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How To Plant, Grow and Care For Hyacinths

Botanical Name Hyacinthus orientalis
Plant Type Flower bulb
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Clay, loamy or sandy, as long as it is well-drained
Soil pH Neutral to slightly acidic, 6.0-7.0 pH
Bloom Time Early to Mid-Spring
Flower Color White, Purple, Blue, Lavender, Yellow, Maroon, Pink, Orange
Hardiness Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Special Features Extremely fragrant flowers. Can be forced to bloom indoors in the winter.

Known for their sweet, intoxicating fragrance and tidy clusters of blooms, hyacinths are some of the easiest of the spring-blooming bulbs to grow. Hyacinth flowers bloom in early to mid-spring, about the same time as daffodils. Available in an array of colors, including white, purple, lavender, pink, yellow and red hues, hyacinths add color and fragrance to flower beds and containers. Their flowers attract pollinators, and deer tend to pass them by. Hyacinth bulbs are also easy to force for indoor enjoyment.

Types of Hyacinths

Gardeners can choose from dozens of varieties of hyacinth flowers. Here are a few of the most popular hyacinth bulbs.

City of haarlem hyacinth
  • City of Haarlem Hyacinth: Yellow is an unusual color for hyacinths--and this hyacinth's cheery yellow flowers add warm color to the spring garden. They're impressive planted in groups--or force a few indoors to brighten a room.

  • Gipsy Queen hyacinth
  • Gipsy Queen Hyacinth: Peachy-orange flowers combined with a powerful, sweet fragrance are sure to draw attention in the garden. For a vivid display, plant these hyacinth flowers with other colors of hyacinths.

  • Woodstock hyacinth
  • Woodstock Hyacinth: Spikes of very full, tight flowers in rich violet-purple, almost maroon, shades, give the garden a regal look. These hyacinth flowers also add elegance to indoor displays.

  • Carneige hyacinth
  • Carnegie Hyacinth: A must-have for the spring garden, Carnegie features snow-white flowers that look good massed or with other flower colors. Like other hyacinths, its flowers are delightfully fragrant.
  • Hyacinth SAS Image

    When to Plant Hyacinth Bulbs

    Hyacinth bulbs, like other spring-blooming flower bulbs, are planted in the fall, usually between September and November, depending on your location. A good rule of thumb is to plant them after the weather starts to cool and at least 2-4 weeks before the ground freezes. To get the best selection of hyacinth bulbs, order them in late summer to early fall.

    If you want to force hyacinth bulbs to bloom indoors, pre-chill your bulbs for 10-12 weeks before planting. During pre-chilling, keep hyacinth bulbs in the dark and at temperatures of 40-50°F. When taken out of the chilled area, planted and exposed to light, hyacinth bulbs will usually bloom in 3-4 weeks.

    If growing hyacinths in containers, make sure to use pots with drainage holes. A single bulb needs a 4-inch diameter pot. If planting three bulbs together, use a pot with at least a 6-inch diameter.

    Where to Plant Hyacinth Bulbs

    Hyacinths can be grown outdoors throughout much of the United States, thriving in zones 4-9. To find your hardiness zone, use our zone finder. In zones 8-9, you may need to pre-chill the bulbs for about 10 weeks before planting. Like other flower bulbs, hyacinth bulbs require well-drained soil. In heavy clay and poorly drained soils, the bulbs may rot. You can improve your soil by adding aged manure or compost. Hyacinth flowers also need full sun (6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily) to partial shade. Because hyacinths bloom before most deciduous trees leaf out in the spring, they can be planted in garden areas usually shaded by trees.

    How to Plant Hyacinth Bulbs

    When your hyacinth bulbs arrive, open the cartons right away. If the bulbs are in plastic bags, remove them from the plastic. Plant the hyacinth bulbs soon after they are delivered. If you cannot plant them right away, place them on a tray in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area until you can plant them. Do not store them at temperatures below 39°F.

    Hyacinths look best planted in clumps of 3-4 bulbs. When planting hyacinth bulbs, wear gloves to avoid possible skin reactions. Plant hyacinth bulbs about 4-6 inches deep and 4-8 inches apart. The pointy side should be facing up. After planting, water them thoroughly.

    Materials You'll Need

    If planting a few hyacinths, you can use a shovel or trowel for digging. If you plan on planting hundreds of bulbs, then an auger and drill make the job easier. Both the Improved Bulb Auger and KneeSaver Planting Tool are time savers. Using an all-natural, slow-release fertilizer, like Van Bourgondien 100% Natural Bulb Food, at planting time can also give your hyacinths a boost. If planting hyacinths for indoor enjoyment, our Traditional Dutch Hyacinth Glasses are a great way to exhibit your hyacinth flowers.

    How to Grow Hyacinths

    While hyacinths are winter hardy, adding mulch can suppress weeds and protect the bulbs in areas where winter temperatures are extremely cold.

    After the hyacinth flowers start to turn brown, cut the flower stalk or deadhead them. Leave the foliage so that it can make food for next year's blooms.

    If growing hyacinth bulbs in pots, allow the foliage to fade naturally. Then dig up the bulbs and store them in a cool, dry place, such as the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks. They can then be planted in the garden in the fall.

    Hyacinth FAQs

    Hyacinths are fairly trouble free. The biggest concern is often bulb rot, which may occur in poorly drained soils. Hyacinths contain oxalic acid which is poisonous to humans and animals&mdashand this often keeps rabbits and deer away. Because flowering tends to decrease after the first year, most gardeners plant new hyacinth bulbs every 3-4 years.

    Harvesting tips
    The flower stalk can be cut and hyacinths can be used as cut flowers. Be sure to leave the foliage.

    How to store hyacinth bulbs
    Hyacinth bulbs should be stored in a cool, dark location. Mesh bags are ideal. Avoid storing in plastic bags.

    Forcing hyacinth bulbs
    Forcing hyacinth bulbs for indoor winter blooms is a great way to add cheer and fragrance to a home. While easy to do, it takes some planning. Chill the bulbs in a dark space at 40-50°F for 10-12 weeks before planting. It takes bulbs about 3-4 weeks to bloom indoors after planting.

    What do you do with hyacinth bulbs after flowering in water
    It's difficult to get hyacinth bulbs to bloom again if they've been grown in water. Many gardeners just throw the bulbs away after the flowering period is over. If you want to try and get flowers for another season, then allow the foliage to fade naturally. Store the bulbs in a dark place at temperatures between 40-50°F for 12-16 weeks.

    How long do hyacinths last
    The hyacinth bloom period in the spring usually lasts about 2 weeks.

    When to dig up hyacinth bulbs
    Wait until the leaves have turned brown before digging up hyacinth bulbs. This is usually in the summer.

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