How to Force Hyacinths

How to Force Hyacinths

Excerpted from Forcing, Etc. by Katherine Whiteside

This article is excerpted from Forcing, Etc.

An expert gardener who is also an innovative floral stylist, Katherine Whiteside offers a livley, idea-filled introduction to the art of forcing bulbs, branches, and other flowers--including irises, hyacinths, scillas, oxalis, calla lilies, velthemias, jasmine, begonias, and more. Plant profiles cover specifics for the most widely grown flowers; and tips for plant pairing and arranging are offered at every turn. Tying it all together are Richard Felber's lush photographs.

One of the reasons hyacinths have had such a long uninterrupted heyday is that they're very simple to grow. A few gardeners forgo them because of their reputation for top-heaviness and occasionally overpowering perfumes, but this is like always forgoing vacations because you had one that was bad. Properly chosen hyacinths are delicately formed, pleasantly scented, and come in colors from pale apricot to blackish-purple. Adding hyacinths to your indoor garden provides a little glimpse of heaven in February.


For forcing in soil, hyacinths should be potted up by mid-October. Use ordinary potting medium and, for best effect, place bulbs close together, but not touching. The pointy tops of the bulbs should be about half an inch above the soil line. Water them thoroughly and place the pots in a cold (35 to 48 degree F), dark location for at least 13 weeks. If the bulbs start to push out of the soil during rooting, add a layer of gravel on top to weigh them down a bit, taking care not to cover the bulb's pointed nose. Keep them watered and in the dark until bulb shoots reach one inch tall. At this point, move the pot to a cool (55 degree F), bright location (a north-facing window is perfect). Soon, the shoots will turn green and buds will appear. Once in flower (about two weeks) keep the hyacinths cool and well watered.


Water forcing hyacinths is even simpler than growing them in soil. Place the bulbs in brown paper bags in a dark, cool (50 to 55 degree F) location for 12 weeks. After this period, place the dormant bulbs in forcing vases filled with water to a level just barely touching the bottoms of the bulbs. Keep them cool and dark until the roots are two inches long (about three weeks), then bring them into the light. Blooms should appear in about two weeks. If your forcing vase doesn't offer enough support to prevent the flowers from leaning, prop the bulb with pretty twigs to prevent diving hyacinths.

Excerpted from Forcing, Etc. by Katherine Whiteside. Reprinted with permission by Workman Publishing.

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