Learn how to grow hyacinth flowers including when to plant bulbs, if hyacinths come back every year, if you can plant hyacinth bulbs in containers, and more!
How to plant hyacinth bulbs & grow hyacinth flowers
I recently did a post about how to plant tulips and shared all of the details about planting my tulip garden in the new house. But I planted a few different types of bulbs—not just tulip bulbs. I also planted a lot of hyacinth flowers!
I wanted to plant a variety of bulbs to see what did best where. I also wanted to plant things that sprout at different times. Hyacinth flowers bloom in early spring—some of the earliest spring flowers, actually.
Hyacinth flowers are from the small genus “hyacinthus,” which is a very strong-smelling spring-blooming perennial. Hyacinth flowers are native to areas of the Mediterranean from southern Turkey to Palestine—but it has been naturalized worldwide.
These flowers were originally grown in deep purple/blue, pink, and white varieties. However, there are now many more colors and types of hyacinths—orange, yellow, red, and many different shades of all of these colors.
When do you plant hyacinth bulbs?
These are spring flowers. However, you don’t plant them in spring. And you don’t want to plant them in the winter, either. If you want to grow hyacinth flowers, planting in the fall is key.
That’s because they need a period of very cold temperatures to prepare for blooming. In fact, they need to chill for around 3 months. The best time to plant hyacinth bulbs is in late fall before the ground freezes.
If you don’t live in an area that has this long of a cold period (~30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit), you can chill bulbs in a fridge first. Or you can buy them pre-chilled from many nurseries.
Do hyacinths like sun or shade?
Hyacinths like full sun. However, you can also grow hyacinth flowers in partial shade. I planted bulbs in a few different sports to see where they do best in my yard.
How deep do you plant hyacinth bulbs?
Plant each bulb about 6 inches deep. Take a look at the planting instructions on the back of your bulb package for specifics on how far they should be spaced apart. However, about 6 inches apart is pretty typical.
I planted mine in a row along the edge of the garden by the patio, as well as in a row near the back of the yard in a spot that gets a bit less sun. Make sure to plant with the pointy end of the bulb up.
I used a little bulb digging contraption to help me plant mine. It’s super easy—you just shove it down in the ground. When you pull it out, it takes all the dirt with it. I then put the bulb in.
When I backfilled the dirt, I mixed it with some leaf compost to loosen the soil a bit and add some nutrients. Hyacinth bulbs are prone to rot and do not like super dense soils.
How often do you water hyacinths?
Because they are prone to rot, hyacinth bulbs should not be kept excessively moist. Water the bulbs when you plant them, and then let mother nature do the rest.
If your plants are blooming and it hasn’t rained in a while, you can give the plants a drink at the soil level—not from above. I wouldn’t water them unless they are showing signs of stress though.
What do you do with a hyacinth after it blooms?
After your hyacinths are done blooming—usually in mid-spring—you can remove the flowers. You can also cut them off after they bloom to make a cut flower arrangement. They are perfect for that!
If you leave the flowers on the plants, simply cut the dead flowers and stalks off. However, don’t touch the leaves. The leaves will act as solar panels, essentially, to gather energy that it stores in the bulb.
The leaves will die off on their own by the end of spring/early summer. While you’re waiting for them to die off, it’s also not a great idea to tie them up with twine like some gardeners do. This prevents optimal energy absorption.
So if you want great hyacinth blooms next spring, let those leaves ride until they die! However, it’s perfectly fine to treat your hyacinth flowers as annuals. Many gardeners do since they just don’t want to deal with the maintenance of the leaves.
Where I live, bulbs will live happily in the ground. However, they need that nice period of cold weather before blooming. So if you are somewhere that doesn’t get cold winters, you may need to dig your bulbs up to store them.
The best place to ask about your growing climate is a local nursery. They are always happy to help with stuff like this!
Do hyacinths come back every year?
Yes, hyacinth flowers are perennials, which means they come back year after year. However, it’s important that you treat the plant with care after it is done blooming.
That’s because, like tulips, the leaves are an essential part of the energy-gathering process for next spring’s blooms. Even when they look ugly, you gotta keep them on if you want beautiful blooms next year.
Do hyacinths spread on their own?
Hyacinth flowers grow from bulbs. When you plant one bulb, the next spring, there will be one to three flower stalks with four to six leaves. However, different varieties can have different growth patterns in terms of size and density.
Hyacinth flowers do spread on their own, though. The bulbs will slowly grow babies (offsets or bulbets). After a few years, you’ll be able to separate the bulb babies from the mother bulbs and plant them separately.
How many times do hyacinths bloom?
Hyacinths will bloom once per year in the early spring. If you take care of them during their post-blooming period, they’ll bloom yearly for a few years. Some people also force blooms indoors in the winter, but I’m not into all that.
How many years do hyacinth bulbs last?
These are perennials, but I like to think of them as “junior” perennials. That’s because, even with proper post-blooming care and ensuring you don’t rot the bulbs, they’ll probably peter out after a few years.
I mentioned that some people treat the bulbs as annuals for that reason. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with all of the bulbs I planted at the new house yet, but I’ll certainly update this post when I figure it out!
How long do hyacinth flowers last?
Hyacinth flowers generally last about 2 weeks once they bloom. They may die off a bit faster as cut flowers, though, so keep that in mind.
How poisonous are hyacinths?
Bulbs are poisonous because they contain calcium oxalate in higher concentrations. (I write about this a lot with my houseplant care guides). It is also in the leaves and flowers at lower concentrations.
It’s best to wear protective gloves while handling the bulbs just in case. But the toxicity does come with one benefit…unlike tulip bulbs, garden critters like squirrels and moles find them MUCH less appetizing.
I planted my hyacinth bulbs around my tulip bulbs for this reason. (Same with my allium—not as enticing to the critters.) Decoys!
How do you take care of a potted hyacinth plant?
If you receive a potted hyacinth, you can wait until the plant finishes flowering and then dig up the bulbs (with their stalks and leaves) to transfer to the garden.
You also have the option of cutting off all of the dead foliage and just bringing the entire pot inside for the summer. Then, once fall hits, bring it back outside.
Planting bulbs in pots is also a great option. I planted some in pots and am excited to see how they do. The planting process is pretty much the same.
Just keep and eye on moisture levels. You may want to put them in a covered area—or cover them with something—to avoid the soil getting and staying too wet. This can rot the bulbs.
Are grape hyacinths true hyacinths?
No. Grape hyacinths are not part of the hyacinth genus. They are actually part of the muscari genus. “Grape hyacinths” are smaller plants, but they have similar shapes and colors.
They are also grown from bulbs that must be planted in the fall to flower in the spring. Grape hyacinths spread very quickly, so I planted mine in pots for now. Here is the kind of grape hyacinth I planted.