The Hyacinth or Dutch Hyacinth is my guilty Winter pleasure. Over the last 5 or 10 years, they've become very popular houseplants to pick up in pots of three from many supermarkets and so every week or so during the cold months of the year, I pop one of these little pots of promise into my trolley with the rest of the groceries.
I must spend a small fortune on them as forced bulbs are available to buy from November to early April, but they're worth it. Of course, they look beautiful when in flower, with each bulb producing one main leafless stalk (sometimes several if you get lucky) with 30 or more crowded bell-like flowers.
Coming in white, blue, pinks, reds and sometimes yellow, orange or purple you have your very own polite but "take that Winter" middle finger salute.
Although stunning and attractive to look at for several weeks, the true magnificence of the Hyacinth as a houseplant is its smell. Thick, heady and intoxicating, filling the whole room with wonderful scent for days on end. Lots of houseplants in flower "smell" but I think only the Jasmine can rival the Hyacinth in its ability to create that fragrant wow factor.
Pot plant Hyacinths are always temporary guests in your home used to brighten rooms when it's dark and cold outside. In nature at this time of the year they belong outdoors buried in the garden waiting patiently to flower in the approaching Spring, therefore almost all Hyacinths you can buy out of "season" have been "forced" to flower at this time. Forcing is basically a way to trick the bulbs into thinking Winter has come and gone.
Once forced however they can't be forced again. As a result of this, many plant pot labels or common myths surrounding forced bulbs say after flowering has finished you should throw the bulbs away as they will be useless. This is absolute rubbish and all you need do is keep them indoors somewhere (cool or warm, just not exposed to frost) and well-watered until Spring arrives, at which point you bury them in the garden where they will revert to their natural growth cycle and should flower again the following Spring.
Don't have a garden or perhaps you've no space left in the borders? Have you ever heard of guerilla gardening?
We've touched on it already, but the choice and variety on offer are truly huge. Some of the more popular ones are "White Pearl" (pure white) "City of Harlem" (light yellow) "Jan Bos" (dark pink) "Pink Pearl" (light pink with white edges), "Gypsy Queen" (light orange).
Sometimes you can pick up individual bulbs and make your own containers. Although it's more traditional to make sure each bulb in the container is the same colour feel free to mix up the colours if you want something a bit different.
Hyacinths need good light to bring into flower and to prevent the stems from becoming leggy and top-heavy. They will also need good light to build energy if you plan to keep the bulbs and plant them outside in Spring.
If you're in a hurry to bring the flowers on, direct Winter sunlight will rapidly increase the speed of growth and flowering stem. Make sure you rotate the pot every couple of days to keep balance as the growth will lean towards the light source.
When growing, Hyacinths are thirsty plants, especially if you have several bulbs in a small pot. Just before and during flowering, you must try to keep the soil moist at all times. If it dries out you run the risk of the flowers not opening at all or going over too quickly, if the soil is constantly very wet then the bulbs and flowers will rot.
Hyacinths are thirsty plants so don't forget to water them frequently.
Excessive dry air (perhaps found near open fires) can cause brown tips on the leaves and sometimes this will cause some of the flower buds not to open. But in the main humidity isn't a concern for these plants.
If you plan to keep the bulbs and plant them outside eventually, then look to feed with a weak solution every third watering.
Warm temperatures will bring the flowers on quicker than a cool room. When in flower though, cool temperatures will mean they will last much longer. Remembering this is the best tip we can give here, so with this in mind move the plant around to suit your needs.
Even if you plan to use the bulbs in your garden you don't need to repot them. The container is only temporary anyway, so a few weeks (or months) after flowering has finished and it's warm enough outside, transplant them directly into the garden soil.
There is no need to think about this if you're treating your Hyacinths as houseplants.
If you're a gardener too, then you can encourage offsets by gently "scoring" the bottom of the bulb's basal plate with a sharp knife. Do it in a cross shape so you will have 4 quarters. Bury as you would normally and in a few years you will have increased your stock.
The speed of growth you can expect will depend on the temperature you provide. In a cool room, it could take a month for the flower stalk to reach full height and start blooming. In a warm room, it will be half this. If you put your plant in a hot room, then the flower stalk could appear in a week or even less.
Expect between 6 - 8in / 15 - 20cm and spread should be no more than 5in / 12.5cm.
It's only really the reliable Dutch Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) that is forced for use as an indoor pot plant, so although you can get them in many different colours they are generally all quite similar in appearance.
Leafless flower stalks which bear scores of clustered together star-like flowers. They will start smelling as soon as they open, however it is usually several days later before the fragrance starts to increase in potency.
A week or so later the smell will fade and a few days or so after that the flowers themselves will follow. Cool rooms will drastically prolong the flowering period. Many commercially grown Dutch Hyacinths have been exceptionally grown and cared for, so the bulbs are of a good size. Bigger bulbs are bursting with energy and therefore may produce a bonus second (but smaller) flower stalk.
Most indoor plants grown from bulbs tend to have toxic compounds concentrated in the bulb itself and this is true for Hyacinths. On one hand, the most dangerous part (the bulb) is sometimes hidden from view under the soil so it's ignored, but if a pet or child knock the pot over the bulb may become visible and look like something tasty to try.
If your pet, like Amy's cat Scarlet, always ignores plants and walks on by, then you're good to go. Of course, the side effects of consuming Hyacinths can be particularly unpleasant so only have this indoors if you can be sure it stays away from pets and children.
Even if you provide everything the plant needs, when growing inside the flowering stem may still become unstable and fall over (the reason for this is explored in our Help section). As long as that happens gradually the stem shouldn't snap off, alternatively, you can support it with canes or string to keep everything upright and neat.
Growing your own forced Hyacinths is easy and can be very rewarding, especially if you put children or grandchildren in the mix. If you want to give it a go follow these steps. Remember forced bulbs can't be reused or forced the year after, so plant these outside and buy new bulbs if you another display again the following year.
Light Very tolerant of light conditions, from low shade to full sunshine.
Moderate Watering Warm temperatures and lots of light will mean more water is needed than if you choose a cooler less bright location. Once or twice a week is possible if the container is very small.
Temperature They're tough plants and will put up with cold as well as hot extremes. We recommend cool temperature rooms to prolong the flowering display.
Feeding You don't need to feed these plants if you're only keeping them while they're in bloom. But a weak feed from time to time won't hurt.
Long limp leaves
If this occurs before flowering has happened then it's caused by keeping the bulbs in darkness for too long during the forcing period.
After flowering has finished this is normal. They flop all over the place and look messy. Rather than keep them on display move them to a less used spot in your home, keeping them cool and watered. As soon as it warms up outside and you know Spring is here plant them outdoors.
In the picture below we have a Hyacinth with pink flowers showing the heavy leggy look and another with white flowers that is much more compact and stable. We've put the two plants together for the photo for comparison.
If the temperatures are really warm or too hot then everything about the plant accelerates, growth is very obvious and the flowering stems move much further away from the crown of leaves.
The pink flowering Hyacinth was kept in a living room close to a fireplace. Nice to look at and smell during the evenings but much too hot for it. You need a cool place away from strong sources of heat to prevent this happening and because the white Hyacinth was kept in a cool kitchen it has therefore avoided this problem.
Lots of possible causes for lack of flowers on Hyacinths. You may not be watering correctly, or undersized bulbs have been used. During forcing the bulbs may have been kept too warm or brought into bright light too quickly.
Hyacinth buds fail to open
Usually, erratic watering is the problem here. Make sure you water around the bulbs rather than over them and try to keep the soil moist rather than allowing it to dry out heavily or letting them sit in saturated soil.
This is caused by keeping the bulbs too warm while forcing. This is rare when you buy ready to go plants and so is often a result of the inexperienced forcer. There isn't anything you can do this year, but if you try again next year with a new set of bulbs make sure you follow our forcing guide above.
Credit for Blue Hyacinths and bulbs - Article / Gallery - 4028mdk09
Credit for Hyacinths growing outside - Article / Gallery - ElenaSchifirnet
Credit for close up of red Hyacinth flowers - Article / Gallery - Photo Spock
Credit for Bulbs grown in glass - Article / Gallery - storebukkebruse Credit for the Cat and White Hyacinth plants - Article / Gallery - Amy West