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How to Grow: Hyacinth
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Spring in colors of white, blue, pink, and purple
Mature Height x Spread
8 to 12 inches x 4 to 8 inches
attract beneficials, deer resistant
Hyacinths are known for their cone-shaped clusters of small tubular-shaped flowers. Depending on the varieties, the clusters can be loose or densely packed. Multiflora hyacinths have loosely arranged flowers. The flowers may be single or double on the flower stalk. This colorful bulb blooms around the same time as many tulips and is a nice compliment to those bulbs with its blue, white or pink colored blossoms. The biggest draw for growing hyacinths, though, is the fragrance. The heady, sweet fragrance will perfume a garden and almost overwhelm you indoors if brought in as a cut flower. I like to force hyacinths into bloom indoors in winter to capture that heady perfume and remind me of more colorful days to come.
Where, When and How to Plant
Hyacinths are hardy throughout our region. Purchase bulbs from garden centers in fall and plant when you would other spring flowering bulbs in a sunny, fertile soil location. Be careful handling the bulbs since they contain a chemical that may irritate the skin and give some people a rash. Wear gloves as a precaution. Plant bulbs in groups, spaced 6 inches apart and planted 3 times their diameter deep. Place a small handful of bulb fertilizer in the planting hole.
Keep the bulbs watered the first year and well weeded. Mulch first year plantings in fall with bark mulch if growing in colder areas of our region for added winter protection. Sprinkle bulb fertilizer each fall in the bulb planting area to encourage better growth.
Regional Advice and Care
Cut back spent blossoms once they have faded, but let the foliage naturally yellow before cutting it back to rejuvenate the bulb. Prevent the heavy flowers from flopping by grouping them together and reducing the fertilizer you add. Hyacinth bulbs are a favorite food of chipmunks, mice and voles. Protect bulbs with a small handful of cayenne pepper, crushed oyster shells or crushed seashells placed in the planting hole or growing the bulbs in wire cages.
Companion Planting and Design
Plant hyacinths in groups among other spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils and crocus. You can also force bulbs to bloom in pots, indoors in winter. Plant in fall in a container filled with moistened potting soil. Chill the bulbs in a cool basement (below 50F) for 16 weeks. Bring them into a warm, sunny room to sprout. You can also leave them in the basement until spring and then bring the pots outdoors to bloom in their containers.
For classic single flowered varieties, try ‘City of Haarlem’ with yellow colored flowers, ‘Blue Jacket’ featuring bluish-purple flowers and ‘Carnegie’ with white blossoms. ‘Fondant’ a popular pink, single flowered selection. ‘Anastasia’ is a low growing multiflora variety with blue, fragrant blossoms. ‘Hollyhock’ is a popular double flowered, bright pink variety and ‘General Kohler’ is a light blue double flowered variety.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.