Hyacinths are the perfect flower to choose if you wish to create a stunning spring display of sweet-smelling blossoms. These fragrant species can be grown both in the garden and indoors in containers.
The Complete Guide to Hyacinth
Growing hyacinths outdoors
Hyacinths enjoy moderately fertile, well-drained soil. For best results, place in full sunlight and plant your bulbs in the early autumn. This will ensure your plant blooms in March and April. When planting bulbs, ensure they’re submerged at least 10cm deep, standing a minimum of 7.5cm apart.
When flowers begin to brown, you should remove them by hand. However, allow the leaves to die back naturally. Once all foliage has ceased, bulbs can be lifted and stored in a cool dry place.
Bulb performance and bloom power depends on the conditions and post-harvest heat treatment – this encourages dense spikes of large flowers.
Planting in containers
When planting hyacinths indoors, you should use a good quality potting medium, comprising two parts of potting compost and one part course sand or grit. If the container you have chosen lacks drainage holes, you will also need to invest in bulb fibre.
For best results, place containers on ‘pot feet’ (you can alternatively use bricks). This will encourage good drainage. Once potted, encase the containers in plastic wrap, as this will help to prevent frost damage. As with outdoor variants, it’s important to plant bulbs 10cm deep and 7.5cm apart.
As the buds begin to bloom, move the containers to a cooler room, with a windowsill considered an ideal spot. When the flowers fade, only then should you move the containers outside. For best results, choose a sheltered spot and reduce watering. When the leaves have died, you can then place the bulbs into storage.
If you wish to display hyacinths in the winter months, it’s a wise idea to invest in specially ‘prepared’ (heat-treated) bulbs. Forced bulbs will add merriment and colour to your home when the weather is drab and dreary.
Propagation of hyacinth cultivars
Hyacinth cultivars require vegetative propagation methods. Although offsets can be used in the reproduction method, this tends to be an extremely slow process. The bulbs can also be propagated by chipping, scooping or twin-scaling.
Using a sharp, sterilised spoon or scalpel, scoop out the basal plate of a healthy, dormant bulb, leaving the outer rim intact. You must then place the scooped bulbs on a layer of course, moist sand. For best results, pick a warm, dark spot – an airing cupboard is always a good option.
It’s important to check the bulbs on a regular basis as this will allow you to ensure the sand is moist and that diseases are kept at bay. Growth will begin to form on the exposed edge of the scales (this is usually in the scooped section) and will take place after three months.
Transfer and re-plant the mother bulb (complete with bulblets) the correct way up, in late autumn. Once in the ground, cover with 5-7.5cm of soil. When early summer arrives, the leaves of the mother bulb will have died and this is when you should transfer the new bulbs (being careful not to cause them any damage) to a potting bed. They should be the size of small marbles or peas. Lift and replant each year until they are full size.
The hyacinth is referenced in Ancient Greek mythology. According to this reference, a young Hyacinth was slew when Zephyrus and Apollo were fighting. It is said hyacinths grew where his blood spilled.
In terms of their origins, it is believed the hyacinth first appeared in the sixteenth century, where it was found in Constantinople. They were later introduced to Europe, where a number of breeders created new varieties, showcasing an array of hues and fragrances. Today, these flowers are predominantly grown in Holland.
Popular species of hyacinth
There are a number of species of hyacinth to choose from, some of the popular variants include:
‘Yellow Queen’ AGM: This is said to be the best yellow hyacinth, partly because it showcases an extremely even flower spike. It can grow up to 30cm in height, and 7.5cm wide. The blooms boast a pretty yellow-hued exterior, complete with white centres. Asides from their looks, they also have a sweet scent, which makes them a great option for both the garden and the home.
‘Miss Saigon’ AGM: This compact plant has a series of rich wine-hued flower spikes. They measure 20cm in height, with blooms spanning 15cm tall and 9cm wide. Each of the vivid purple blooms boasts an enjoyable fragrance.
‘Jan Bos’ AGM: The blooms of this particular specie are renowned for their deep reddish-pink hue and fresh green foliage. When grown in the open ground, the stems are able to stay upright. Flowers are 15cm in diameter and 6.5cm wide, and sit on a brownish red stem.
Hyacinths come in a range of beautiful shades, including the likes of cool blues, pretty pinks, and glistening white hues to name but a few. Many will plant the bulbs with abandon, meaning the colours will only become apparent when the flowers begin to open.
Things to watch out for when growing hyacinths
It’s essential to keep these plants away from children and animals, as all parts of hyacinths, if swallowed, can cause stomach upsets. When handling these plants, it’s therefore important to wear gloves, as the bulbs tend to aggravate the skin and can cause allergies.
The plants themselves can also be attacked and are privy to the likes of slugs and other pests. These tend to be more of a problem during mild periods. If you notice that your bulbs are showing signs of disease, it’s important to destroy them immediately. This will stop the disease spreading to healthy bulbs.
Depending on where you live, animals such as squirrels, can also become a nuisance as they attack these plants. By carefully looking after your bulbs you can enjoy a beautiful display in your garden or indoor space year after year.