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How to grow hyacinths

How to grow hyacinths

All you need to know about growing and caring for hyacinths, both in spring borders and indoor displays.

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

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does flower in January

Plant does flower in February

Plant does flower in March

Plant does flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does flower in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do not Cut back in March

Do not Cut back in April

Do not Cut back in May

Do Cut back in June

Do Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do not Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

At its best
At its best

Plant is at its best in January

Plant is at its best in February

Plant is at its best in March

Plant is at its best in April

Plant is not at its best in May

Plant is not at its best in June

Plant is not at its best in July

Plant is not at its best in August

Plant is not at its best in September

Plant is not at its best in October

Plant is not at its best in November

Plant is at its best in December

  • Plant size

    25cm height

    10cm spread

  • Depth

    10cm

Hyacinths are delightful, fragrant spring bulbs and easy to grow. They flower in a range of colours, from traditional purple and pink to white and even mauve. Plant hyacinths at the front of garden borders for a spring display or in pots for a fragrant splash of colour nearer the house. Hyacinths can also be forced for indoor Christmas displays.

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Learn more about hyacinth (hyacinthus orientalis) and how to grow, plant and care for hyacinths in our guide, below.

How to grow hyacinths

Grow hyacinths in moist but well-drained soil in full sun between September and November. Plant hyacinth bulbs 10cm deep and 8cm apart. Water when the soil is dry.

Plant hyacinth bulbs for pot displays more shallowly and closer together, as long as they’re not touching.

How to grow hyacinths: jump links:

More on growing hyacinths:


Where to grow hyacinths

How to grow hyacinths - hyacinths in a pot with skimmia and heuchera
How to grow hyacinths – hyacinths in a pot with skimmia and heuchera

Hyacinths work well at the front of spring borders, along with other spring bulbs like grape hyacinths (muscari) and tulips. Their small size (up 5to 30cm tall) makes them ideal for spring pot displays.

In the house, grow hyacinths in a bright, airy spot, ideally with plenty of sunshine.


How to plant hyacinths

How to grow hyacinths - planting hyacinths in pots
How to grow hyacinths – planting hyacinths in pots

Make sure you always wear gloves when planting hyacinth bulbs, as they can irritate the skin.

Growing outdoor hyacinths:

  1. Plant the bulbs in autumn, ideally in a sunny spot in moist but well-drained soil.
  2. Prepare the soil by removing weeds and dig to reduce compaction if necessary, then add organic matter such as well-rotted animal manure or compost.
  3. Plant the bulbs at a depth of around 10cm, and 8cm apart.
  4. Cover with soil and gently firm around them. Water the soil if it’s dry.

Growing hyacinths in pots:

  1. Plant hyacinths in peat-free, multi-purpose compost, around 5cm apart.
  2. For long term displays use a loam-based compost such as John Innes No. 2, and plant the bulbs further apart, as you would if planting them in the ground.
  3. Add an annual dressing of slow-release fertiliser to help keep the display looking its best.

How to plant hyacinths indoors

How to grow hyacinths - how to plant hyacinths indoors
How to grow hyacinths – how to plant hyacinths indoors

Hyacinths make fantastic, fragrant Christmas displays. For the best results buy ‘prepared’ or heat-treated bulbs, which don’t need to be forced for as long to encourage early flowers. You don’t need to plant indoor hyacinths as deeply as you would plant them in pots or in the ground.

Simply place the bulbs on a 5cm layer of compost, so they’re close together but not touching. Fill compost around them so the top of each bulb is visible. Water lightly to moisten the compost. Cover them and keep them somewhere dark and cool for around 10 weeks, until shoots appear, and then move into a light, airy spot to bring on the flowers.

Planting hyacinths for Christmas

For Christmas hyacinths, plant the bulbs around 13 weeks beforehand, around the last week of September. For guaranteed Christmas blooms, plant three batches, each at weekly intervals, so if one batch goes over there will be two more in the sidelines ready to flower on the big day.

Here, Monty Don explains how to force hyacinths for Christmas:

To ‘force’ hyacinths into flowering, you’ll need to cover them for a while. You can cover them with an old blanket, some straw or a thick newspaper, and store them in a shed or garage where they will remain cool (9ºC is ideal), for up to 10 weeks (forced bulbs need only six weeks). Check them regularly and give them another light watering if the compost feels dry.

Once the shoots have grown, bring your hyacinths indoors to a bright, cool spot such as a window sill. Take care not to put them near a heat source such as a radiator, as they can grow too quickly and topple over. Water as and when you need to, typically when the compost starts to feel dry. Once indoors, your hyacinths should take only three weeks to flower.


How to grow hyacinths in a glass vase

How to grow hyacinths - planting hyacinths in a glass vase
How to grow hyacinths – planting hyacinths in a glass vase

You can also grow hyacinths bulbs in glass jars or vase, without any compost. Use only heat-treated bulbs for this. Simply fill each hyacinth glass with water to just below where the bulb’s base will sit, then put the bulb in place. Make sure it doesn’t touch the water, but sits just above it. Place the glass in a cool (below 10°C), dark place for six weeks for roots to form. Once the main green shoot is about 7-10cm tall, move the glass into full light and watch the flower gradually develop. Turn the glass around by a half-turn every day, to prevent the plant growing towards the light and toppling over. Top up the water as necessary.


Where to buy hyacinths online

Hyacinth care

Outdoor-grown hyacinths can be left in the soil to reappear the following year. After flowering, remove the flowering stem to stop the plant from wasting energy on seed production. Let the foliage die down completely, and feed with a potash-rich fertiliser like a tomato feed, which the bulb will use to produce next year’s flowers. Indoor bulbs can be planted in the ground to flower naturally the following year.

Forced hyacinth bulbs for indoor displays won’t be suitable for using indoors again, but you can plant them outside and they’ll flower every spring for years to come.


How to propagate hyacinths

Hyacinth bulbs grown in the ground will naturally propagate themselves by forming off shoots. You can dig up the bulbs and remove these during autumn and winter, or let the clump bulk up naturally.


Growing hyacinths: problem-solving

How to grow hyacinths - problem solving
How to grow hyacinths – problem solving

The most common problem when growing hyacinths indoors is that they flop over. This is caused by heavy flower stems and too much heat. Make sure your hyacinths grow in cool, bright conditions, away from a heat source. This will ensure they grow slowly and don’t topple over.

In the garden, hyacinths may not look as floriferous the second or third year after planting them. While these look attractive in their own right, you may wish to encourage them to return to their original flowering form. To encourage this, make sure the foliage dies down naturally after flowering and give the bulbs a good feed with a potash-rich fertiliser. For bulbs that have been in the ground for more than a couple of years, it may be best to replace them.


Advice on buying hyacinths

  • Only buy firm, healthy bulbs with no sign of mould
  • Choose from a range of colours. Bear in mind that specialist nurseries may have a greater variety of cultivars to try

Where to buy hyacinths online

Best hyacinth varieties to grow

Hyacinth ‘Delft Blue’

Hyacinthus orientalis 'Delft Blue' AGM
Hyacinthus ‘Delft Blue’

This stunning hyacinth variety gets its name from the Dutch city of Delft. The inky blue flowers are intensely fragrant. A good variety for growing outdoors beneath shrubs and trees.


Hyacinth ‘Amethyst’

Hyacinthus 'Amethyst'
Hyacinthus ‘Amethyst’

‘Amethyst’ has soft pink flowers with an intense scent. It looks beautiful growing in the border with spring-flowering pulmonarias and primulas.


Hyacinth ‘Blue Tango’

Hyacinthus 'Blue Tango'
Hyacinthus ‘Blue Tango’

‘Blue Tango’ is a double-flowered hyacinth related to ‘Royal Navy’ but with soft blue flowers instead. The blooms release a powerful fragrance, so it’s a lovely choice for growing indoors.


Hyacinth ‘Carnegie’

Hyacinthus 'Carnegie'
Hyacinthus ‘Carnegie’

The white flowers of ‘Carnegie’ are fabulous indoors or outdoors. Muscari, chionodoxa and forget-me-nots make ideal planting partners.


Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’

Hyacinthus 'Woodstock'
Hyacinthus ‘Woodstock’

‘Woodstock’ is a stunning variety with intense purple flowers – a shade rarely seen in hyacinths. It looks especially good when planted with contrasting colours, like pale yellow daffodils and white anemones. Richly scented.


Hyacinth ‘Fondant’

Hyacinthus 'Fondant'
Hyacinthus ‘Fondant’

This sweetly fragrant hyacinth has rose-pink flowers, borne in tight clusters. Try planting ‘Fondant’ with forget-me-nots and white or purple tulips to create a soft colour scheme.

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