Hyacinth flowers have a sweet and delectable fragrance, and the beautiful blooms are bright and cheerful. Learn how to plant hyacinth bulbs, and fill your spring garden and home with these fabulous plants.
The scent of hyacinth flowers is unique, and oh so intoxicating.
It’s wonderful to have them in the spring garden, along with the daffodils, tulips, and other spring bulbs.
If you plan on planting some hyacinth bulbs this season, make sure to plant them close to the house so that you can enjoy the scent, whenever you pass by the flowers.
What Is Hyacinth?
Hyacinths are perennial spring flowers which grow from bulbs. Each bulb can produce 1 to 3 flowering stalks called racemes.
The name “hyacinth” is actually the common name for the flower Hyacinthus.
The plant belongs to the Family Asparagaceae, the Subfamily Scilloideae, and to the Genus Hyacinthus.
There are three different species within the Hyacinthus Genus. These species include Hyacinthus litwinovii, Hyacinthus transcaspicus, and the most common hyacinth species, Hyacinthus orientalis.
Hyacinthus orientalis is the plant that we usually grow in our gardens. This species of hyacinthus is also known as common hyacinth, garden hyacinth, or Dutch hyacinth.
These flowering bulbs produce dense and fragrant flower spikes, which bloom for several weeks during the flowering cycle.
There are many different varieties of hyacinth bulbs. Three popular varieties include:
- Pink Pearl– a pink variety with lighter edging
- Delft Blue– this hyacinth has soft blue flowers
- Aiolos– a bright white flower with star shaped blossoms
There are many other hybrid varieties as well.
I should mention here that there are other spring time bulbs which are also referred to as hyacinths, which are not true hyacinths. These bulbs are the Muscari bulbs, commonly known as grape hyacinths.
The Muscari bulbs belong to the same Family and Subfamily as Hyacinthus, however they belong to a different Genus, known as the Genus Muscari.
Hyacinth bulbs have a purple iridescent sheen, which make the bulbs attractive to display all on their own. I love the look of the bulbs, especially when forcing them for an indoor display.
Be careful however when touching hyacinth bulbs directly with your fingers, as they can cause a skin irritation. This irritation caused by hyacinth bulbs is known as bulb dermatitis.
The irritation is due to contact with calcium oxalate crystals, and can cause temporary skin itching in most people.
It is best to use gloves when handling the bulbs.
I find that if you touch the bulbs, and then touch another area on your body that is more sensitive, such as your neck or your face, you can feel the itching and skin irritation almost immediately, which can last for about 30 minutes.
Hyacinth flowers grow from the top of the hyacinth bulbs. Growth occurs after the bulbs have been exposed to a 3 to 4 month period of cold, and then subsequently are exposed to warmth and moisture.
The bulbs planted out into the garden in spring will wake up when the warmer weather arrives, and the time is right for the bulbs. Hyacinths are some of the earliest blooming bulbs in the garden.
The beautiful flowers produced by hyacinth bulbs are highly fragrant, and have a distinctive scent.
These fragrant blooms grow in a spiked cluster at the top of a flower stalk, which protrudes from the top of the bulb.
Each spiked cluster of flowers Is approximately 6 inches in length. The cluster contains many individual star shaped flowers, which each grow from the main stem on a small stalk.
Each individual flower in the clump can be approximately 1 inch in diameter.
Hyacinth flowers are available in a number of beautiful pastel colors. These colors include white, cream, pink, purple, and blue.
Once the flowers begin to bloom, the blooms can last approximately 1 to 2 weeks.
Flowers can be cut as well and placed into vases. They make great cut flowers for smaller displays.
Depending on how the bulbs are grown, the roots of the hyacinth bulbs may or may not be visible.
If planted into soil, the hyacinth roots will generally not be seen, unless they grow out of the bottom of a pot. However, if placed into a container of water for forcing, the white roots of the hyacinth bulbs are highly visible.
The roots grow quickly once placed into water for forcing, growing down into the containers of water.
When hyacinth bulbs are planted out into the garden, the bulbs will remain dormant until the following spring.
When the soil begins to warm up, the roots will begin to grow within the soil, and the bulbs will begin the flowering process.
Leaves of hyacinth bulbs grow from the top of the bulbs.
The green leaves are the first structures to become visible, before the flowers are revealed. The flowers are initially encased in the leaves, and are not visible until the leaves grow, and open up.
Generally there are 4 to 8 leaves which grow from the bulb.
Leaves are medium to dark green in color, smooth, long and pointed at the tips. They can grow to approximately 8 inches in length.
Hyacinth flowers produce tall stems, which can sometimes bend towards the light.
Usually when grown in the garden, the flower stalks will generally remain upright, although they can bend towards the light.
When forced in forcing jars or pots indoors however, the flower stems can often become top heavy and flop over. It is easy to secure the stems with a stake and a piece of jute twine to keep them in an upright position.
The flowering stems which grow from the hyacinth plant are approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. The stems are succulent-like and fluid filled.
How To Plant Hyacinth Bulbs
Hyacinths are spring flowering bulbs which are generally planted outdoors in fall.
This fall planting will provide the bulbs with the cold chill period that they require over winter, and enables them to bloom in spring when the weather warms up.
That being said, I should also mention that hyacinth bulbs can also be planted indoors. This process of starting the bulbs indoors is called forcing.
Can You Grow Hyacinth Indoors?
Hyacinth bulbs can be grown indoors using a method called forcing.
Forcing hyacinth bulbs is accomplished by first providing the bulbs with a period of cold treatment, such as what the bulbs would experience when they are planted outside in winter.
Instead of planting the bulbs outside, these spring-flowering bulbs can also be pre chilled in the fridge, for a period of 12 to 14 weeks.
The bulbs can also be chilled by placing them in a cold location, such as a cold room, an unheated greenhouse, or an unheated garage.
Make sure not to store hyacinth bulbs with fruit. Fruit will give off an ethylene gas, which can damage the developing flowers within the bulbs.
Forcing Hyacinth Bulbs Indoors
- After the chilling period is complete, the bulbs can be either planted into a pot of soil, or placed into water in a bulb vase, where they will grow and bloom within 4 to 6 weeks.
- When placed in water, make sure that the water level is no higher than the base of the bulb. The hyacinth roots will then grow down into the water, from the root end of the bulb.
- When planted into a pot of soil, plant approximately 1 inch deep.
- Initially, place the forced bulbs in a cool area, and in a dark place, to allow the roots to grow first.
- When the green flower buds begin to show color, place the the forced bulbs in a warmer location with more light, such as a sunny window.
- When in full bloom, place in a warm room with indirect light for longer lasting blooms.
- Forcing hyacinth bulbs is a great way to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of the hyacinth bulbs indoors, where they will bloom until the flowers are spent.
- The amazing fragrance of forced hyacinth bulbs is delightful. Your home will fill with the sweet fragrance for the entire blooming period.
Planting Hyacinth Bulbs Outdoors
Hyacinth bulbs can be planted outdoors into the garden beds in late fall.
Consider planting the bulbs close to the house so that you can enjoy the wonderful fragrance of the flowers when you walk by them, when they are in full bloom.
When To Plant Hyacinth Bulbs
- The best time to plant hyacinth bulbs into the garden is when the temperatures have cooled down, and there is no longer a risk for a warm spell which can stimulate growth.
- As long as the soil is still workable in fall before the ground freezes, the bulbs can be planted.
How Deep Should Hyacinth Bulbs Be Planted?
- Plant the hyacinth bulbs at a depth of 6 inches, with the pointed end up, and the root surface at the bottom of the bulb facing down.
- Space the bulbs approximately 6 to 8 inches apart.
- Water in well after planting, unless you are expecting rain, then just allow the natural elements to water in the bulbs. Watering in will help to remove any pockets of air which can occur with planting.
- If the bulbs are planted too shallow, there is a risk that they will be heaved with the winter frosts. When heaving occurs, you will see either the whole bulb or part of the bulb above ground.
- If you discover this in spring, just replant the bulb if it is loose. If the bulb is growing, just cover the bulb with more soil.
When Will Hyacinths Bloom?
Hyacinths will bloom in spring with the other spring bulbs, such as tulips, crocuses, and daffodils.
The timing of bloom is dependent on your growing zone, and when the spring bulbs usually bloom in your area. This is usually before the leaves on the deciduous trees begin to grow, so early springtime.
For us here in zone 5b, bloom time is generally in May, with evidence of green leaf growth from the bulbs above ground in mid April.
How Long Do Hyacinths Live?
Hyacinth bulbs are perennial, and generally return to bloom in the garden for a number of years.
It is said that hyacinths will often return to the garden to bloom for approximately 3 to 4 years before fading. However I have some bulbs which have returned to bloom yearly for much longer than that.
It is quite possible that the bulbs have multiplied, and are growing from offsets from the original bulbs which were planted.
As the bulbs age, the blooms become smaller in size, however the flowers remain just as fragrant.
Caring For Hyacinths
- Hyacinth is hardy to usda plant hardiness zones 4 to 8.
- In warmer climates which do not get cold winters or the required temperatures for the winter chill period, these bulbs can be chilled artificially.
- Chilling time is 12 to 14 weeks in a cool space, such as the fridge, before planting out.
- Hyacinth bulbs require a well-drained soil and do best with a neutral ph.
- The hyacinth flower bulbs will grow in various soil types, and do especially well in fertile soil which is high in organic material.
- If the soil is heavy, such as a clay soil, consider amending with organic matter to provide good drainage.
- Hyacinth bulbs like a moist yet well drained soil.
- Make sure that the bulbs are not sitting in water, because this can lead to bulb rot.
- Plant hyacinth bulbs in a full sun to a partial shade location for best results.
- The plants require at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily for best growth and energy production.
- Adding bonemeal to the planting hole at planting time is a great way to provide nutrients to the bulb.
- Bulb food as a fertilizer is also a good option. You can fertilize at planting time, and again in spring as the new growth emerges.
- Deadhead the flower stalks once the flowers have finished blooming.
- This will help to conserve energy within the bulb for further growth.
- The flower spikes on hyacinths bulbs can become quite top heavy when in full bloom. The weighted blooms can sometimes topple over, especially if they are being forced to grow inside.
- I find that the hyacinth flowers in the garden generally do okay, however those that are forced indoors often need staking.
- You can try rotating the containers, because sometimes the flower stalks tend to bend towards the light. Even doing this however is generally not enough to correct the bend on a very heavy flower.
- Staking can help to secure the blooms in an upright position.
- Using a small bamboo skewer and some jute twine is generally enough to secure the stem.
- Outside in the garden the flowers can be staked as well, however most often do not require it.
Replanting Forced Blooms
- If you have forced potted hyacinth bulbs, and they are growing indoors in soil, these bulbs can be transplanted into the garden, after the risk of frost has passed.
- When there is still foliage left on the plant, consider hardening off before planting out, because the leaves will be tender if they have not been growing outdoors.
- If the foliage has died back completely, plant the bulb including the soil in which it is contained, into the garden at the same soil level as was in the pot.
- Any hyacinth bulbs which were forced indoors in water are generally treated as annuals and discarded. You can however try your hand at planting these out as well if you wish.
Pests And Diseases
Some of the most common problems for hyacinths include:
- animals such as moles and voles, feasting on the bulbs
- mosaic virus
- insect damage
- and fungal disease
Hyacinths are known to be fairly deer resistant as well mouse resistant, which is a good thing. However if you do find that critters are eating your hyacinth bulbs, the bulbs can be planted in bulb cages for protection.
Leaf streak is a disease caused by the mosaic virus, transmitted though aphids. Toss any affected bulbs to prevent spread, and clean garden tools well.
There are also other small pests which can cause bulb injury and damage, such as bulb mites, nematodes, and a fly called the narcissus bulb fly. Discard affected bulbs.
Sometimes bulbs can also develop a fungal disease called basal rot, where the bulb becomes infected via the root system and up through the basal plate of the bulbs, causing bulb rot. Remove and discard affected bulbs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do You Do With Hyacinth Bulbs After They Bloom?
When hyacinth blooms have finished blooming in the garden, it’s a good idea to deadhead the spent flowers.
If the flowers have been pollinated by early pollinators to the garden, energy is diverted towards seed production, rather than conserved in the bulb for next year’s growth.
This is why deadheading is important. It will allow the bulb to store energy, rather than using the energy for seed production.
Remove the spent flower stalk, however leave the leaves in place. The hyacinth leaves will continue to produce energy for the bulb, for growth for next year, through the process of photosynthesis.
Eventually the leaves will also die back, and the bulb will become dormant.
The hyacinth plants will return to the garden for a number of years, although eventually will not be as full, and growth will diminish after about 3 years.
Do Hyacinth Bulbs Multiply?
Yes hyacinth bulbs do multiply by producing offset bulbs known as bulblets.
In fact hyacinth can be propagated by splitting these bulblets from the main bulb.
These small hyacinth bulblets are then grown on, until they as well become mature enough to produce a hyacinth flower.
In order to keep your hyacinths blooming year after year in the garden, consider lifting and dividing the bulbs in fall.
Remember to fertilize as well, with a bulb fertilizer, at the time of planting, as well as just before blooming.
Can You Plant Hyacinth Bulbs In The Spring?
Normally hyacinth bulbs are planted in fall, as they require cold winter temperatures to allow for the required period of chilling.
If you do have bulbs which have been stored in a cold space for 12 to 14 weeks however, these bulbs can be planted out in spring for spring blooming.
This is essentially the same as forcing the bulbs indoors after chilling, however instead of planting indoors, the bulbs can be planted out into the garden.
This is helpful for warmer zones which may not have the cold weather necessary to pre chill the bulbs in the garden.
Hyacinths are low maintenance perennial bulbs which bloom in early spring.
Plant with other spring-blooming flowers like tulips and daffodils for a beautiful spring display.
The flowers have a sweet fragrance, which can be enjoyed either outside in the garden, or indoors if the bulbs have been forced to grow in the indoor space.
These spring-blooming bulbs are perennials, and will likely return to the garden for several years or more after planting.
Consider growing some hyacinth bulbs in your garden this season, for a fragrant garden and a burst of early spring color next spring.
Have you ever tried to plant hyacinth bulbs? Be sure to leave a comment below to share your experience.