Sunday, February 28, 2010

Forced Hyacinths: Don't Toss when they Fade

Hyacinths are among my favorite spring bulbs. They generally perform as well as daffodils do here. I force a few to give away and plant the rest directly in the ground after chilling for 12 weeks. 

Many bloggers show their beginning bulbs planted in soil, or in vase with water. Once the forced bulbs are done, most toss the spent bulb. I advocate saving the bulb to plant in the garden as soon as possible.
China Pink forced in water and stones, 2009
After these hyacinths bloomed, I cut each little floret off and left the green stem. I dug holes 6" deep and carefully sifted soil around the roots after I removed the small stones they were in for forcing in water. They settled into the ground with the stems buried about 2" and lightly watered. 
China Pink 2/25/2010, the same bulbs from forcing, 2009
Next year these should be fuller with larger florets after a season to recover.
It seems wasteful to just toss the forced bulbs when they'll come back well.

Blue Delft, third year after planting in the ground. 2/25/2010.
These were never forced; a cultivar recommended for planting, not forcing.

The ones above and some and white forced this year so far are the only blooms in my garden.

More of my favorite hyacinths follow, from previous years.
I expect to see them again this year, most have buds except for the ones that bloom latest.

Gypsy Queen, one of my favs, very strong grower with an unusual color.

Pink Pearl is another good performer, started in the ground or forced and planted out to recover.
Some of these were forced, some directly planted. I can't remember which. They are forming buds.

Top Hit, the second year after planting.
Top Hit is one that I've never tried to force but I've planted more of them over the years.
They bloom a little later. I noticed buds have formed now where they came up.
Second year blooms are not as pretty as the first. Third year, they usually catch up.

China Pink. I think 2009 was the second year for these, directly planted.
They have big fat buds now.

Blue Jacket, last to bloom and very strong.
These are just showing foliage now.

There are many information resources for forcing hyacinths available on the web. One of my favorite places to find information is
North Carolina State University Hort Department.

I read something yesterday In Helen Van Pelt Wilson's old book on Fragrance in the Garden that I had never realized. There are some hyacinths that are not pleasantly fragrant. Maybe they're like the paperwhites, some are unpleasant. That would explain why sometimes there are comments from people who think hyacinths are stinky. Maybe they just never met a really fragrant one.


  1. They sprout beautiful flowers with various color. Interesting plant, the way they just pop up from the ground... ~bangchik

  2. I always wondered why some people tossed their bulbs after forcing..I've never forced any, may try next year.

  3. Interesting to note that patience will allow them to bounce back that third year. You have some great varieties, well worth the TLC!

  4. Nice photos, and so good of you that you put out the different names!
    I find the hyac. even more beautiful when found in the garden the year after.

    I think they are prettier when they are a little less full of flowers... they look a little more wild, which I prefer in springtime:-)

    So nice to see your springflowers, winter is still going on here in my part of SWEDEN (zone 6, I think)

    Greetings H.

  5. Such a gorgeous collection of hyacinths you have ... wish I could grow them here! That's not possible ... so looking at your photos is the next best thing.

  6. Wow, you have some beauties! Top Hit and Pink Pearl seemed to be my favorites.

  7. This time of year I am kicking myself because I don't have any hyacinths. The voles ate most of the ones in my garden, so I should get more. I LOVE their fragrance.

  8. Wow, how wonderful those hyacinths are. How i wish they can grow here, unfortunately they dont. So i just stop by others' blogs like your who post them. The blue one is especially by favorite among them. Do you know why most of the blue flowers are in temperate climes, few are in the tropics? Thanks.

  9. I have hyacinths planted in my garden, but not nearly enough of them. Note To Self: Plant more hyacinth bulbs this fall.

  10. Hyacinths are not hardy in my zone 3 garden, so planting them out is not an option. The other bulbs I force aren't hardy either. I don't see the point of forcing bulbs I can grow in my garden. I'll wait for spring to see them.

  11. Ewww, I can almost smell them. They look so wonderful with their pastel colors. The Blue Jacket looks so pretty.

  12. Thank you all for the kind comments.

    I force Hyacinths because of the little joy when they bloom out of season when the weather is dreary. If I'm not slow in putting them in to chill, they'll bloom by Christmas. If I wait, they bloom by Valentine's Day.

    Another reason to force them is that they make great gifts. A single bulb will force in a coffee mug. A half dozen in a low ceramic planter makes a stunning display.

    Almost everyone then wants to know how they can keep their bulbs for another bloom. My friend Harry brought his bulb into bloom in his garden the next year. The second year, Harry had died a few months before. His wife was thrilled when the hyacinth bloomed, almost like a little message from Harry.

  13. Pretty post, NellJean! I can see why you keep them...what a waste to throw them away. I noticed your plot is not up yet.:/
    Thanks for picking my Ideal Nursery post...I appreciate it!

  14. Nell, I am a hyacinth fan and usually get one or two to enjoy indoors in late winter. Like you, I plant them outside later in the spring and get to enjoy them again in later years. -Jean

  15. Hi Nell Jean,
    It is so nice to see all this glorious color in your garden this time of year.

    My neighbor gave me some hyacinth bulbs I decided "not" to force due to what I read about not having fruit in the frig at the same time. Anyway, with all the cold weather we've had I planted them in a pot and left them outside. They sprouted pretty green foliage but I doubt they'll bloom this far south.
    I'll enjoy all your pretty colors!

  16. Lovely to see all these bulbs bloom very neat and nicely.
    I wonder if you cut all of these and place them in a vase?

  17. Love your Blue Jacket! I planted some paperwhites that were blooming inside. Will see if they will like to grow outside.

  18. Interesting that you chill the bulbs for 12 weeks. We've been told 6-8 weeks. I had no luck forcing last year but purchased pre-chilled bulbs for planting out this year. I think I'll try chilling some 12 weeks this coming winter and see if they'll force inside.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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