Hyacinth: Sweet Harbingers of Spring

Fragrant blossoms define these delicate beauties.
Hyacinthus Orientalis City of Haarlem Dense Spikes

Hyacinthus Orientalis City of Haarlem Dense Spikes

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

In late spring this hyacinth produces a dense spike of intensely fragrant primrose-yellow flowers. Absolutely heavenly against the leaves are bright green and lance-shaped.

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You know spring can’t be far away when you get that first whiff of a hyacinth in bloom. Its intoxicating scent and cheerful colors has made this flowering bulb a favorite for generations of gardeners.

These short-stemmed plants bloom in a wide range of colors, from white, pale blue, pink and yellow to deep purple, filling the air with a heady fragrance to boot.

Like most spring bulbs, hyacinths are best planted in full sun in well-drained soil. Plant them in the fall when soil temperatures dip below 60 degrees about 6 to 8 inches deep. Keep them watered throughout the fall.

Hyacinths also can be forced into bloom indoors, with some varieties more adept than others (They flower for such a short period of time, sometimes it’s easier to just buy them already potted). Plant them with their tips showing in a container of soil mix with a drainage hole. Keep the pot in a dark space below 45 degrees for eight to 10 weeks to allow the roots to develop. When shoots emerge, gradually increase the plant’s exposure to light and temperature. As buds appear, move the pot to a sunny window. Once the flowers fade, the bulb can be transplanted to the garden.

Outdoors, a few varieties to consider include ‘Carnegie’, ‘City of Haarlem’, ‘Delft Blue’, ‘Woodstock’, and ‘Gypsy Queen’. Some of the heirloom bulbs from the 1800s are still around as well, such as the dark maroon ‘Distinction’, rosy ‘Lord Balfour’ and deep purple ‘King of the Blues’.

Once the bulbs have finished flowering, cut back their stalks but allow their leaves to die back naturally so the bulb can begin storing its energy for next spring. 

Hyacinths can be perennial in cooler climates to partially perennial in warmer areas.

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