Remember spring flower shows? Hopefully, they will be back again soon. What I always love most about flower shows is the fragrance. Coming in from a cold, snowy parking lot and being wrapped in the sweet perfume of tens of thousands of spring flowers. While tulips, daffodils and flowering trees are the showiest plants and always take center stage, it’s up to hyacinths to deliver that fabulous fragrance.
Without question, hyacinths are the most fragrant flowers of spring. Yet few gardeners plant them. This wasn’t always the case. In the 18th and 19th centuries, they were the world’s most popular spring-blooming flower bulbs, and gardeners could choose from more than 2000 different cultivars!
As with most things, plants go in and out of favor, and eventually the popularity of hyacinths began to wane. Now, after almost a hundred years of being in the shadows, they are finally making a comeback.
During the coming year, the National Garden Bureau will be shining a light on these under-appreciated bulbs, having named hyacinths their 2021 bulb of the year. If hyacinths aren’t usually on your list of fall planted bulbs, it’s time to reconsider. Here are just a few of the many reasons you ought to be planting them in your garden this fall:
Hyacinths are Easy to Grow
Like other fall-planted bulbs, a hyacinth bulb already contains everything that’s needed to produce a flower. All you have to do is plant the bulb and wait until spring. As with most bulbs, the better the soil, the better the results. I usually plant several different varieties of hyacinths in the loose, rich soil of my vegetable garden. They perform beautifully, producing tall, straight flower heads with perfectly spaced florets.
If you want your hyacinths to bloom for more than one year, make sure to plant them in a sunny spot with very well-drained soil. Like tulips, these bulbs need moisture in the spring. But during summer and winter, when the bulbs are dormant, the soil should be quite dry.
If you garden where winters are mild (zones 8-10) you will need to chill your hyacinth bulbs before planting. More information about that can be found in this article: How to Grow Spring Bulbs in Warm Climates.
Here’s another thing to love about these fragrant spring flowers. You don’t have to worry about deer. Like daffodils, all parts of the plant contain a substance that’s toxic to deer, voles, rabbits and other pesky critters.
Hyacinths Come in Fabulous Colors
Back when hyacinths were in their heyday, gardeners could choose from hundreds of different colors. Today there are only about 20 in cultivation, but every color that remains is gorgeous in its own way. It’s easy to find varieties that will complement the bulbs and other plants in your spring garden. Check out the options HERE.
Hyacinths Are Good Partners
When planting hyacinths among other plants, put them in groups of at least 5 bulbs. In one of my perennial gardens, I plant the Shades of Blue Mix, with groups of 5-7 bulbs spaced about 4 feet apart along the front of the bed. The rhythm of these repeating pools of blue draws the eye down the path and perfumes the entire front yard.
Plant hyacinths where it will be easy to enjoy their fragrance: beside a walkway or along a garden path; near the front door or bordering your patio. If you live in hardiness zones 6 or 7, you can plant the bulbs in containers and leave them outdoors for the winter. Learn more about how to do that HERE.
Hyacinths Can Be Enjoyed Indoors, Too
One of the best ways to appreciate the fragrance of hyacinths is to bring them into your home as cut flowers. Here are a couple of options.
If you want the bulbs to bloom again next year, cut only the stem and leave all the leaves behind. If you are treating your bulbs as annuals, you can pull up the entire plant, bulb and all. This will give you a much longer stem, and also give you the option of displaying the flower with its foliage.
Hyacinths are also very good bulbs for forcing. It’s one reason there are always plenty of them at flower shows. In late fall, I plant several pots of hyacinth bulbs and store them in my basement refrigerator for the winter. Just fill a shallow container with several inches of moist growing mix and position the bulbs by side so they are almost touching. Cover with a few more inches of soil and water well. The tips of the bulbs should be just below the soil surface. Learn more about the process of forcing HERE.
My love for hyacinths knows no bounds. Even though I usually force several pots of bulbs myself, in late winter I can’t resist buying more from the local garden center. And when I see bundles of them as cut flowers, I buy those, too. Best of all is when they bloom in the garden. Blue sky above and the fragrance of hyacinths below. Ah, spring!