Hyacinth - Hyacinthus orientalis

The Hyacinths

Hyacinths are naturally grown bulbs in Europe and Asia; in Italy there are some endemic species, with white and fragrant flowers. Hyacinths produce at the end of winter some thin fleshy, ribbon-shaped, erect, dark green leaves, and a fleshy, cylindrical floral scape, covered with innumerable intensely perfumed star-shaped flowers. The plants do not exceed 20-30 cm in height; in botanical species, widespread in nature, the floral scape carries some flowers, 7-10, sometimes even only 3-5; in hybrid species, however, the flowers are piled close to each other, forming a compact panicle, with countless flowers, even more than 25-30.
As with other bulbous plants, hyacinths have also been hybridized over the years, particularly by Dutch bulb producers, starting with the species Hyacinthus orientalis, widespread in Asia. There are countless varieties of hyacinth on the market, with the most varied colored flowers, from pure white to green, from yellow to bright red, from baby pink to purple purple.

How to grow them

The Hyacinthus orientalis are bulbs of easy cultivation, very suitable for the in-garden cultivation, but also for cultivation in water or forcing in winter.
They are grown in a very bright place, even sunny, in pots or in the open ground; they prefer fairly fresh and loose soils, even if they do not disdain the common garden soil. The flowers begin to bloom in late winter, generally in the month of March; if the soil is dry let's water, keeping the bulbs in a fresh substratum until the end of flowering.
Generally the period of flowering of hyacinths is wet and fresh, which avoids watering, especially with regard to specimens grown in the garden.
When the flowers of Hyacinthus orientalis begin to wither we remove the large floral scape, and continue to water, when necessary, until the foliage begins to wither; then suspend the waterings. At this point if we wish we can dig up the bulbs and put them in a cool, dark and dry place until the autumn; this practice is particularly useful if we grow hyacinths in pots; if instead we cultivate them in the open ground in the garden we can leave them at home for the wild. Typically hyacinths left in a soil that becomes more and more compact with time tend to produce less compact inflorescences rich in flowers, but always of an intense and perfumed color.
If we wish that every year our hyacinths produce many flowers it is necessary to provide little fertilizer during flowering, of the type indicated for bulbous plants, but in half the dose recommended on the package; moreover it is a good rule to dig up the bulbs at least every two years, remove any bulbils, and place the larger bulbs in place, after having worked the soil well to make it soft and draining.

Family and gender
Liliaceae, gen. Hyacinthus, more than 30 species of which 5 are endemic to our country
Type of plant bulbosa
Height at maturity From 15 to 45 cm
Growth rapid
Maintenance Low
Water needs Average
Ground Rich, but well-drained
soil pH From neutral to alkaline
RusticitŠ° Very rustic
Propagation Division of bulbils
Exposure Sun, half-shade
RusticitŠ° Very rustic
Installation density 30 per square meter
Flower color White, pink, fuchsia, red, yellow, purple, blue
Purposes Flower beds, borders, vases and compositions for the home

Plant the bulbs

In general, bulbous plants are divided into two large groups: those that bloom between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, and those that bloom between late spring and summer.
Most of the bulbous plants belonging to the first group do not fear the cold, and can stay at home in the garden throughout the year, and is therefore suitable for foraging. Hyacinths are part of this group; generally these bulbous plants are available in nurseries, or from specialized retailers, starting from the late summer, and can be planted from the beginning of the autumn.
In this way the bulbs are already well rooted in spring and the flowering is very early. If placed at the end of winter, there is the risk of losing the current year.
Hyacinths are planted after having worked the soil well, to which we will add good quality universal soil, and wanting a little mature manure, or a slow-release granular fertilizer, without exceeding the quantities.
The bulbs are placed with the apex upwards, at a depth equal to one and a half times their diameter, they are covered, watered and the bulbs are forgotten until the first buds are seen in spring.
Hyacinths, such as tulips and daffodils, are often planted in rows, or in spots, but generally always leaving around each bulb a space equal to their diameter.


The spring-flowering bulbs in winter are in total vegetative rest, as soon as the days lengthen and the temperatures rise they restart their development, producing new flowers and leaves.
This behavior is used to obtain flowers even in winter, placing the bulbs in a warm and bright place starting from October-November, to get the flowers in December-January. Forced bulbs often tend not to bloom again the following year, even if placed in the garden at the arrival of spring. We also remember that cultivating a hyacinth in full light during the winter can easily happen that the first flowers begin to bloom as soon as the floral scape has reached 3-4 cm in height. For this reason, forced hyacinth bulbs are supplied with a dark plastic cap, which must be removed when the stem carrying the flowers is at least 12-15 cm high.

Winter rest

Often in the flowerbed of bulbous plants in spring we plant other plants, removing the bulbous plants, the same happens in the pots. In these cases, we wait for the bulbous plants to stop producing leaves, and begin to desiccate the aerial part, then unearth them and prepare them for conservation.
In order to preserve the bulbs during the seasons it is essential to dry them well in the sun, then place them in a jute sack, or in a box, covered with sawdust, which will absorb any humidity, which could otherwise favor the development of mold. If desired we can sprinkle the sawdust with a powder fungicide, which will guarantee us even more the perfect conservation of the bulbs.
The container thus prepared should be placed in a well-ventilated, cool, dark and dry place, so as to imitate the deep soil in which the bulbs remain in nature from season to season.

How to choose the bulbs for the purchase

If you have finally decided to buy bulbs and try to grow them in the garden or in pots or if you are a lover of bulbous plants and want to add species to those you already have at home, here is a little help for you on how to choose the bulbs for 'purchase.
The bulbs being small and easy to preserve, they are sold in many places, from nurseries to garden centers to shops and shopping centers. Internet is an excellent resource for buying bulbs as well as for the price, which is generally very competitive, even for convenience. On the internet, in fact, you can find a wide range of bulbs, far superior to what we can find in any store.
Generally speaking, the bulbs are almost always guaranteed with regard to germination and the expiry date shown on the packages is reliable but does not mean that after this date the bulbs are no longer able to germinate. Rather it means that the germination of the bulbs, or the probability that the bulbs can germinate, is lower, but not nothing.
Bulbs are generally sold in small plastic bags but can also be found loose in large retail outlets, markets and large distribution centers. If you find loose bulbs check their integrity before buying them. In fact, it is very important that the surface of the bulbs does not show evident abrasions or cuts and above all that on the surface of the bulbs there are no other fungi strange fungi.

Cultivation of hyacinths in carafes or glasses

Cultivation without substrate, using only a container full of water, can be done both in winter and in spring. In the first case we will insert the bulbs in a black plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator or outside (the minimum temperature must remain as constant as possible, around 5 ° C). This treatment will last about a month and a half; past this period we will extract them and put them on a container filled with water only (perhaps with very little dissolved fertilizer for flowering plants, with a good potassium content), to be kept in a completely dark environment and at a temperature of about 12 ° C . We wait for the stem to reach at least 8 cm in height; at that point we can move it to a brighter environment, heated to around 20 ° C (with higher temperatures the flowering will be less lasting).
The choice of container is very important. In fact, the bulb must never be in direct contact with water because rots may occur. We always keep at least 2 mm of distance between the base and the surface of the liquid. The ideal is to procure vases, commercially available in winter, in nurseries or in department stores, specifically designed for this use.

Diseases of the hyacinth

Hyacinth is a rather healthy bulb, especially if it is grown in a sufficiently draining soil and is not exaggerated with irrigation.
The most frequent adversity is represented by the slugs and by the snails that feed on particularly tender leaves, compromising their naturalness. It can be prevented by eliminating them manually in the early morning or by arranging beer traps. In extreme cases we use a special snail shell.
Another rather common problem is gray mold, botrytis hyacinthi. It is favored by water stagnation and causes the appearance of gray spots on the leaves and on the bulb. To oppose it is difficult. You can try to extract from the ground, eliminate the damaged parts and carry out washing and irrigation with special products.
Instead bacterioses are less common: they involve rotting and the appearance of spots from yellow to brown. In that case it is good to completely eliminate all the compromised specimens.

History of hyacinth

The hyacinth was already known in antiquity, to the point that it is mentioned several times by Ovid, by Virgil, by Pliny and Theocritus.
The endemic species of our country are the fastigiatus, the ciliatus, the romanus and the dubius.
The eastern hyacinths, from which the ones found on the market today derive, arrived in Veneto towards the end of the 1500s from Western Asia. It was thanks to some Genoese ships that arrived in Northern Europe where they immediately had a huge success becoming the center of attention of the breeders, especially Dutch. Beautiful varieties were obtained immediately (with a simple flower): a great lover was Cosimo de 'Medici, who bought many to adorn his gardens. The culmination of the success of this flower occurred around 1730, when the quotations of some innovative cultivars (in red and orange) reached very high levels and only very wealthy people could afford the purchase.

Hyacinth - Hyacinthus orientalis: Fables and legends about hyacinth

It was already popular in ancient Greece and in Sparta, in his honor, parties were organized, called "Hyacinthia pomp". They celebrated the arrival of spring, love, elegance and the freshness of youth. In iconography it was commonly used to adorn the Gods or children and girls to their full splendor. Ovid reports, in his Metamorphoses, different fables related to this flower.
The most well-known story tells of a very handsome boy, named Giacinto, who died in an accident while playing with Apollo. The god, very saddened by what happened, transformed it into a delicate and fragrant flower.
Another one links the bulbous to Ajace Telamon. He killed himself for not having been able to wrest Ulysses from the weapons that Achilles had left him as inheritance. From his blood came to life one of these flowers, with pink shades. Nowadays hyacinth has become the symbol of the joy of loving, but also of simplicity, carefree and hope to regain happiness.

Buying bulbs
From August to the end of November
Planting in pot or full ground October December
Flowering in pot or full ground From March to June
Forcing start December-March
Forced flowering Low
Extraction and division From July to October