Although hyacinths are traditionally planted in the fall and bloom in mid-spring, gardeners can also plant the bulb indoors at any time of the year. Common colors of hyacinths include purple, pink, blues, white, and yellow. Although hyacinths grown indoors are often planted in forcing jars with water (and no soil), the bloom does equally well in containers and garden beds alike. If choosing to force hyacinths, you need to have about 6 weeks of prep time before you can expect blooms to appear.
The benefit of forcing hyacinth bulbs is that you can choose when to view the mature blooms. Count back 6 weeks from when you want to have the blooms and plant the pre-chilled blooms in a forcing jar. Alternately, you’ll need to chill your own bulbs in a cool, dark location for 8 to 12 weeks. Temps should be between 35 to 45 degrees F. If you chill the bulbs in a refrigerator, avoid placing them next to apples, as apples can release a gas causing rot.
Protect container-grown hyacinths from extreme winter weather by bringing them inside, keeping them covered, or by moving them to a sheltered area.
For hyacinths planted in the garden, cut back spent blooms with sterilized snippers at the end of the growing season, but allow the stem to wither back naturally. The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that the leaves help the plant gather energy for blooming the following year.
Remove bulbs from the soil once the plant has completely died back. Store bulbs in a cool, dark, dry location until you are ready to plant again in the fall, or discard the bulb and plant new bulbs the following year. Old bulbs tend to produce weaker, thinner hyacinths.
Hyacinths contain the chemical compound calcium oxalate, which can be toxic. Keep the bulbs out of reach of pets and young children, and consider handling them while wearing gloves to limit a burning sensation.
Like other bulbs, hyacinths are susceptible to root rot, so monitor moisture levels. Keep the soil moist but not overly wet.
Basal rot is often caused by warm, moist soil and is identified by the foliage dying back prematurely. Avoid manure and excessive nitrogen to keep basal rot at bay.
The Mosaic virus is identified by blooms with broken or streak colors. Only use sterilized equipment with your hyacinths, and control aphids, which commonly spread the disease. Dig up and discard plants affected with mosaic virus to limit the spread.
The Narcissus fly mostly affects bulbs in storage, and tends to attach only damaged bulbs. Discard bulbs with the small maggots. Limit infestation by storing hyacinth bulbs in a separate location from other plants, particularly snowdrops and daffodils that tend to host the narcissus fly.
Critters such as squirrels and chipmunks like to dig up bulbs and nibble on hyacinth blooms. Control critters with a physical barrier such as a cylinder planted in the ground around the bulb, or with a screen over the growing flower.