hyacinth flowers

Hyacinths: Facts and How To Grow and Care

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Hyacinths are gorgeous spring flowers with distinctive sweet and lingering fragrance which has been admired by royal families throughout the ages and thus, have become a must for palace gardens and mansion parks. 

Nowadays, hyacinths are everywhere – from parks to home gardens and indoor pots. Their distinctive scent cannot be mistaken and adds to the beautiful floral blossoming which is mainly in the spring. In the past extracts of hyacinths have also been used in perfumery and cosmetics.

Facts about Hyacinth

The name of the plant originally comes from Hyacinthus which is a Thraco-Pelasgian word for the deep blue colour of the water/sea (4). 

Despite having its origins in Asia Minor, the legend of the flower sends us back in time through Greek mythology where the young Greek hero Hyakinthos is accidentally hit by a disk thrown by his friend Apollo and is reborn in the form of Hyacinth flower (5).

Another Greek myth referring to hyacinth states that the daughter of Demeter – the Goddess of fertility – has been abducted to the underworld while collecting hyacinths and her mother negotiated with the gods to have her turned back every year for one season (5).

This is why it is also believed that the blossom of hyacinths in the spring is the beginning of earth blooming season. Hyacinths are very often confused with the genus Muscari which is also known as grape hyacinths but these are different flowers and should be differentiated.

How Tall Do Hyacinths Grow?

The height of the hyacinth stem is up to 15 inches and is covered with 1-inch-wide florets each of which is open-lily-shaped (2). 

Color ranges from white through pink and dark claret to dark blue, deep purple, yellow and orange (3).

Blooming time

The flowers planted in a garden blossom in March to mid April, depending on the region. 

When hyacinth is grown indoor in a pot, it can be forced to blossom in other periods of the year, as explained below .

Growing Hyacinths in the Garden

Planting

Hyacinths are growing from bulbs and each of them is usually producing two or three stems with blossoms (1). 

These flowers are perfect for growing in a garden as they can survive severe winter conditions and enjoy exposure to lower temperatures in order to blossom properly. 

To blossom in March or April, the planting of the bulbs needs to be completed in September or October, depending on the specific geographic region they are grown in 

Despite the variations, they definitely need to be planted before snowfall or freezing of the upper layer of the soil. This is important for healthy root development and creating stronger and bigger blossoms in the spring

Bulbs need to be planted on minimum 4 inches depth and a minimum of 3 inches distance from each other, so that the heavy flower stem is stable when it grows. Roots are developed soon after planting and after winter period, when the weather becomes warmer, they direct the stored energy into developing leaves and flowers. 

Hyacinths are among the early bloomers, so a well-planned garden can blossom during the entire spring season (e.g. tulips blossom later). These flowers are blossoming many years, as every next one the number of stems produced by one bulb increases but each of them is with less florets.

After-blossom Care

After hyacinths flower stop blooming, you have to cut the stems but provide the leaves with the opportunity to dry out naturally. This will make the plant stronger in the following years (6).

Warning: Hyacinth bulbs are poisonous and contain oxalic acid which can cause skin irritation and allergies. You can prevent accidents through using gloves when planting or re-planting the bulbs.

Growing Hyacinths Indoor

hyacinth in a pot
Photo credit: Pezibear/pixabay.com

Hyacinths in pots

Hyacinths can also be grown as pot plants both indoor and outdoor. The best timing for planting the bulbs is immediately after buying them, but it can be postponed depending on the desired period of blossoming. 

In order to force blossoming, you have to keep the planted bulbs first in a cool and dark place ensuring they have their ‘cold period’ followed by sunlight and warmer temperatures, as explained in greater detail in the last section.

Hyacinths in vases

Hyacinths enjoy well-drained and moderately fertilised soil and can even be grown in a vase. Despite being an unconventional idea, placing a bulb roots in water can be a great addition to interior design of your home accompanied by strong aromatic scent. 

If you decide to do that, however, you have to choose a vase with a proper shape, so that only the roots of the bulb are in water. 

Cut hyacinth flowers

If you have cut hyacinth flowers and you want to keep them in a vase, in order to prolong their life, you have to carefully clear the lower part of the stems and the leaves and keep them without touching the water. 

Another trick to prolong blossom vase life is to cut the stems on an angle before they are placed in freshwater or flower food.

Hint: This can be done with other types of vase flowers too, it works!

A different idea: Hyacinth for Christmas

An extraordinary idea is to use hyacinths for Christmas decoration and design. For this purpose, plant the bulbs in pots in the first half of October and keep them in a dark place with a temperature in the range 6°C to 8°C. This would contribute to root network development (8). 

Water regularly but only when the soil gets dry. When the leaves start growing and are approximately 1 inch long, move the pot to a light place with no direct sunlight and higher (but not drastically different) temperature (7). 

During the next week increase the light and temperature gradually and include some sunlight. When watering, be careful to not put water inside the bulb as this might lead to rotten. After all this, just enjoy the pretty hyacinth flowers as a part of your Christmas decoration, accompanied by a strong spring aromatic scent!

Up Next: What Does the Hyacinth Flower Symbolize?

References

(1) Addai, I. (2010) Growth and Biochemistry of the Common Hyacinth (Hyacinthus Orientalis L.) and the Lily (Lilium Loniflorum L.). [online] Available: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277210001_Growth_and_biochemistry_of_the_common_hyacinth_Hyacinthus_orientalis_L_and_the_lily_Lilium_longiflorum_L

(2) Beutler, L. (2007) Garden To Vase: Growing And Using Your Own Cut Flowers. Timber Press, Inc. Portland, USA.

(3) Brunke, E., Hammerschmidt, F., Schmaus, G. (1994) Headspace Analysis of Hyacinth Flowers. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. Vol. 9 (1), pp. 59-69.

(4) Gledhill, D. (2002) The Names of Plants. 3rd ed. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK.

(5) Mann, M. (2012) The Epileptic Seizure and the Myth of Hyakinthos. Seizure. Vol. 21 (1), pp. 595-596. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22766110

(6) RHS (2012) Hyacinth – Final Trials Report. [online] Available: https://apps.rhs.org.uk/planttrials/TrialReports/Hyacinth%202012.pdf 

(7) Vreeburg, P. (1992) Preparation Treatment of Hyacinths for Flowering Before Christmas. Acta Horticulturae. Vol. 325 (1), pp. 165-173.

(8) Graine, G. (2014) Fooling Mother Nature: Forcing Flower Bulbs for Indoor Bloom. [online] Available: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/HORT/HORT-76/HORT-76-PDF.pdf

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