Hyacinths to flower at Christmas – plant them now

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 14 September 2016.

Hyacinths in flower (and soft ‘Paperwhite’ narcissi) are a Christmas tradition in many homes. Delft Blue hyacinths are my Mum’s favourite Christmas gift – and it is special to plant them in her favourite bowl. Now is the time to prepare. One of our blogs last month encouraged you to order spring bulbs – so you may be ahead of us on this one. If not, look in your garden centre or DIY superstore for prepacked or loose bulbs for indoor planting.

Plant hyacinths for Christmas now!

To flower indoors during the Christmas season bulbs need to have been ‘forced’ (this means they think it is spring sooner than it is). In garden centres and shops, look for bulbs that are clearly labelled and find those that have been prepared to flower at the time you want them in bloom.

You need:

  • Forced, indoor, hyacinth bulbs (or try ‘Paperwhite’ narcissi for a change). Keep them in a paper bag or box or an open plastic bag until you are ready to use them.
  • Gloves (hyacinth bulbs can irritate some people’s skin, so protect yours)
  • A small bag of bulb compost (sometimes called bulb fibre)
  • Container(s) that are at least 2.5cm (1 inch) deeper than the bottom of the bulb and that allow at least 1cm (1/2 inch) space around each bulb
  • A dark and cool place to store your planted bowls until the tips of the bulbs show green (under the stairs, in a shed or garage – but in sheds or garages protect them from mice and squirrels by wrapping the bowls loosely with wire netting).
hyacinths
Prepared hyacinth bulbs and compost. Get ready for Christmas! Sarah Buchanan

How to do it:

  • Cover the bottom of a container with bulb compost. Put the bulb(s) on top and fill in around with bulb compost until only the top of the bulb shows. Firm the compost down gently – not too hard – and water it. Be careful not to pour water onto the tip of the bulb (it will rot).
  • Put the container in your cool, dark place.
  • Check on it now and then to make sure the compost is moist but not wet.
  • As soon as the green tip of the bulb shows, put the bowl in a cool and light place (perhaps the windowsill of a shed or a porch) and let them grow until the flower buds are showing when you should bring them into pride of place.
hyacinths
Hyacinths potted ready for Christmas. Sarah Buchanan.

 

At school we grew single hyacinth bulbs in jars to see the roots grow (and grow). I still enjoy this window-sill project. Simply find a clear glass jar which has a top that is slightly smaller than the base of the hyacinth bulb. Fill the jar with water to about 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the top and and place the bulb on the top. Put it in the dark to start growing and, once the tip shows green, bring it onto your window sill  and be amazed at just how much root growth comes out of one bulb! My jam jar hyacinths often topple over when in flower. Place yours somewhere where the flower can be supported by a stick in another pot or lean against the wall.

TOP TIPS for hyacinths and other indoor bulbs

  • Don’t plant different varieties or flower colours of bulbs in the same pot: if you want a pot with a mix of bulbs in it, plant each variety of bulb in separate plastic flower pots and when they are each just right put the pots with their bulbs into a bigger container, cover the tops of the pots with soil or moss and stand back for praise.
  • In darker houses and rooms bulbs will grow long stems and flop all over the place. Give them some structure by pushing a framework of garden twigs into the soil around the pot edge.
hyacinth
Nowruz_Sonbol_(Hyacinth) By Fl4812a – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47669982

Have a Happy Hyacinth Christmas!

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