If you love a pop of colour in your home, not to mention fragrant blooms, then no doubt you’ll want to turn your hand to growing hyacinths inside during the first few months of the year. Here’s a complete care guide, as well as insider tips, for how to grow hyacinths indoors (including how to force hyacinths to bloom).
The sweet smelling Hyacinth is part of the asparagus family and the flower comes in a variety of colours, including blue, lavender, pink, orange, yellow, white, peach, and salmon. Native to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and South East Asia, the most common cultivars found today originate from that of H. orientalis, which has been popular since antiquity. Today, over 60 cultivars are produced commercially.
If you are looking to grow hyacinths indoors, and wish to get them to flower, then the good news is that it’s fairly easy to care for the bulbs. However, the methods involved will take a little bit of patience and, should you wish to complete the entire process yourself, you’ll need to purchase heat-treated bulbs for indoor use (which are usually a little bit more expensive than regular bulbs). In order to get a late December/ early January bloom, you’ll need to start preparing your bulbs in September/ October.
When does the hyacinth flower? How to force a hyacinth to bloom indoors
Hyacinth flowers will typically bloom during the spring when planted outdoors, though it’s possible to get the plant to bloom earlier when caring for the bulbs inside. In gardening terms, this is known as ‘forcing’.
The first step in getting a hyacinth to bloom when you want it to (especially during the winter) is to chill the bulb in a cool dark space for 12-14 weeks prior to when you want the flower to bloom. The storage space should be kept at an average temperature of around 5 degrees Celsius (40 Fahrenheit), i.e. fridge temperature.
The bulb should not be allowed to dry out too much and so somewhere like a garage space or fridge (though keep the bulbs away from all other fruits and vegetables as apples produce ethylene gas which can cause hyacinth bulbs to rot) are good places to chill the bulbs.
In order to properly chill the hyacinths in the correct manner, you’ll want to promptly pot the bulbs up within several days of receiving them. The bulbs should be potted up in well-draining soil as it’s during this period the bulb will grow roots.
You should note that Hyacinth bulbs should be planted in small pots and the bulb doesn’t need to be planted too deep (roughly 2/3 of the bulb should be beneath the soil – make sure it’s sterile soil- during the chilling period). The plant should only be watered when the compost/ potting mixture is almost dry (but not entirely dried out), so as to prevent root rot.
Alternatively, if you want to skip this step, it’s perfectly possible to purchase pre-chilled, pre-potted bulbs at your local florist or gardening centre. Once the bulb has been chilled for a period of several months (or, as soon as you see shoots start to emerge from the soil), move the potted bulb to a sunny, bright space, preferably a south facing windowsill.
During this period, the plant will grow its leaves (this process usually takes around three weeks). A couple of weeks after this, the plant will bloom. If you want to get the best possible flowering of the plant, then you’ll want to turn the bulb every few days (or even every day depending on the lighting conditions of the season and your window sill) in order to ensure even growth.
How to grow hyacinths without soil (in water)
If you want to create a particularly beautiful display for your home, then you may well consider growing your hyacinths without soil and in water instead. With this method, you’ll want to place your hyacinth bulbs in a glass, with the water covering the bulb up until it’s around 1/4 submerged in water, as opposed to potting up your hyacinths in a potting mix.
Even when growing hyacinths in water, you’ll need to employ the chill method if you’re not purchasing pre-chilled bulbs. Once you’ve placed your hyacinths in water, then store in a cool; dark place for several months while the root system develops. Whenever the water level starts to drop, simply top it up. Growing hyacinths in water will also ensure that you can watch the root system grow.
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