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Do You Prune Hyacinth?

It's not necessarily "pruning," but properly caring for your hyacinths (Hyacinthus spp. and Muscari spp.) does involve cutting them back. Hyacinths, members of the lily family, can provide a sweet-smelling, bright spread of color in your early spring garden, so taking care of them will ensure you get to continue to enjoy them in years to come.

Hyacinth Habits

Hyacinth flowers emerge in the spring from bulbs that have spent the winter in the ground. Throughout early to mid-spring, they'll produce bright, downward-facing flowers of various colors, depending on the variety.

  • Dutch hyacinth (Hyachinthus orientalis), hardy from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 7, may be pink, purple, white, orange or blue.
  • Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum), hardy from USDA zones 3 to 9, will emerge with grape-colored flowers that bloom in mid-spring. There are other members of the Muscari family, including Muscari botryoides, hardy from USDA zones 3 to 8, but they're not widely available as ornamentals.

Typically, hyacinths bloom for just a few weeks -- meaning you'll have to start deadheading them fairly early in the growing season.

Deadheading Hyacinths

When the flowers start to shrivel or fade, it's time to cut them back. First though, wipe down your garden snippers with a solution of three parts water and one part bleach, so as to prevent the spread of diseases from one plant to another.

Warning

Hyacinths can be irritating to the skin due to the presence of oxalic acid, so wear gloves when cutting them back.

Make a cut on the flower's stem, about 1 to 2 inches below the flowers. Discard the flowers or add them to your compost. Leave the leaves and the remaining stems in your garden, as they'll provide nourishment for the bulbs that are still in the ground, and can help make for a healthy crop of hyacinths the following year.

As the leaves yellow and die, you can remove them and add them to your compost. After cutting, the plant won't produce more blooms that year -- though grape hyacinth will produce more leaves in the fall.

Tip

  • The dying hyacinth leaves may look unsightly, so mask their appearance by planting annual flowers around them once the hyacinth flowers have died back. 
  • Grape hyacinth is fairly hardy, but Dutch hyacinths will need frost protection in USDA zone 7 and below. In the colder months, covering the area over the bulbs with a 2-inch mulch layer of leaves or straw can protect them from frost damage and keep weeds from growing.

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