If garden scent is important to you, plant at least a few hyacinth bulbs in the fall. The common or garden hyacinth, a spring-blooming bulb native to the eastern Mediterranean, produces highly fragrant blooms in shades of blue, lavender, pink, red, purple, pale yellow or white. It is also sometimes called the Dutch hyacinth because thousands of cultivars were created in the Netherlands in the 18th century. In Victorian times, the hyacinth represented play and sport; a blue hyacinth was a symbol of sincerity.
Plant hyacinths in fall 6 to 8 weeks before the first hard frost, so the roots have time to grow. In northern gardens, September/October is best; in southern gardens, hyacinths can be planted up to November.
Find a location that is in full sun to partial shade. Hyacinth flowers provided with a little shade will fade less quickly than those in full sun.
Ensure that the soil is not too dry but will not get soggy; heavy soil that is not well-drained will sap the energy of the bulbs quickly.
Using a trowel, dig the planting area to a depth of 1 foot and amend the soil with organic material such as compost or well-rotted manure.
Dig holes 7 to 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Hyacinth bulbs are rounder than a tulip bulbs, but they do have a top and bottom. The more pointed side should face up.
Provide a winter mulch of straw, compost or leaf mulch.
Water thoroughly after planting, to encourage the bulbs to begin their fall root and bud formation.
Once hyacinths begin blooming in spring, feel free to cut the flowers to enjoy inside; it will not harm the plant. Just be sure to leave foliage uncut.
When the plants have finished blooming, cut the stems to the base of the plant, but allow the leaves to ripen naturally. Like all spring blooming bulbs, hyacinths depend on their foliage to build energy stores for next year’s flower.
Plant annual flowers around hyacinths (or place the bulbs among perennials) if you wish to camouflage the bulbs’ leaves as they ripen. Cut the leaves or twist them away from the ground once they have turned yellow.
Alternatively, you may decide to remove the entire bulb and plant new bulbs in the fall. Hyacinths have a tendency to decline in size and quality after their first year’s bloom, so some gardeners replace them annually.
If you wish to grow hyacinths indoors, choose a variety recommended for forcing. Plant in fertile soil in a container with a drainage hole, placing bulbs 1/2 inch below surface of soil. Keep in a cool dark place for 8 weeks before watering and placing in a sunny window.
Things You Will Need
- Hyacinth bulbs
- Organic material such as compost
- Plant hyacinths near doorways or other frequently traveled areas for maximum enjoyment of their fragrance.
- Hyacinth bulbs contain oxalic acid, which is a benefit in that rodents leave them untouched. However, some people may be bothered by skin irritation from handling the bulbs, so wearing gloves when planting them is recommended. (See References 2)