Bulbs take a starring role in the early spring garden – blooming long before other plants emerge.
When looking for ideas on what flowers to plant in your garden, you can’t go wrong with hyacinths. They’re beautiful, with vibrant colors, and present multiple benefits both indoors and outdoors.
You’ll instantly fall in love with the hyacinth flower when it blooms and brings life to your garden.
Here’s everything you need to know about this amazing flower.
What is a Hyacinth Flower?
Tulips and daffodils are probably the best-known bulb blooms, but you should include hyacinths (Hyacinthus) in your spring landscape design, as well.
Native to the Mediterranean, hyacinth flowers need less chill time than tulips or daffodils, making them a safer choice in warm climates. Hyacinth flowers have a sweet, pleasing fragrance – which is completely lacking in many other bulb flowers.
Hyacinthus orientalis is the species from which various hyacinth cultivars come from. The original hyacinths were very prominent in antiquity. These plants have also been cross-bred in Europe since the 16th century.
Hyacinths are available in many pastel shades, including white, pink, blue and purple. The clusters of fragrant flowers form on stiff stalks. Because of this stiff, vertical form, hyacinths look best planted en masse or grouped with other plants.
When preparing to grow a crop of Hyacinthus orientalis, you can plant the bulbs which produce:
- Singles: This is the most common of hyacinth displays with reflexed flowers on broad stalks.
- Doubles: In this case, you have flowers that are double-petaled on a thick stalk.
- Multifloras: Here, different bulbs each sprout multiple stalks with different colored petals. This gives your display a more natural feel.
Grow various types of the hyacinth plant with different colors including:
- Blue Mix: A color combination of different shades of blue and white hyacinths. The blue mix is popular in homes and wedding ceremonies in particular.
- Pink Pearl: A stunning arrangement of shades of the pink hyacinth plant. The display is even more captivating when you plant hyacinth in large numbers.
- City of Haarlem: This variety comes from the Netherlands and first appeared at the end of the 19th century. It has a stronger fragrance than other hyacinth flowers and progressively changes colors. It goes from primrose-yellow to ivory-white in the spring.
How Long Do Hyacinths Last?
Hyacinthus orientalis can live up to four years in your garden though they can disappear during summer. For a greater number of hyacinth plants, you can carefully uproot the bulbs and then spread them widely.
Do Hyacinths Spread?
Hyacinth bulbs can also spread by themselves if you leave them in the soil to bloom the year after.
When planting them, you should space them out so that they have enough room to propagate. Plant your hyacinth bulbs six inches deep and the same inches apart to allow enough space.
Planting and Forcing Hyacinth Bulbs
Hyacinths need at least 10 to 13 weeks of temperatures between 35 to 48 degrees to bloom well. Plant them in the fall several weeks before the first hard frost. You can find hyacinth bulbs sold in most floral businesses because of their popularity.
Hyacinths are hardy and can survive the in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. But they don’t always bloom predictably in warm climates. Choose a variety adapted to warm weather.
You can also store the bulbs in the refrigerator for several weeks before planting them to improve your chances of flowering.
Enrich the soil in the entire area with compost, manure and a bit of peat moss to improve drainage and fertility. Plant the bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep, making sure that the pointed tip is facing up.
Cover the hyacinths with soil and firm the soil down. Water hyacinths occasionally during very dry fall weather. Fertilize hyacinths when the greens first emerge in the spring with a bulb fertilizer.
If the weather is dry, you can water once a week or so, but don’t overdo it.
Like all bulbs, hyacinths store energy from the leaves for the next season’s growth. After the blooms fade, leave the foliage in place until they’re brown and withered. You can dig them back into the ground.
Forced bulb flowers bring hope and cheer in the dead of winter when nothing is growing outdoors. They make a wonderful holiday gift and can be forced to bloom anytime from late fall through spring.
To force hyacinths indoors, choose varieties especially suited to forcing. Many companies pre-treat the bulbs so they need a shorter chill time, but read the packaging carefully.
When you’ve selected your varieties, follow these steps:
Store hyacinth bulbs in a cool, dark room until you’re ready to prepare them for forcing. Store them open in a tray or loosely in an open brown paper bag. Ten to 13 weeks before you want them to bloom, place them in pots with a sterile potting mix.
Be sure to choose a mix that does not contain fertilizer. It should contain a mix of sand, peat, loamy soil or perlite. You can use any type of pot you like, but make sure it has adequate drainage holes.
Hyacinth bulbs contain oxalic acid and can irritate the skin. Run the bulbs under running water to remove some of the acids and wear gloves while handling them.
Fill the pot half full of potting soil. Add the bulbs, making sure the tips are pointing up. You can place the bulbs so they touch one another. One bulb is plenty for a 4-inch pot, place two or three bulbs in a 6-inch pot and six or more in larger pots.
Cover the bulbs with potting soil so the bulbs sit ¼ inch beneath the surface. Water the pot and place the bulbs in a refrigerator set at 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Most fridges are set at around 40 F. Chill the pot for 10 to 13 weeks. If the bulbs were pre-chilled, you can opt for a shorter time. Chill regular bulbs for at least 13 weeks.
At the end of this time, you’ll see roots coming out of the bottom of the pots. Remove the pots from the refrigerator and place them in a sunny, cool room. Keep the soil slightly moist, but don’t fertilize the plants.
Once the hyacinths begin to bloom, move them out of direct sunlight to a warmer room. Plant the spent bulbs outdoors in the spring. They’ll bloom within one or two years.
Do Hyacinths Like Sun or Shade?
When you plant hyacinths, choose a location that gets full sun to partial shade. Keep in mind that a site that’s shady in the summer may get sunlight in early spring. This is because deciduous trees and shrubs will still be bare.
How to Take Care of Hyacinths
Hyacinths need the same care as most other spring-blooming bulbs. They are planted in the fall because they need several weeks of chill time to bloom in the spring. They’re prone to bulb rot, so make sure you plant them in light, well-draining soil.
Garden hyacinths can survive the winter months beneath the soil as long as the temperature is below 60°F. If it stays above 60°F throughout the year, you should move them indoors and chill them in the fall. You can always move a hyacinth grown in a container back to the garden in the spring.
For areas with extremely cold temperatures in the winter, mulching can help protect your plants. Apply up to four inches of mulch on your soil and leave it there for the season.
To avoid seeding, it’s best to pull out the flower heads while keeping the leaves. Leaves help in retaining energy and feeding the plant. This is the case for both the garden hyacinth and the indoor one.
Once leaves start to wither and die, lessen the amount of water you give the flower while keeping the flower moist.
How Do I Deal with Hyacinth Pests and Problems?
The hyacinth plant doesn’t attract too many bugs and won’t create too many problems for you. Making the Hyacinthus orientalis even more ideal to grow. There are only a few things you need to look out for in order for your garden to flourish:
- Frost injury: The stems and leaves on your hyacinth could suffer from frost towards the end of spring. Again, laying mulch on top of your soil after it’s frozen is a good way to avoid this from happening.
- Rodents: You may find chipmunks, squirrels and also skunks digging up your hyacinth bulbs. These bulbs are very enticing to rodents even though they’re harmful to them.
You can keep unwanted vermins away by growing your hyacinth in open-ended tin can sleeves. Rodents can’t get to your hyacinth bulbs because of the can and the roots can still propagate.
- Basal Rot: This fungal disease can harm your hyacinth through the soil. It can occur when temperatures are between 65°F and 75°F. A hyacinth suffering from basal rot has its growth stunted and the bulb’s base also softens before rotting.
Your best course of action here is to get rid of the contaminated hyacinth bulb completely. You should also apply a fungicide to your bulbs before putting them in the soil. Be careful not to grow any hyacinths in the same tainted soil for 3 years after detection.
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