Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Planting and Caring for Hyacinths and Grape Hyacinths
Hyacinth bulbs are planted in the fall and bloom in the spring. Here’s a guide to planting and growing hyacinths and grape hyacinths in your home and garden!
About Hyacinths and Grape Hyacinths
Hyacinths (Hyacinthus) come in a variety of colors—from bright pink to soft blue. The hyacinth’s loose-to-dense racemes (clusters) of strongly fragrant flowers may be closely-packed single or double flowers.
Grape hyacinths (Muscari) are not directly related to true hyacinths, but belong to the same botanical family and have essentially the same care requirements. On this page, “hyacinths” refers to both Hyacinthus and Muscari plants.
The Victorians revered hyacinths for their sweet, lingering fragrance, and carefully massed them in low beds, planting in rows of one color each. In general, hyacinths are said symbolize playfulness, sport, and rashness, though meanings are color-dependent. Learn more about the meanings of flowers.
Hyacinths are perennial bulbs and are often planted directly in the ground outdoors, though these easy bulbs are also excellent for forcing in container gardens or being made to flower indoors during the winter.
Planting Hyacinth Bulbs Outdoors
- Plant hyacinth bulbs in autumn, before your first fall frost.
- Plant the bulbs 4 inches deep and a minimum of 3 inches apart. At the northern limits of their hardiness (USDA Zone 4), plant 6 to 8 inches deep. Grape hyacinth bulbs should be planted 2–3 inches deep.
- Grow in well-drained, moderately fertile soil in sun or partial shade.
- Before planting, loosen the soil and work in compost or bonemeal for fertility.
- Set the bulb in the hole with the pointy end up.
- After planting and covering with soil, water thoroughly.
- If you are transplanting, water sparingly and then do not water again until flower buds appear the following year.
- Warning: Hyacinth bulbs (and daffodil bulbs) contain a substance called oxalic acid, which can be irritating to bare skin. Use gloves when handling these bulbs for extended periods.
Forcing Hyacinth Bulbs Indoors
- Hyacinth bulbs may be forced into early growth for indoor display in the winter. Plant them with the tips just showing, in soil-based potting mix in containers with drainage holes.
- Keep in a dark place at temperatures above freezing but no higher than 45°F (7°C), for at least 10 weeks to allow roots to develop.
- When shoots are about 1 inch long, increase light and temperature gradually.
- Water carefully, avoiding wetting the shoots or waterlogging the soil. Soil should be moist, not wet.
- After flowering, forced hyacinths may be transplanted to the garden and they will flower again in subsequent years.
Caring for Hyacinths
- After your hyacinths are finished flowering in late spring, cut back flower stalks, but allow the leaves to die back naturally. The plants need their foliage to gather energy for next year’s blooms.
- Hyacinth bulbs do not like to have wet feet, so make sure they are not watered too often. Too much moisture can cause rot.
- In the event of a dry autumn, water hyacinths occasionally.
- Protect container-grown plants from excessive winter moisture by keeping them covered or moving them to a sheltered area.
What to do With Hyacinths After Flowering
- After your hyacinths have finished flowering, snip off the flower stalks, but don’t remove the foliage. The bulbs need their leaves to gather energy for next year’s blooms. At the end of the spring season, the foliage will die back naturally, at which point it can be removed.
- Hyacinth bulbs can remain in the ground throughout the year in most planting zones. If your winter temperatures do not get below 60°F (16°C), bulbs should be dug up in the fall and refrigerated in a cool, dry area for six to eight weeks. Hyacinths require a period of colder weather to bloom.
- Hyacinth bulbs that have finished flowering indoors can be transplanted to the garden. After flowering, they need time to gather energy for next year’s blooms, so they should not be placed directly into storage.
- After their foliage dies back outdoors, hyacinth bulbs can be brought indoors and stored in a cool, dark, dry place until the fall or winter.
- Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Miss Saigon’ has tightly-packed blossoms with deep purple-pink florets.
- Muscari armeniacum (grape hyacinth) has small and delicate cobalt-blue flowers which look gorgeous when planted en masse.
Wit & Wisdom
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are Hyacinth Bulbs Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?
A: Yes, hyacinth bulbs are poisonous to pets. Many spring flowers, such as hyacinths and daffodils, contain a compound that may cause stomach and respiratory issues, as well as skin irritation. This substance—calcium oxalate—is most concentrated in the bulbs, but is also found in the foliage and flowers of the hyacinth plant. Keep hyacinths out of reach of curious pets and children, and wear gloves when handling hyacinth bulbs for long periods of time.
Q: Will Hyacinths Bloom Again?
A: Yes and no. Hyacinths bloom just once per year (in the spring), but they will happily bloom again in subsequent seasons if provided with the proper care. They are a perennial plant.