How to grow hyacinths for Christmas

Forced bulbs are a merry sight in the midst of winter. Learn how to grow fragrant hyacinths for Christmas in this video.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
To do
To do

Do not To do in January

Do not To do in February

Do not To do in March

Do not To do in April

Do not To do in May

Do not To do in June

Do not To do in July

Do not To do in August

Do not To do in September

Do To do in October

Do To do in November

Do not To do in December

Plant up an indoor display of hyacinths for colour and scent at Christmas by following the advice in this short programme clip from Gardeners’ World. With advice on choosing a suitable container, planting depth and spacing, Monty Don plants the popular hyacinth variety ‘Delft Blue’ and explains the right conditions to give the bulbs over the coming weeks to ensure they flower over the festive season.

How to force hyacinth bulbs

Hyacinth bulbs can brighten up the darkest days of winter, and are very easy to grow.

Plant a succession every two weeks from the beginning of September until mid-October to provide fragrant blooms from Christmas onwards.

Most spring-flowering bulbs need a period of chilling at 9°C or below, before you bring them indoors, to force them into growth. The chilling imitates the cold winter weather they would experience naturally, which is essential for proper flower development. The length of chilling varies between different types of bulb, but is generally somewhere between 10 and 16 weeks. However long the chilling period, a cold greenhouse, cold frame or porch really comes into its own for the next stage of the process, which involves forcing the bulbs into growth. The cool, bright conditions are ideal for bringing the bulbs on gradually. You can then bring them inside just as the flower buds begin to break, ready to fill your house with fragrance.

Prepared hyacinths need to be kept below 9°C for six weeks, while unprepared bulbs need 10 weeks. Good varieties to try include dark blue ‘Kronos’, red-pink ‘Jan Bos’ and ‘White Pearl’. Don’t mix different varieties in one pot.

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You Will Need

  • Hyacinth bulbs
  • Gloves
  • 20cm diameter pot
  • Multi-purpose, peat-free compost

Step 1

Half fill a pot with bulb fibre or general-purpose compost. Don’t firm it down so that the roots can push through it easily.

Forcing hyacinth bulbs - adding compost to the pot
Forcing hyacinth bulbs – adding compost to the pot

Step 2

Place bulbs on the surface, close but not touching each other, or the sides of the pot. Some people have an allergic reaction to hyacinth bulbs, so wear gloves.

Forcing hyacinths - planting hyacinth bulbs
Forcing hyacinths – planting hyacinth bulbs

Step 3

Fill around the bulbs with more compost to about 2cm below the rim of the pot, leaving the tips of the bulbs showing. Firm the compost around them gently.

Forcing hyacinths - covering the bulbs with compost
Forcing hyacinths – covering the bulbs with compost

Step 4

Water the bulbs. Take care not to overwater, especially if the container has no drainage holes.

Forcing hyacinths - watering the bulbs
Forcing hyacinths – watering the bulbs

Step 5

Put in a cool, dark place, such as a dark corner in a shed, garage or cellar, to chill. Check on them regularly to ensure that the compost has not dried out. When the shoots are about 5cm high, bring the pots indoors, where they will take about three weeks to flower.

Forcing hyacinths - placing the container in a cool dark spot
Forcing hyacinths – placing the container in a cool dark spot
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