Grow Hyacinth Flowers for Spring Color & FragranceBring vibrant color and delightful fragrance into your spring garden with hyacinth flowers
Hyacinths are one of the easiest spring bulbs to grow. Although hyacinth plants are small, they pack a big punch of both color and fragrance in their clusters of blooms. There are many varieties available in several colors, including purple, white, yellow and pink.
Generally 3-9, with some winter protection needed in zones lower than 5 and pre-chilling in fall required in zones higher than 7. (For tips on pre-chilling, see When to Plant in Care Tab)
6 inches to 1 foot tall, 3 to 6 inches wide
Full sun to light shade
March - April
Flower Color and Shape:
Single, double and multiflora blooms in shades of white, peach, orange, salmon, yellow, pink, red, purple, lavender, and blue.
When to plant:
In fall, 6-8 weeks before a hard frost (usually September/October in the North and October/November in the South). Hyacinth bulbs require a cooling period before planting of about 8 to 12 weeks. In zones higher than 7, bulbs will need to be pre-chilled (out of the ground) for 8 to 12 weeks before planting. They can be placed in a protected outdoor shed or garage or other dark area where temperatures are 35 to 45 degrees, but not below freezing. They can also be placed in the refrigerator, just not in the same location as fruit or vegetables, especially apples, as they produce a gas when ripening that causes the bulbs to rot.
Where to plant:
Plant in a location that will receive full sun, with good drainage, as bulbs are prone to rot if the soil is too soggy.
How to plant:
Loosen the soil 12 to 15 inches down and add a layer of compost. Bulbs should be planted pointed end up, 6 to 8 inches deep, and 4 to 6 inches apart. Cover them with soil and press firmly. Water thoroughly when first planted. As a side note, wearing gloves is recommended when handling hyacinth bulbs, as they have been known to cause an itchy skin reaction in some people.
Hyacinths prefer well-drained, moderately fertile soil.
Bulbs should be watered thoroughly at the time of planting in the fall. Soil should be kept slightly moist through the fall into winter, with light watering only if there is no rainfall. The ground should be allowed to dry out in between in order to prevent bulb rot. Watering should begin again when growth appears above ground and taper off after blooming as the bulb progresses to dormancy.
After flowering, cut the flower stalk back to keep the bulb from expending energy to produce seeds. The foliage should be left intact, allowing the plant to continue to produce and store energy for next season. Leaves should be left until they die back naturally and then can be removed.
Hyacinth bulbs will spread and multiply if left in the ground to return the next year; however, they will generally only last 3 or 4 years.
Applying a layer of compost annually should provide adequate nutrients for your hyacinth bulbs.
Diseases and Pests:
Hyacinth bulbs can be prone to gray mold and bulb rot. Rodents can be a menace to hyacinth bulbs. A handful of gravel placed in the planting hole can sometimes discourage them from chomping on your bulbs. Also, planting hyacinths amongst daffodils can also deter them, as they tend to avoid daffodils.
Growing hyacinths indoors:
Hyacinths can be easily forced to grow and bloom indoors. After they have been pre-chilled for 8 to 12 weeks, they can be placed in potting soil, gravel, or ‘forcing jars’ - glass containers that look like an hourglass with the top cut off. These special containers hold the bulb out of direct contact with the water, but allow the roots to drink. Add water, just below the bulb and not touching it. Place the container in a dark, cool area and maintain the water level just below the bulb. After the roots begin to grow and foliage is about 2 inches tall, usually about 10 weeks, gradually acclimate your hyacinth to a sunny window over about a 4-day period. Once your hyacinth begins to bloom, turn it slightly each day so it won’t grow leaning toward the sunlight. With some patience, you will have beautiful hyacinths to brighten your home or office.
DESIGNING WITH HYACINTHS
In this mixed border hyacinths are combined with other spring bloomers including muscari, anemone and tulips. Photo by: RM Floral / Alamy Stock Photo.
Here are some ways to incorporate hyacinth flowers into your garden:
- Due to their small size, hyacinths are best planted in groups in beds, borders, or rock gardens.
- Their small shape and spiky stalks mix well with other spring bulbs, providing contrast to taller tulips and daffodils.
- Plant them near walkways, entries, or patios to enjoy their scent.
- Container planting is also ideal due to their compact size. They can be planted closer together in a pot - almost touching, as they do not need room to spread.
- Plant them in pots outdoors and then bring inside just before blooming to provide a natural, indoor air freshener.
TYPES OF HYACINTHS
Here are 9 selections of heirloom and modern hyacinths to grow in your garden:
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Blue Jacket’
A modern hybrid with bi-colored flowers that’s good for forcing.
Hyancinthus orientalis ‘City of Haarlem’
A popular heirloom hyacinth with creamy yellow flowers.
Hyancinthus orientalis ‘Jan Bos’
Known for its large, dense spike of bright pink flowers.
Hyancinthus orientalis ‘Peter Stuyvesant’
This hyacinth has dark blue-purple flowers that hold their color well. Also features a dark stem that is especially strong.
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Carnegie’
This pure white cultivar returns more reliably than other hyacinths.
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Delft Blue’
An older variety with medium-blue flowers.
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Yellow Queen’
Offers a more vibrant yellow than ‘City of Haarlem’.
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Woodstock’
Flowers profusely with rich magenta clusters. A sport of ‘Jan Bos’.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What about grape hyacinth? Common grape hyacinth (Muscari botryoides) is related to common hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis), but is from a different genus. How do you tell them apart? Common hyacinth has blooms that are star-shaped and open fully, while common grape hyacinth has tight blooms in a raceme that resemble clusters of grapes.
Are hyacinth poisonous? Hyacinths are known to be toxic if consumed by humans or animals and are listed on the ASPCA website as toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. The concentration of toxin is greater in the bulb than in the flowers or foliage. More severe cases of poisoning occur when animals dig up freshly-planted bulbs or discover a bag of them before planting. Some people experience an itchy skin reaction from handling the bulbs, so wearing gloves is recommended.
Are hyacinth deer resistant? Hyacinths are considered to be highly resistant to deer, as deer tend to steer clear of plants or flowers with strong scents.
Are hyacinths perennials? Hyacinths can be used as perennials, as they will return each year if left in the ground in certain zones. However, in warmer zones they can be treated more like annuals, as they will need to be dug up to be pre-chilled before planting again in the fall.