Caring for Hyacinth Bulbs

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The varieties, colors and aromas of hyacinths will beautify your garden each year with just a little effort on your part to take care of the bulbs. Hyacinth is a spring-flowering bulb, which means it should be planted in the fall to receive the chilling period it needs to grow a flower spike; however, there are ways to wait until spring to plant. Follow these care tips for years of healthy and prolific hyacinths.

Choosing and Planting the Bulbs

  • When you go to purchase your bulbs, look for high-quality, firm bulbs. Most of the time, a garden nursery will have fresher, healthier bulbs for you to choose from than some of the garden departments at variety stores. Look the bulbs over for blemishes and dark spots; this is an indication of rot, mold or disease. Bad bulbs will probably not grow and can infect your other bulbs, so stay away from these.

    Spring-flowering bulbs, such as the hyacinth, need 12 to 14 weeks of chilling in temperatures below 50 degrees. This means the bulbs should be planted in the fall. Depending on your area and when it gets cold, that could mean September or October for the north and as late as December in the south. Just be sure to get the bulb into the ground before the first frost.

    Bulbs of any kind should not be forced into the ground when planting. The ground where you will plant the bulbs should be cultivated to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and be in a mostly sunny area. The hole should be dug twice the depth of the height of the bulb unless you are planting a bulb with a very tall flower like the daffodil. In these cases, the hole should be at least three times the height of the bulb. There should be at least 1 ½ inches between bulbs, and the larger they are, the more room you should give them.

Mulching and Watering

  • In cold climates, cover the bulb area with a leaf or straw mulch for the winter. If you live in an area where it gets extremely cold; plant the bulb an inch or two deeper to keep it out of the frozen soil. And if you have underground critters that tend to eat your bulbs and plant roots, line the sides and bottom of your garden with metal screening or ½-inch chicken wire.

    Once the bulbs are planted, water them thoroughly. Keep them moist until winter and then water them only when they're very dry. When the bulbs start to flower, they don't require much water, but after the flowers die off, you will need to start watering at least an inch a week to encourage new root growth. Fertilize the bulb in the fall with a granular bulb fertilizer and soak it into the soil and then again after they flower.

Planting in Spring

  • If you forgot to plant your bulbs before the first frost, bought them too late to plant or just decided you wanted hyacinths in the spring, all is not lost. The bulbs can be planted in a container and kept in a cold area, at least 50 degrees or colder, until spring. If it is too warm where you live, put them in a container of sand and peat mixture and put the container in the refrigerator. When spring arrives and you are sure there will be no more frost, take the containers outside for a few hours each day to let them acclimate to the cold. Each day, let them stay out a little longer, until they are out there all day. Then you can plant them in the ground, and they will sprout soon after. If it's spring and you've just decided you want to grow hyacinths, the nurseries will usually have hyacinth bulb sprouts. The wintering has already been done for you, and all you have to do is take them home, let them get used to their new surroundings and plant them. No fertilizer is needed the first year for hyacinth bulbs.

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