By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
With its plump, spiky blooms, sweet fragrance, and a rainbow of bright colors, there’s no reason not to like hyacinth. Hyacinth is usually a carefree bulb that flower every spring for several years with minimal attention. If yours aren’t cooperating, there are several possible reasons for this frustrating failure to flower.
Cut the stalk as soon as the flower fades. Removing the stalk is beneficial because it prevents the flower from developing seeds, which saps energy from the bulbs. However, never remove the foliage until it turns yellow, which usually occurs about six to eight weeks after blooming.
The yellowing leaves may be unsightly, but removing the foliage too early prevents the plant from absorbing energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis. This is the most important thing to remember about how to keep hyacinth flowers blooming, as the bulbs may simply not have the get up and go to produce flowers.
Otherwise, hyacinth care is relatively simple.
Supplemental feeding ensures the bulbs have the nutrients needed to produce hyacinth flowers every year. Feed the plants as soon as they sprout in spring, then again in early autumn. The second feeding is most important because it sustains the bulbs through the winter and prepares them for blooming the following spring.
To fertilize hyacinth, just sprinkle a scant handful of any well-balanced dry garden fertilizer on the ground around each plant, then water in well. Never feed hyacinth immediately after blooming; fertilizing at this time does more harm than good and may cause rot and other diseases.
In spite of their beauty, hyacinth is a cold weather bulb that won’t bloom without a period of winter chill. If you grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 or above, you’ll need to trick the bulbs into thinking they live in a cooler climate.
Dig the bulbs after the foliage dies down and turns yellow. Brush off excess soil and place them in a mesh or paper bag. Store the bulbs in the refrigerator for six to eight weeks, then replant them in late December or early January. Never store bulbs near apples or other fruit because the ethylene gases will kill the bulbs.
If you’ve tried everything and your hyacinths still don’t bloom, it may be time to dig them up and start with fresh bulbs. Don’t scrimp. Big, healthy, pest resistant bulbs cost more but they produce bigger, healthier blooms. Be sure to work a little compost into the soil before planting.
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Hyacinths are perennial fragrant flowers from the Hyacinthus genus in the Asparagaceae family. Their scientific name is Hyacinthus orientalis and they grow from bulbs.
Tulips and daffodils are probably the best-known bulb blooms, but you should include hyacinths (Hyacinthus) in your spring landscape design, as well.
Native to the Mediterranean, hyacinth flowers need less chill time than tulips or daffodils, making them a safer choice in warm climates. Hyacinth flowers have a sweet, pleasing fragrance – which is completely lacking in many other bulb flowers.
Hyacinthus orientalis is the species from which various hyacinth cultivars come from. The original hyacinths were very prominent in antiquity. These plants have also been cross-bred in Europe since the 16th century.
Hyacinths are available in many pastel shades, including white, pink, blue and purple. The clusters of fragrant flowers form on stiff stalks. Because of this stiff, vertical form, hyacinths look best planted en masse or grouped with other plants.
When preparing to grow a crop of Hyacinthus orientalis, you can plant the bulbs which produce:
Grow various types of the hyacinth plant with different colors including:
Hyacinthus orientalis can live up to four years in your garden though they can disappear during summer. For a greater number of hyacinth plants, you can carefully uproot the bulbs and then spread them widely.
Hyacinth bulbs can also spread by themselves if you leave them in the soil to bloom the year after.
When planting them, you should space them out so that they have enough room to propagate. Plant your hyacinth bulbs six inches deep and the same inches apart to allow enough space.
Forcing hyacinth bulbs to bloom indoors is simple it just takes a little patience. It can take as long as 13 weeks for the bulbs to come into flower.
Hyacinth bulbs require a period of cooling before they will bloom. Florist suppliers often have precooled hyacinth bulbs available, ready for forcing. If you can’t find those, just store the bulbs for 8 to 12 weeks in a cold frame, outdoor shed, garage, or other dark area with temperatures from 35 to 45 degrees F. It’s important that you don’t expose bulbs to freezing temperatures and if you put them in the fridge, don’t place them next to apples. Apples produce a gas that will cause the bulbs to rot.
Once the bulbs have been precooled, you can force them into bloom in almost any planting medium: potting soil, gravel and water or just plain water. To make it easy on yourself try using glass “forcing jars.” You can find these at florist shops, hobby suppliers or garden centers. They look like hour glasses with the tops cut off.
To begin, place the bulb in a glass container and add water up to, but not touching, the bottom of the bulb (about 1/4″ below the base of the bulb). Bulbs sitting in water are prone to rot. This is where the forcing jars come in handy because they are cinched at the waist and the bulbs sit nicely just above the water.
Place the bulb and jar in a cool, dark area (about 50 degrees F – a cool cellar, an unheated garage or a regular family-style refrigerator) until the root system is well developed and growth from the top has begun. Do not store these in a refrigerator with fruits, especially apples. As fruits and some vegetables ripen, they release ethylene gas, which can kill or damage the flower.
Keep cool for 10 weeks. Add water periodically, always keeping the level of water close to the base of the bulb.
When the shoots are about 2 inches tall and the root system extends to the bottom of the glass, remove the jars to an intermediate area that has low light and slightly warmer temperatures. Over the next 3-4 days, gradually move your jars into a sunny window.
When the flowers appear, keep them in bright, indirect light. Temperatures of 60 degrees F to 65 degrees F will ensure longest flowering. Turn the jar a bit each day so that the flowers do not lean to one side as they reach for the sun.