H. Orientalis do not require much care when planted outside. As the plants originate in the mountains of Turkey, they are used to poor, stony soil and blasting summer temperatures followed by freezing winter ones. However, a little attention will keep them flowering with lovely stems of bushy flowers.
Plant your bulbs in a position where they will get full sun or part shade. Indoor grown bulbs need bright but cool conditions.
The plants are usually put in the ground in autumn and start to grow in early spring. They usually get all the water they need at this time from rainfall. However, it is worth ensuring they are watered if there is a dry spell in autumn to help them get established. Avoid overwatering them as this can cause the roots to rot.
These plants will grow in any well drained soil.
Sprinkle some slow release bulb fertiliser around your plants in spring. This will ensure they have plenty of nutrients to enable them to produce flowers the following year. Avoid over fertilising these plants as this can lead to floppy growth and blooms that fall over.
Growing hyacinths outdoors
The best time to plant hyacinth bulbs outdoors is autumn, ideally September or October. They will then begin to grow in early spring and flower in March or April.
Clear the area of all weeds and dig in some organic matter such as well-rotted manure to provide nutrients and aid drainage.
It is advisable to wear gloves when handling hyacinth bulbs as they can irritate the skin. The bulbs and plants should also be kept out of reach of children and animals as they contain toxins.
The bulbs should be planted around 10 cm (4” deep) and spaced around 8 cm (3 inches) apart. If you are planting a temporary display you can plant the bulbs a little closer, around 5cm (2 inches) apart is ideal. Cover them with soil and firm in with your hands. As long as the soil is moist they will not need watering.
Growing hyacinths in containers
Hyacinths are ideally suited to growing in pots. For a seasonal display you can use any multi-purpose compost. However, if they are to stay permanently in the pots then a soil-based compost will be a better choice. You may also like to incorporate some horticultural grit to provide good drainage. Plant them 10 cm (4 inches) deep and cover with soil. Firm in and water. Keep the soil moist to help them establish, however avoid overwatering as this can cause the bulbs to rot.
Growing Hyacinths indoors
Hyacinths are also well suited to growing indoors where they will fill your home with their heady scent. They also grow well in the cool environment of a conservatory or porch. A pot of hyacinths in the hallway is a lovely scented welcome to your home. You could even put one in the smallest room.
Hyacinth bulbs need a chilling period, in order to bloom, so if growing indoors you will either need to purchase pre-chilled bulbs or chill them yourself. These bulbs will give you a lovely spring display.
Most garden centres also sell hyacinth bulbs that have been heat-treated to make them flower early. Planting this type of bulb should give you flowers at Christmas and the New Year.
Choose a container big enough to hold the bulbs you want to plant so that they are close but not touching. The container does not have to be too deep. Put a layer of compost in the bottom of the container and spay it with water so it is nice and moist. Put the bulbs on top of the soil and then fill in the space and almost cover the bulbs. Just the tip of the bulb should be visible at the surface. You can also cover the soil and top of the bulb with some gravel to ensure water does not sit on the bulb. Leave an inch or so at the top of the container to allow for watering.
They then need to be kept in a cool, dark place such as a garage or cellar. Cover the pots with black plastic to keep out the light. Check them weekly and water them if the compost feels dry. Do not water too much as this could cause the bulbs to rot.
After about ten weeks the hyacinths will begin to shoot and you can remove the plastic. When the shoots are 5- 7 cm or so tall then you can move the pots into the house. Put them in a cool, bright place. Keep watering them as the soil dries out. Flowering should begin in about three weeks.
Growing hyacinths in hyacinth vases
You can buy special hyacinth vases for growing these bulbs. These vases have a cup shaped top in which the bulb sits, and its roots develop into the water of the vase below. You will need to use chilled bulbs, available from garden centres and online. Position your bulb so its base sits just above the water. Put the vase in a cool dark place for about six weeks to allow the roots to form. Keep an eye on the plant and top up the water if necessary. Do not allow the bulb to sit in the water, though as this will cause it to rot.
After about six weeks the bulb will begin to shoot. Once the shoot is around 7 cm tall, move the glass indoors and position it in a cool but bright place. Turn the glass by half a turn each day to prevent the stem from leaning towards the light and toppling over.
Once your hyacinths have flowered, you can remove the dead flower spike, but allow the leaves to die back naturally as they will provide the nutrients for next years flowers. Indoor grown hyacinths can be planted out after flowering and should flower again the following spring.
Your hyacinth bulbs may not produce such dense flowers after their first year. However, they still provide an attractive display.
After a few years your hyacinths may become depleted. Every few years it is wise to dig up your hyacinth patch, discard and remove any rotting or diseased bulbs and replant the bulbs in a new area. Dig in some organic matter or slow release bulb fertilizer before you plant them to help them get the nutrients they need to continue to flower well.
Looks good with
Hyacinths flower in March and April and look wonderful mixed with other spring bulbs that flower around this time such as daffodils and crocuses. They also provide a splash of colour against more muted tones such as those of hellebores.
These plants do not require pruning. Simply cut back the flowering spike once it begins to go brown. Allow the leaves to die back naturally as these will provide the nutrients for next year’s growth.