Hyacinths are a popular spring bulb grown for their showy, colourful and highly fragrant flowers. Hyacinth bulbs can be planted in borders, containers and window boxes, looking most impressive when planted in groups. They naturally flower in the spring but they can also be forced indoors for a Christmas display. Read on to learn how to grow hyacinths successfully in your home and garden!
Hyacinths are best planted in the autumn, and as with most bulbs, need a well-drained, fertile soil in full sun. Make sure the area you are planting has been cleared of weeds, and incorporate some organic matter such as well-rotted manure, recycled green waste or compost into the soil. This will help improve light or very heavy soils and provide some nutrients. Wear gloves when planting as the bulbs can be a skin irritant. Plant hyacinth bulbs at a depth of 10cm (4"), spacing them 8cm (3") apart. Cover them with soil and lightly firm in – avoid treading them in as this may damage the growing tips. They shouldn't need watering in if the soil is moist.
Hyacinths make fantastic pot plants due to their neat and compact habit, and growing them in containers allows you to enjoy the scent up close. Any compost can be used for growing hyacinths in containers – for short term displays use multi-purpose compost and for longer term displays use soil-based compost such as John Innes No.2. Lightly work some slow-release bulb fertiliser into the compost surface in early spring to help feed your bulbs for next year’s flowers. For short term displays bulbs can be planted closer together than usual for a fuller effect, spacing them 5cm (2") apart. Once planted, ensure the compost remains moist to help them establish.
Hyacinths can be 'forced' for wonderfully fragrant Christmas gifts or simply to brighten up your own home! Look out for prepared hyacinth bulbs in garden centres, which have been heat-treated to initiate earlier flowering.
Hyacinths in pots should be watered with care, avoiding over-wetting the compost or allowing it to dry out completely. After flowering, indoor hyacinths can be planted outdoors where they will bloom the following spring.
Hyacinths grown in the ground require very little maintenance. As soon as hyacinth flowers have faded they can be removed, but do make sure you let the leaves die back naturally to feed the bulb for next year. Hyacinths often have large, dense flower spikes in their first year as they are subjected to various treatments in the nursery, but will produce fewer flowers per stem in their second year under normal growing conditions.
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.