how to plant, grow & care for hyacinths
complete growing guide
A bowl of brightly coloured hyacinths will lift the spirits on a January day with the heady scent of spring pervading the whole house. The magical ritual of planting them in containers in the autumn and forcing them in a cold dark shed is a strong childhood memory as powerful as Christmas itself. Never mind that they rarely seem to flower in time for the December festivities, it is something to look forward to in the dark days of January and February. Planted afterwards in the garden they will do just as well for years to come, flowering between March and April depending on the variety you choose. Browse our range of hyacinth bulbs for beautiful winter and spring flowers.
- Common name Hyacinth
- Latin name Hyacinthus orientalis
- Type Bulb
- Height 30cm
- TLC rating Easy
- Aspect Full sun, part shade.
- Planting position Front of the border, under trees and shrubs, in containers, indoors.
- Suitable for pots Yes
- Good for pollinators Yes
- Good for cut flowers Yes
how to grow hyacinths
where to grow hyacinths
Soil type: Hyacinths are generally tolerant of most soil types but do prefer well-drained soil.
Aspect & position: Outdoors, plant your hyacinths in full sun or part shade in the border, under trees or in pots outside. Hyacinths can also be forced for winter flowering in pots indoors.
when to plant hyacinths
Treated bulbs can be planted in indoor containers in August, and then replanted outside after flowering to flower again the following spring. Bulbs for outside can be planted in the autumn.
how to plant hyacinths
planting treated hyacinth bulbs indoors
Treated hyacinths bulbs have been tricked into flowering early by being given a period of cold in the summer. They are available from August onwards, and if planted right away you will have a chance of hyacinths in flower on Christmas Day.
Choose a container that is deep enough to allow the roots to anchor the plant, and to insert twigs as you are probably going to need to stake the plants. Put broken crocks or gravel at the bottom to improve drainage (particularly if your pot has no holes in the bottom). Use a gritty peat free compost and plant the bulbs closely in the pot but not touching, with their snouts just poking out of the surface of the compost. Find a cool dark cupboard or corner of the shed where the temperature doesn’t get above 10 degrees (or below 4 degrees). Leave the pot there for about 10 weeks for the roots to develop and the shoots to slowly emerge. Check periodically that the compost is moist, but do not overwater.
Once the flower spike is beginning to emerge (about 3cm), bring the pot out into cool light conditions for around 3 weeks. Once you see some colour appearing on the bud bring the pot indoors to a light warm room. At this stage you might well need to stake around the edge of the pot with twigs and string as the weight of the flower can cause them to droop.
After enjoying the plant indoors move to a sheltered spot outdoors to photosynthesize for next year. Transplant into the border when the soil has warmed up sufficiently.
planting hyacinth bulbs outdoors
Planting hyacinths in the garden is a much simpler affair than growing indoors as they can be planted just like any other bulbs in the autumn. Plant about 10cm deep and 15cm apart in well-drained soil. If drainage is poor, add some grit to the bottom of the hole and mix in some leaf mould. You can also aid establishment of all your spring bulbs by adding some mycorrhizal fungi-based biological fertiliser such as Bulb Starter.
how to care for hyacinths
caring for outdoor hyacinths
Outdoor grown hyacinths require very little attention, and as their heads gradually lose their chunkiness year on year, they will not need any staking and will look much more elegant over time. A winter mulch of leaf mould or compost is all they need to keep going year after year.
It is worth deadheading hyacinths, even if just to tidy them up, but make sure the leaves are all left on until they go yellow and die as they will be feeding up the bulb for next year.
After several years you can divide clumps of hyacinths to give the younger bulbils more space and fresh ground to thrive.
- Plant out indoor flowered bulbs in gaps in the border.
- August: plant treated bulbs for early flowering indoors.
- Plant outdoor bulbs in the border or containers.
- Bring in pots of forced bulbs to flower indoors.
pests, diseases & common issues
Hyacinths are pretty trouble free as long as they have good drainage, here are a few things to watch out for.
fusarium basal rot
This is a fungal disease that attacks the root plate of the bulb. Ensure you get your bulbs from a reliable source, store in a cool dry place and check for any signs of mould before planting. Do not plant any affected bulbs.
A common fungal disease that attacks the leaves of the plant if grown in moist conditions. Avoid wetting the foliage when watering and allow plenty of air circulation.
If it is a mild winter and the slugs are about early they might attack the leaves of outdoor grown hyacinths. Surround your plants with a layer of grit to deter the slugs and improve drainage at the same time.
why are my hyacinths stunted?
This is probably due to lack of moisture in the early stage of growth.
why are my hyacinths drooping?
Hyacinth flowers are very top heavy so are prone to drooping or even appearing to grow sideways. If growing indoors the room could well be too warm which causes drooping. Move to cooler conditions and the flowers should straighten up.
why are my hyacinths not flowering?
Hyacinths need a period of cold to instigate flowering. If you have planted your hyacinths indoors without giving them some winter cold outside or in a shed, they will not come into flower.
why are my hyacinths dying?
If your hyacinth has already flowered, it will start to die back naturally as it is primed to go dormant for the rest of the year before coming back into growth in the autumn. If it has not yet flowered the most likely cause of death is root rot due to overwatering.
frequently asked questions
should hyacinth bulbs be covered?
If you are planting them in containers indoors, they need to have their snouts just poking through the compost. If grown in the garden or in pots outside they are better planted about 10-15cm deep.
are hyacinths poisonous to cats and dogs?
As they belong to the lily family hyacinth bulbs can cause stomach problems if eaten by cats or dogs.
how long do hyacinths bloom?
This partly depends on the warmth of the room, but they should remain in bloom for 3 or 4 weeks.
are hyacinths perennials?
As bulbous plants hyacinths go dormant during the summer months, storing their energy to root and shoot again after a period of winter cold. So yes, they will come back year after year.
can you replant hyacinth bulbs?
Yes, you can. Hyacinths are very keen to naturalise in garden soil, although they might take a year or two to come back into full flowering mode.
do hyacinths spread?
They do not appear to set seed in our climate, but the bulb will gradually divide to create offsets so that your original single bulb becomes several smaller plants. These can be split off and moved into other areas if required.
do hyacinths rebloom?
If your hyacinth has flowered indoors, it will only flower once and then needs a period of dormancy before flowering again the following year. It will do this best if planted outside after flowering and allowed to die down naturally. Forced hyacinths may take a couple of seasons before they flower again if planted in the garden.
can hyacinths grow outside?
Yes, they are totally hardy as long as they have a free draining soil.
do hyacinths need full sun?
They flower best in full sun, but you will get a smaller more natural looking flower if grown in partial shade.
which hyacinth smells best?
Delft Blue is said to have the strongest scent. Our sense of smell is very personal though, and some people dislike the smell of hyacinths intensely.
are hyacinths good for bees?
Yes, they are a good early source of nectar, particularly for bumblebees coming out of hibernation.
what to grow with hyacinths
Hyacinths combine well with most spring flowering bulbs. They also work well with hellebores whose emerging new foliage help hide the dying hyacinth leaves.
how to cut & arrange hyacinths
Hyacinths last well in a vase, particularly with a tiny bit of bleach in the water to stop their fleshy stems starting to rot.
Get more inspiration for displaying your flowers with our flower arranging videos and articles: