Hyacinths are a popular spring bulb grown for their showy, colourful and highly fragrant flowers. Hyacinth bulbs can be planted in borders, containers and window boxes, looking most impressive when planted in groups. They naturally flower in the spring but they can also be forced indoors for a Christmas display. Read on to learn how to grow hyacinths successfully in your home and garden!
Planting hyacinth bulbs
Hyacinths are best planted in the autumn, and as with most bulbs, need a well-drained, fertile soil in full sun. Make sure the area you are planting has been cleared of weeds, and incorporate some organic matter such as well-rotted manure, recycled green waste or compost into the soil. This will help improve light or very heavy soils and provide some nutrients. Wear gloves when planting as the bulbs can be a skin irritant. Plant hyacinth bulbs at a depth of 10cm (4″), spacing them 8cm (3″) apart. Cover them with soil and lightly firm in – avoid treading them in as this may damage the growing tips. They shouldn’t need watering in if the soil is moist.
Hyacinths in pots
Hyacinths make fantastic pot plants due to their neat and compact habit, and growing them in containers allows you to enjoy the scent up close. Any compost can be used for growing hyacinths in containers – for short term displays use multi-purpose compost and for longer term displays use soil-based compost such as John Innes No.2. Lightly work some slow-release bulb fertiliser into the compost surface in early spring to help feed your bulbs for next year’s flowers. For short term displays bulbs can be planted closer together than usual for a fuller effect, spacing them 5cm (2″) apart. Once planted, ensure the compost remains moist to help them establish.
Growing hyacinth bulbs indoors
Hyacinths can be ‘forced’ for wonderfully fragrant Christmas gifts or simply to brighten up your own home! Look out for prepared hyacinth bulbs in garden centres, which have been heat-treated to initiate earlier flowering.
- Start by placing a layer of damp compost into your chosen container – there is no need to add any fertiliser
- Set the hyacinth bulbs on the compost, close together but not touching each other or the sides of the container
- Fill around the bulbs with more compost, leaving space between the container rim and compost surface to allow for watering. The top of the bulbs should just show at the compost surface
- After this, indoor hyacinth bulbs need a cold dark period, preferably around 9°C, in a shed, garage or cellar for up to 10 weeks. Cover the pots with black bin liners to stop light getting through and check them regularly, watering them sparingly if the compost feels dry
- Once shoots have appeared a few inches above the compost surface, bring them indoors and place in a bright, cool position, taking care not to place them above a radiator
- Water regularly when the compost dries out and they should start flowering within 3 weeks.
Hyacinths in pots should be watered with care, avoiding over-wetting the compost or allowing it to dry out completely. After flowering, indoor hyacinths can be planted outdoors where they will bloom the following spring.
Hyacinths grown in the ground require very little maintenance. As soon as hyacinth flowers have faded they can be removed, but do make sure you let the leaves die back naturally to feed the bulb for next year. Hyacinths often have large, dense flower spikes in their first year as they are subjected to various treatments in the nursery, but will produce fewer flowers per stem in their second year under normal growing conditions.