Hyacinth Bulbs: Fall Planted Perennial Bulb
Planting Bulbs in Fall:
- Because your bulbs will probably be left where you plant them for several years, good soil preparation is highly desirable. Hyacinth grows best in full sun in a light, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. Loose, crumbly soil beneath a bulb encourages good growth and promotes drainage; it is a good idea to prepare the soil at least a few inches deeper than the recommended planting depth. Check the proposed site for standing water after a rainfall. If you must plant where the soil is known to remain wet, raise the soil level by 6-12 inches above the surrounding soil.
- It is a good idea to add fertilizer, such as bonemeal, when you prepare the soil. Be sure to mix the fertilizer into the soil so it does not come into direct contact with the bulbs.
- The general rule for planting is to cover the bulb with soil to 3 times its vertical diameter. In very cold climates, or where the soil is very light and sandy, plant a little deeper. In heavy soils, or in areas with a high water table, plant slightly more shallowly. Plant all bulbs of a kind, when grouped together, at the same depth so they will bloom at the same time and attain the same height.
- For planting clumps of bulbs in beds and borders, dig a hole large enough to hold all the bulbs in one group or drift. Set them upright at the bottom of the hole, tops up (pointed side up), and space properly. Press the bulbs into the soil and cover with the prepared soil to the recommended depth. You can also use a trowel to dig individual holes.
- Hyacinths should be planted 4-6 inches deep, 4-6 inches apart.
- After planting water thoroughly to settle the soil and to encourage the start of root growth. Sufficient moisture is vital to the health of your bulbs; lacking ample rain, it may be necessary to water new plantings once a week in fall. The roots will continue to grow in fall until the soil freezes.
- Be sure to mark where you planted your bulbs so you know where they are in spring.
- Add 1-3 inches of mulch for winter protection after the ground freezes.
How to Grow
- Flower bulbs also require watering after blooming, while the foliage is ripening. Water weekly if conditions are dry.
- In spring after flowering, do not cut the foliage off; the foliage is part of the perennial growth cycle. Allow it to die back naturally.
- Hyacinths are easy to grow and do not require much care.
- Hyacinths are favorites for forcing for indoor bloom.
Common Disease Problems
Basal Rot: This fungus invades the bulb through the roots and basal plate. It causes premature die back of the foliage and the bulb becomes brown and mummified from the basal plate up. It is more prevalent in warm, moist soils. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected bulbs. Avoid fresh manure or excessive nitrogen from fertilizing. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Mosaic Virus: This can cause flower petals to have broken or streaked colors. Burpee Recommends: Dig up and discard affected plants. Do not use tools on other plants until they have been sterilized. Control aphids, which can spread the disease.
Spotted Foliage: This can come from late frosts after the foliage was emerged. Sometimes the leaves will split and look ragged. Burpee Recommends: Be sure to mulch the blubs in fall after the ground freezes.
Weak Stems, Sparse Flowers: This can happen when bulbs are old. Hyacinths are their best the first season after they are planted. Burpee Recommends: Fertilize with bone meal in spring. Be sure to not remove the foliage after the flowers bloom until it dies back naturally. Some people prefer the more informal less stiff look.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Bulb Mites: Shiny creamy white mites range from .5 to 1 mm long and appear in clusters. They infest bulbs in storage and in the field. They damage bulbs by penetrating the outer tissue layer which eventually causes the bulbs to rot. Burpee Recommends: Inspect bulbs before planting and do not plant damaged bulbs. Avoid damaging bulbs when planting or weeding. Remove plant debris after leaves die back.
Bulb Nematodes: Microscopic worm-like pests that live and reproduce inside the bulb, feeding on the stems, leaves and bulbs. It can live for several years in the soil. Burpee Recommends: You can have your soil tested by your local Cooperative Extension Service to see if you have nematodes. Do not plant into infested soil and do not plant related crops into the soil for several years.
Narcissus Fly: There is a small and a large narcissus fly. These are mostly a problem of bulbs in storage and they mostly attack damaged bulbs. Small maggots are found in the bulb. Burpee Recommends: Discard any infested bulbs. Keep hyacinth separate from snowdrops and daffodils, other host plants.
Squirrels and other Rodents: Squirrels, chipmunks and voles dig up bulbs and eat flowers as well. Burpee Recommends: A physical barrier is the best control of rodents. Place a cylinder in the ground around the bulbs with the top level with the soil. Cover bed with screening or hardware cloth.
Why did my hyacinths bloom the first year but not the next? The quality of the flower will depend on how well the bulb was grown the previous year. Usually bulbs bloom well the first year because the previous year they were grown in ideal conditions. The second year will depend on your growing conditions. If there is too much shade or the drainage is not adequate they will not perform well the second year. Also, hyacinths tend to produce fewer florets over time and looser stems. Many gardeners actually prefer this look.
Can I grow hyacinths in Florida or Southern California? No, hyacinths need a period of cold dormancy in order to grow and bloom. If you see them in these areas they have been forced to bloom whereby the grower chilled the bulbs before planting.
Can I force my bulbs to bloom every year? No, bulbs may be forced one time, but not in future years.
Can I grow hyacinths in a container? Yes. Make sure it has excellent drainage and protect it in winter as the bulbs are more exposed in containers than in the ground. Daffodils are happiest in the ground, however, and will multiply for years if they are well sited.
I got a rash on my hands when I planted my hyacinths, what happened? Many people will develop a rash when handling hyacinth bulbs. Be sure to use garden gloves when handling the bulbs. The flowers and foliage should not give you