (10 cm) deep. If the bulbs are not planted deep enough, the flower stem will not have enough strength to support the weight of the flowers when the hyacinth blooms.
    • Maintain a temperature of around 46–65 °F (8–18 °C). Keep the temperature steady, as fluctuations can increase the risk of root rot.
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Aiolos’ (Dutch Hyacinth)
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Gipsy Queen’ (Dutch Hyacinth)
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Splendid Cornelia’ (Dutch Hyacinth)

After bloom care

  • Remove the faded blooms after flowering. Cut off the flower stalk at the base.
  • Fertilize around the plant.
  • Do not remove the foliage until it withers and dies off. During this period, the hyacinth stores energy in the bulb for next year’s bloom. Cutting off the foliage before it has died back naturally may prevent the bulbs from storing enough energy. As a result, your hyacinths may not bloom next spring.
  • As the foliage begins to yellow, stop watering containers.
  • Hyacinth bulbs can remain in the ground throughout the year in most planting zones. If you live in a warm climate where temperatures do not get below 60°F (15°C), bulbs should be dug up in the fall and placed in a cool, dry area for at least 10 weeks. Hyacinths require a chilling period to bloom.

Propagating

Hyacinth cultivars can only be propagated by producing offsets (baby bulbs), scaling, chipping, or scooping.

Pest and Diseases

Hyacinths are relatively trouble-free, but keep an eye out for slugs and squirrels, gray mold, and bulb rot when kept too wet.

More on Gardenia

Forcing Hyacinth Bulbs Indoors
Brighten Up Your Garden From January Through May with Colorful Flower Bulbs
Flower Bulbs That Thrive Under Trees
Underplanting Roses with Low-Growing Spring Bulbs
Why Spring is Really Three Seasons
Hyacinthus orientalis (Dutch Hyacinth)

Garden Examples

A Fabulous Spring Container Idea
A Fragrant Spring Border for weeks of color!
A Fragrant Spring Duo with Tulip ‘Apricot Beauty’ & Hyacinth ‘Blue Jacket’
A Simple & Charming Spring Combo with Hyacinth and Muscari
A Fragrant Spring Border with Tulip ‘Heart’s Delight’, Muscari Latifolium, Hyacinths ‘Woodstock’ & ‘Splendid Cornelia’
An Exquisite Spring Border Idea with Sawara Cypress, Tulips and Muscari
Compare All Hyacinthus (Hyacinth)
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Hyacinthus (Hyacinth)
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 8
Plant Type Bulbs
Genus Hyacinthus
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid)
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Compare All Hyacinthus (Hyacinth)
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Hyacinthus (Hyacinth)

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