Past Articles Library | How to Grow Hyacinths
As a child growing up, I can remember walking up my family’s long driveway during the early spring and seeing little green sprouts popping up. After a week or so, the path up the driveway was scented with an aroma that signaled to me that spring had arrived. The outside environment may not be ready for spring, which means snow could still be on the ground but the flowers are. What flower am I talking about? Well, the hyacinth a course.
In the past, Victorians would plant hyacinths in garden beds with other low growing plants. To get the biggest gardening bang, they would group the hyacinth bulbs by color and plant them in mono-colored rows. Since the hyacinth had no tall plants to compete with, the aroma of these little flowers would float freely to scent more than their small, local space.
Hyacinths are one of those bulbs that need a cold period for proper production. In doing so, the best time to plant this bulb is in the fall. Planting at this time, naturally creates that “cold period.”
When it comes to hyacinth bulbs, you will need to make sure they are viable. One sure way of doing this is to gently squeeze the bulb. If it gives and feels somewhat squishy, the bulb probably will not be viable. The food resources have been used up. On the other hand, if the bulb feels hard then it is viable and its food stores have not been used up.
To plant hyacinths bulbs is simple but there are few steps you need to follow to maximize your success rate. First, if you plan on planting your hyacinth bulbs in the ground and leaving them, you will need to make sure you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 9. These bulbs also love the sun but can tolerate partial shade. As far as soil goes, their favorite is a loamy soil but we will be adding ingredients to the soil. In doing so, the loamy soil is not that great of an issue. The real concern when it comes to soil conditions is that it is well drained. A soggy soil will cause the bulb(s) to rot.
Once you have your location selected, the next step is to begin the planting process. The first step in this process is to prepare the garden space. If it is an existing space, loosen the soil and mix in a good amount of compost and bone meal. When using bone meal make sure to wear a mask to keep the substance out of your lungs.
Mix the compost and bone meal into the soil completely. After that is done, the next step is to measure and mark the spacing of the bulbs. Hyacinth bulbs will need to be placed at least 3 inches apart but do not go beyond 4 inches. If you do the latter, you will be reducing the visual impact of the bulb.
Once you have your spacing figured out, mark off the spacing with powdered milk or paint designed for lawn use.
The next step to this process is to begin to dig the holes for the bulbs. Hyacinth bulbs will need to be planted at a depth of 3 inches but if you live in the north, make the hole 4 inches deep. This deeper depth will protect the bulb from freezing in the northern climate.
Now, you can place your bulb in the hole but do not just haphazardly throw the bulb in the hole. You will need to make sure that the pointed end of the bulb is facing up in the hole. After all the bulbs have been planted, fill in with soil and water in.
If you use the above approach, you will need to wait until spring to see these little beauties. But did you know that you can force them for indoor enjoyment? Well, you can and it is easier than you think.
The first step to this process is to recreate the cold environment that your bulbs will go through when planted in the fall. To do this, one will need to place the bulbs in a paper bag and place them in an environment that is between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. A great location is your fridge but do not place your bulbs with fruits. As the fruits ripen, they release ethylene gas, which will kill the bulb.
Do not want to use your fridge, consider a garage, cold frame, or shed. Regardless of which area you choose, make sure to leave the bulbs there for 8 to 12 weeks.
Once the “cold period” has passed, the next step is to plant them. Believe it or not, you have a lot of different choices when it comes to planting. Hyacinth bulbs can be grown in a shallow container of soil, coco fibers, stone, and even in water. The planting medium itself is not really that important. What is important is that the container is shallow and has some weight to it. This is very important especially when the bulb begins to flower. The extra weight can topple a light-weight container.
After the container has been selected, place it in a basin of water and wash completely. Next, place your planting medium in the pot. For this technique, you can use soil or even coco fibers. Once the pot has the medium in it, place the hyacinth bulb(s) in the medium so that just the tip of the pointed end is breaking the “soil” level. Place in a sunny location and water in.
Continue to monitor the soil moisture and water when needed. Make sure not to over water.
While planting in containers with soil is one choice, there is another option and that is growing them in trays of stone/water or just in water. To grow hyacinth bulbs with stones begins with filling a shallow container with stones. The type really does not matter but to give you some ideas consider pea gravel or glass stones.
Once you have the stones in the container, simply push the bulbs into the stones until they are secure. After that is done, place water in the container just below the bulb. The roots will grow toward the water and keeping it the level away from the bottom of the bulb will keep the bulb from rotting.
The last technique is to plant the hyacinth bulb(s) in a glass of water. Yes, I said a glass of water. To do this, one only needs to find a glass small enough to hold the bulb. While there are “special” glasses just for this purpose, check out your kitchen cabinets before running to the garden center.
After you have your glass, fill it with water and place your bulb in the top. Again, make sure that your bulb is not sitting in the water but is just hanging right above the water level. Place the glass on a sunny windowsill and enjoy.
What do you do after your hyacinth bulb flowers? Well, simply cut off the flower stalk and leave the leaves. The leaves will continue to provide food for the bulb to get it through until the next spring.