Growing Hyacinths for striking indoor displays

Well it’s that time of year again, autumn is nearly upon us and it is time to start thinking about planting up our spring bulbs. For the earliest indoor spring display it might be worth considering planting up a few pots with hyacinths. Hyacinths are great for an early display as along with their great colour they can also fill a room with their fragrance. Nowadays there are both “prepared” and “unprepared” hyacinth bulbs on the market. Prepared hyacinth bulbs are ones which have been stored under special conditions to make the bulb think that winter is more advanced than it actually is so that the bulb flowers about a month or so before the unprepared hyacinths are ready. Prepared hyacinth bulbs will usually flower in time for Christmas if planted by the middle of September. If you really want to extend the flowering period of your hyacinths it is usually a good idea to plant up pots of both kinds separately.
   While some people like to plant hyacinth bulbs in bowls in large numbers, others argue that these plants are better grown singly in small pots and then grouped together to form a striking display. When planting your bulbs you should use a good quality bulb fibre instead of compost, the reason for this is that most composts tend to get quite compacted over time and they also contain a lot of nutrients which produce strong green growth at the expense of the flowers. The pot should be filled two thirds the way up with fibre, space the bulbs evenly on top of this layer and then fill the rest of the bowl with fibre so that the top half of the bulbs are left exposed. The fibre should then be watered in well. The pots should then be placed in a cool dark place for the next ten to twelve weeks where they will quickly form roots. A garage is an ideal place for them but they will also be quite happy outside in the garden as long as they are placed in a spot where they are sheltered from the sun and excessive amounts of rain. Your pots should be checked regularly to make sure the compost stays moist and that they are not allowed to dry out. When the bulbs have formed shoots that are about two inches tall they are ready to be moved inside to a warm window sill where they should flower after a couple of weeks.
   If the idea of growing hyacinths in pots isn’t for you, they can also make a very striking display when grown in glass jars. While there are specially designed jars for growing hyacinths, pretty much any narrow-necked jar will do the job. All you need to do is to fill the jar with water and position the bulb so that it sits just above the waters surface. When positioned like this the bulb’s roots will grow down into the water. It is very important that the bulb itself is not allowed to sit in the water however, as it will probably rot. When you have planted it up the jar should then be moved to a cool dark place for about ten weeks until the buds are showing colour. Your plant is then ready for display.
   When dealing with hyacinths I will offer one word of caution. It is usually a good idea to wear gloves when handling the bulbs, as people with sensitive skin can often find irritations after contact with the bulbs scales.
© Copyright, Highland Landscapes, Letterkenny, 2008.