Not all hyacinths will flower over the Christmas period. When you buy them, you need to buy bulbs labelled and prepared.
If you are giving the hyacinths as an indoor Christmas garden gift or using them as table decorations, you may want to choose varieties in traditional Christmas colours such as red (e.g. Hyacinthus Jan Bos) or white (e.g. H. White Pearl or H. Camegie).
Alternatively, you could choose soft blue (Hyacinthus Delft Blue), pale pink (H. Anne Marie) or yellow (H. City of Haarlem) to fit in with a colour scheme.
Planting should take place in September or early October. Different varieties of bulbs will produce flowers at slightly different times – so check on the packaging for advice. Temperature will also affect the timing of when the flowers bloom.
Consider wearing gloves because skin irritation can occur.
The most simple approach is to plant the bulbs in a bowl filled with bulb fibre. You can use a general purpose compost but you will need drainage. Water the compost or fibre before you begin.
As an alternative you can plant your hyacinths in water (see below).
Put a layer of damp bulb fibre or compost in your bowl. Then add your bulbs and backfill until only the tip of the bulb is showing. The bulbs can be close together but not touching each other or the side of the container.
Special glass or plastic vases can be bought and used as an alternative to a bowl. The advantage of using one of these vases is that the extensive root system will be in view. This makes a real talking point and is particularly fascinating for children. It does, however, make the plants more difficult to transport if you are planning to give them away at Christmas as indoor garden gifts.
To use the vase, simply place the bulb in the top and fill with water so that the water level is just below the level of the bulb. The water should not touch the hyacinth.
Once planted, treat bulbs growing in water in the same way as ones planted in fibre or compost.
Put your bowls or vases into a dark, cool place. Garages or sheds are ideal. Cover them loosely with a black bin bag if there is any light in the area.
Check periodically and add more water if there are any signs that they are drying out. If you are using a vases, do not allow the water to touch the bulbs.
Once you can see shoots of around 4 – 5 cm in height, bring your bowls or vases into the light. At this stage, it is important to keep them out of strong direct light, away from draughts and away from artificial heat sources e.g. putting your bulbs above a radiator would not be a good idea.
A humid atmosphere is also helpful. This can be created by standing the bowls or vases in a tray of gravel which is kept moist.
Once the flowers are established, the hyacinths can be taken into a warmer room for display but, keeping them in a cooler room, for at least some of the time, will help the flowers to last longer.
Growing hyacinths as presents, requires a little forward planning. If you do not have time for this, take a look at the Garden Gifts available from Spotty Green Frog to find the perfect Christmas present for friends and family member who enjoy gardening.