Guide To Growing and Forcing Hyacinth Bulbs

Updated: Nov. 01, 2023

Hyacinths are easy to grow in a garden and they're also one of the easiest flowers to force into bloom indoors in winter.

Every fall I buy hyacinth bulbs to force into bloom in the middle of January. With hardly any effort, I can have hyacinths blooming in late January indoors! I also have them growing in my garden.

What Are Hyacinths?

Common name: Hyacinth.

Botanical name: Hyacinthus orientalis.

Family: Asparagaceae.

Plant type: Perennial bulb.

Mature size: 8 to 12 inches tall.

Bloom time: Mid-Spring, usually around April.

Colors: Blue, pink, white, purple, red and sometimes yellow.

Plant hardiness zones: 4 through 8.

Toxicity: Bulbs are the most toxic, but flowers and leaves are also toxic. Wear gloves when handling the bulbs especially.

Varieties of Hyacinths

Mass Planting of Perfect Spring HyacinthsSolidago/Getty Images

You can find hyacinths in almost all colors.

  • ‘Royal Navy’ has dark blue flowers with double florets.
  • ‘Pearly White’ has white flowers.
  • ‘Pink Pearl’ has dark pink flowers.
  • ‘Yellowstone’ has pale yellow flowers.
  • ‘Delft Blue’ has light blue flowers.

How To Plant Hyacinths

Hyacinths are one of the most fragrant bulb flowers, but they’re as easy to plant as any other bulb.

When to plant hyacinths

Plant hyacinths bulbs in fall when you plant other bulbs, like tulips and daffodils. Generally, this is when soil temperatures are cooler, around 50 to 60 degrees.

How deep to plant hyacinths

Plant hyacinth bulbs about six inches deep and six inches apart.

Can hyacinths be planted in pots?

Yes, you can plant and grow hyacinths in pots, especially if you want to force them into bloom indoors.

How to Care for Hyacinths

Light

Hyacinths grow best in a spot that gets full to partial sun during late winter into spring, when they are growing.

Soil

Hyacinths do best in well-drained soils. If planted in an area that is frequently watered through the summer, the bulbs may rot.

Water

Generally, you don’t need to water hyacinths. They’ll get the moisture they need from spring rains.

Fertilizing

To give your hyacinths the best chance at returning each year, fertilize them after they’ve flowered but before the foliage dies back. But, if you have good, rich garden soil, you may not need to do this.

Pruning

Cut back spent blooms so the plant puts its energy into growing a big bulb for the following year. Once the foliage yellows, you can cut it off.

Pests and Diseases

Hyacinths aren’t bothered by many pests or diseases. Deer and rabbits avoid them.

How To Force Hyacinths to Bloom

Growth of Hyacinth bulbsUrilux/Getty Images

My favorite way to grow hyacinths is to force them into bloom indoors. It’s easy! Here’s how I do it:

  1. I purchase bulbs in fall and place them in a mesh or paper bag and put them in the back of my refrigerator for about 12 weeks. This is the amount of chilling time they need to force them to bloom. (Avoid putting the bulbs in the same refrigerator as fruits, like apples, that give off ethylene gas. The ethylene gas can damage the bulbs and they won’t flower.)
  2. After about 12 weeks, I either pot the bulbs in a shallow dish or fill a specialized hyacinth vase with water and set a hyacinth bulb on top. (These vases are often sold in the floral department of grocery stores or at your local florist.)
  3. I put the pots and vases in a sunny window and wait. Within days, roots will begin to form and the leaves will begin to grow. Then, I have hyacinth blooms in a matter of weeks.
  4. After being forced into bloom, I usually compost the bulb rather than try to plant it outside.

For an even easier way to enjoy forced hyacinth blooms, look for potted hyacinth bulbs for sale in January and February. I’ve even found them for sale already growing on a hyacinth vase, which gives me another vase to add to my stash.

Propagating Hyacinths

If you want to increase your hyacinths without buying more bulbs, you can dig up your hyacinth bulbs once the foliage has died and look for little offset bulbs growing around the base of the main bulb. Each of these could become a new hyacinth plant if planted separately from the main bulb.

Replant all of them as soon as possible. Keep in mind it may take several years for these offsets to grow big enough to flower.

Hyacinths FAQs

Do hyacinths come back every year?

Yes, if you plant hyacinths in a location they like (well-drained soil, sunny in the spring), they will often return for years. I’ve had some hyacinths return for more than 10 years. But, hyacinths can also disappear or have smaller blooms each year, so if you want to guarantee a good spring display, plant new bulbs in fall.

How many times will a hyacinth bulb bloom?

A hyacinth bulb produces just one flower spike in the spring.

Are hyacinths poisonous to pets?

Yes, hyacinth bulbs are toxic to pets and humans. Leaves and flowers are also toxic. Wear gloves when handling the bulbs. Wearing gloves when gardening is always a good practice.

Do hyacinths need deadheading?

Yes, you should deadhead hyacinths. This encourages the plant to grow a bigger bulb for next year and not put energy into forming seeds.

What do hyacinths symbolize?

Victorians gave many meanings to hyacinths, according to Karen Azoulay in her book “Flowers and Their Meanings.” Blue flowers symbolized constancy and purple hyacinths meant “I am sorry.” White hyacinths were a symbol for “unobtrusive loveliness.”

What are grape hyacinths?

Grape hyacinths are Muscari armeniacum, a completely different flower from hyacinths. Their flowers look like a tiny clump of grapes.