Hyacinth

Hyacinth

Also known as: Hyacinthus Orientalis

Hyacinths are beautiful, fragrant flowers that grow at the same time as other spring bulbs like tulips, crocuses and daffodils. They used to be part of the lily family, but have since been moved into their own family, Hyacinthaceae. The hyacinthus flower is not to be confused with hyacinthella, a related genus. There are only 3 species in the hyacinth family, making the flower monotypic.

The bulbs are native to the eastern Mediterranean region and also to alpine regions in West and Central Asia. Hyacinths get their name from the Greek myth about the youth Hyacinth, who was beloved by Apollo and died tragically when struck in the head by a discus. The flowers are also prized in the Muslim religion, their prophet Mohammed having said that he would sell a loaf of bread to buy hyacinths to feed his soul. In the 18th century, Dutch botanists cultivated over 2000 varieties of the flower.

Hyacinths typically have a single spike adorned with a column of flowers that can be red, yellow, purple, blue and pink. The foliage is spiked and light green. The flower can grow to a height of approximately a foot and should be planted a minimum of 3 inches apart within your outdoor garden. The flowering season is in the early spring.

Growing Hyacinths

The plant requires full sun to partial shade and well-drained, moderately fertile soil. The bulbs should be planted in autumn, about 4 inches deep. If you live in a northern climate, plant the bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep. Hyacinths can be grown in containers – if you want to do this, plant the bulbs so that the tips are showing, then keep in a dark, cool place no warmer than 45 degrees F. Once the shoots start showing, increase the light and temperature gradually, and water carefully. Once the plants flower, they can be moved from your container garden and planted in the garden.

Recommended Varieties

Hyacinthus orientalis has several different varieties to choose from. "Blue Jacket" has deep, royal blue flowers; "City of Haarlem" has lemon yellow blossoms; "Lady Derby" has pale pink blossoms and "Ostara" has the typical purple flowers. Be careful when handling hyacinths – the bulbs can irritate the skin, and any part of the flower that's ingested can cause severe stomach upset leading to the need for indigestion relief.

Landscape Design Tips

Hyacinths look great in flowerbeds, borders, rock gardens and containers. They also make a great addition to a fragrant garden. If you are growing them for fragrance, locate them downwind from where you normally sit outside so that the scent won't overpower you.

Gardening Zones

Hyacinths are hardy in zones 5 to 10.

Pests and Problems

The flowers are prone to gray mold and bulb rot.