Gardeners love hyacinths for their showy, colourful, highly fragrant flowers. A spring bulb that’s easy to grow, with some careful prep, you can even get them to flower indoors in time for Christmas. Whether you choose to plant them in your borders, containers or even window boxes, here’s how to get the very best from your hyacinths. Read our useful guide for how and when to plant your hyacinth bulbs below.
Plant your hyacinth bulbs in groups during the autumn. Like most bulbs, they need well-drained, fertile soil, in full sun. First clear the area of weeds, and before planting, incorporate organic matter like well-rotted manure, recycled green waste, or compost into the soil.
Hyacinth bulbs can irritate your skin, so do wear gloves to handle them. Plant your bulbs to a depth of 10cm (4"), spacing them 8cm (3") apart. Cover with soil and lightly firm in without treading which risks damaging the growing tips. As long as the soil is moist, you don’t need to water your bulbs in.
Hyacinths’ neat and compact habit makes them ideal for growing in containers on your decking or patio where you can best enjoy their heady scent. For a one-off burst of colour, use a multi-purpose compost and plant your bulbs 5 cm (2”) apart.
To create lasting displays that come back year after year, use a soil-based compost like John Innes No.2, and plant your bulbs a little further apart – 8 cm (3”) will do the trick. Do remember to work a little slow-release bulb fertiliser into the compost surface early each spring. Check and water the compost to keep it moist, but not waterlogged.
'Forced' Hyacinths make wonderfully fragrant Christmas gifts and add a cheery splash of colour to brighten up the wintry gloom. All you need to do is make sure you buy hyacinth bulbs which have been ‘prepared’ or heat-treated to initiate earlier flowering.
Start by placing a layer of damp compost into your chosen container – there’s no need to add fertiliser. Set the hyacinth bulbs on the compost, around the edge of the container. They should be close but not touching. Fill around the bulbs with more compost so that the bulb tips just poke through, remembering to allow space for watering.
Cover your containers with black bin liners and put them somewhere cold and dark like a cellar, shed, or garage – a temperature of about 9°C is ideal. Leave for 10 weeks, checking them regularly and watering sparingly if the compost feels dry.
Once shoots grow a few inches above the compost surface, bring the containers indoors and place them in a bright, cool position, taking care not to place them above a radiator. Water whenever the compost begins to dry, and in about three weeks, your hyacinths will flower.
Avoiding over-wetting the compost or allowing it to dry out completely. After flowering, you can plant indoor hyacinths in the garden where they’ll bloom the next spring.
Hyacinths grown in the ground require very little maintenance. As soon as the flowers fade, deadhead them, making sure to leave the foliage to die back naturally to feed the bulb for next year.
We hope you’ll plant a few hyacinth bulbs this autumn ready for a fragrant display next spring. Tell us about your favourite variety over on our Facebook page, and don’t forget to tag us in your photos when they come into bloom!
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.