With a heady floral aroma and vivid blooms, hyacinths are one of our favorite spring flowers. These perennial bulbs can be grown outdoors to add color to a landscape or indoors in pots to perfume your space with their aroma. Here's how to grow and care for hyacinths.
- Botanical Name: Hyacinthus orientalis
- Common Name: Common hyacinth, Dutch hyacinth, garden hyacinth
- Plant Type: Bulbous herbaceous perennial
- Mature Size: Eight to 12 inches tall and three to six inches wide
- Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
- Soil Type: Rich, well-drained soil
- Soil pH: 6.0 - 7.0
- Toxicity: Toxic to pets and humans
Plant hyacinth bulbs in the fall. Dig holes six inches deep and spaced six inches apart, or cluster several bulbs together in a larger hole. Plant the bulbs with the pointed end facing up, then cover them with soil.
Hyacinth bulbs don't need to be watered after planting unless rainfall is particularly low. Once plants come up, they should only be watered if the top three inches of soil is dry. Apply water to the soil to avoid getting leaves and flowers wet, which will decrease the risk of plant diseases.
Best Growing Conditions for Hyacinth
Hyacinths grow best in a spot with full sun and loose, rich, well-drained soil, but they can tolerate slightly shadier conditions as well. They can be grown in garden beds, lining walkways, or in containers and make a fragrant, colorful addition to any cutting garden.
Types of Hyacinth
Hyacinths come in a wide array of cultivars with different growth habits. In terms of color, hyacinth varieties in shades of blue, purple, lavender, red, burgundy, pink, orange, yellow, and white, as well as variegated types that appear to have stripes or trim in contrasting colors.
Single hyacinths have the classic single stalk with bell-shaped flowers, while double hyacinths have ruffled double blooms. Multiflora hyacinths have flowers that are a little more spaced out, and a single bulb will produce multiple stems.
How to Propagate Hyacinth
While many bulbs can be propagated simply through division, hyacinths need a little help to encourage faster growth of the bulblets that will produce new plants. Note that even after propagating hyacinth bulbs, the new bulblets can take anywhere from four to six years to bloom.
Tools and Supplies:
- Healthy, mature hyacinth bulbs
- Clean, sanitized spoon with a sharp edge
- Gardening gloves
- Fungicide powder (bulb dust)
- Small plant pots
- Potting soil
- Identify the bulb's basal plate, the area from which the roots grow.
- Wearing gloves, carefully use the spoon to scrape out the basal plate and scoop out the area directly beneath it. Stop scooping when you see the pale green flower stem in the center of the bulb.
- Use your fingers to apply fungicide powder evenly over the scraped surface. Place the bulbs cut side up on a layer of coarse sand or vermiculite. Keep them in a dry, dark, warm place for two to four weeks. During this time, tiny bulblets will begin to emerge around the cut edges of the bulb.
- After a month or so, plant the bulbs in small pots with potting soil, still keeping the cut side up, and water the soil. When roots begin to grow from the bulbs, they can be planted outdoors, ideally in the fall. Note that it may take several years for the new hyacinth plants to bloom.
Common Problems With Hyacinth
While hyacinths are generally easy to grow with the right conditions and a little care, they can experience pest and disease issues. Rodents like squirrels and chipmunks will sometimes dig up and damage hyacinth bulbs, while rabbits may eat the foliage.
Reddish-brown spots on leaves or rotten flowers with gray fuzz are a sign of botrytis blight, a fungal disease. It can be treated with fungicide, but it's best to prevent it by giving plants adequate spacing and watering the soil, not the flowers or foliage.
Soft rot, a bacterial issue, will cause plants to fall over and flowers to drop before they open. Avoid planting soft or mushy bulbs, give plants adequate spacing and well-draining soil, and dispose of any affected plant parts in the trash.
How to Get Hyacinth to Bloom
Hyacinth bulbs must experience cold temperatures of 35 to 45 degrees for 12 to 14 weeks in order to bloom again. In cold climates, this happens naturally as bulbs overwinter outdoors. In warmer climates where winters aren't that cold (growing zones 8 to 11) or if you would like to grow hyacinths indoors, they must be refrigerated to trigger dormancy.
Store hyacinth bulbs in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator in the fall. Avoid storing fruit in the refrigerator with your hyacinth bulbs, because the ethylene gas released by some fruits can cause them to rot.
After the chilling period ends in January or February, plant your hyacinth bulbs outdoors or in pots and care for them as usual. You should see blooms four to six weeks after planting chilled hyacinth bulbs.
Is hyacinth easy to care for?
Yes, hyacinths are quite low-maintenance and easy to care for once planted.
What’s the difference between hyacinth and grape hyacinth?
Though true hyacinths and grape hyacinths (Muscari) have similar care requirements and bloom around the same time, they are not actually related. Hyacinths have taller spikes of bell-shaped flowers and come in a multitide of different colors. Grape hyacinths are smaller and shorter, with thin stems and clusters of tiny grapelike flowers ranging from blue to purple.
Can hyacinth grow indoors?
Yes, hyacinth can grow indoors, typically as an annual. They're popular to keep as houseplants or give as gifts in the late winter and early spring because of their colorful appearance and attractive scent.
Safe and Poisonous Garden Plants, University of California Davis