When we think of Hyacinths indoors, we invariably think of them flowering at Christmas. However, it is quite possible - easy even - to get Hyacinths flowering indoors for three months and more, starting in December and then right through until March and April by forcing hyacinth bulbs. Thereafter, the outdoor Hyacinths will start to put in an appearance.
Certainly there is nothing quite like the scent of Hyacinths indoors, and the vibrant colours will do much to brighten up the gloom in these dull months.
If you wish to succeed with flowering your Hyacinths indoors at Christmas, then you will need to buy Hyacinth Bulbs that have been specially prepared for this purpose. The 'preparation' includes breaking the dormancy cycle of the Hyacinth bulb by various means including cold treatment to the dried bulbs for specific periods of time. It is much easier forcing hyacinth bulbs that have been prepared in this way.
Simply putting Hyacinth bulbs in the fridge for a few weeks will not have the same effect, though it could be useful for forcing hyacinth bulbs later in the winter. For Christmas forcing, the Hyacinths are commercially prepared back in July - before the amateur gardener can even hope to purchase normal hyacinths to try a DIY cold treatment job.
Preparing Hyacinths for Christmas flowering, is a specialised procedure, beyond the scope of the home grower - or even most professional general nurseries. Forcing hyacinth bulbs is big business for these flowers at Christmas are a sure seller.
You will be able to buy these specially prepared Hyacinth bulb in mid to late August. This will allow you plenty of time to do your own part in bringing these flower bulbs to perfection at the desired time.) They should not be planted immediately if purchased in August. There are some set dates for planting Hyacinths if you want the best possibility of success.
For the actual planting of Hyacinth bulbs indoors, follow the link for general information on potting and planting bulbs for indoor use, or simply proceed as follows.
Hyacinths are normally grown in shallow bowls - without drainage holes - and grouped in three to five bulbs. The bulbs should be all of the same variety. Mixed bowls will often disappoint as the bulbs have different flowering heights and also different flowering times! Same variety planting ensures a uniform habit and a splash of colour - all at the same time and height.
If you want bowls of mixed Hyacinths, then far better to buy a range of different prepared Hyacinths in colours of assorted colours and pot the bulbs in individual small pots. These can then be selected for size and colour near to Christmas and transferred into your bowls of mixed Hyacinths.
Use bulb fibre
and not ordinary garden or multi-purpose compost. Bulb fibre has a few
additions that will keep it sweet and not turning stagnant through the
long periods of dark, and moist conditions.
The bulbs should be planted in the bowls or other containers, at a depth that will allow the nose or even top half of the bulb to be above the surface of the bulb fibre. Sphagnum moss or pebbles can be used around the bulbs for effect and decoration nearer the flowering time.
The planting time is all important to ensure Christmas Hyacinths. Different varieties need different planting times - prepared or not. 10 weeks of cold treatment, followed by a further three weeks gradual acclimatisation is the maximum time.
Much will depend upon the variety or cultivar of Hyacinth in regards to planting time in order to get that Christmas perfection, but also, there can be as much as two weeks leeway either side of your chosen day of flowering, simply by juggling about with the times and temperatures.
Experimentation is the key, but for exact timings of two popular cultivars, at an initial cold storage regime of 48 deg F, Hyacinth Pink Pearl - a firm favourite - should be ready after ten weeks of cold storage for a further three weeks gradual acclimatisation to bring into flower. Based upon that, the ideal; time for planting the Hyacinth Bulbs would be last week in September. At the shorter end of the scale, the blue Hyacinthus 'Ostara', will only need eight weeks of cold storage, before bringing out of the cold conditions for a further three weeks. This suggests a planting time of the second week in October.
All timings are dependent upon the temperatures of both storage and flowering regimes. Do NOT start to bring your Hyacinths into bloom -after the cold period - in conditions that are too warm - such as a central heated room. Please read the general hints for growing bulbs indoors for prepared and non prepared Hyacinths.
The flowered bulbs can be planted in the garden after the worst of the winter has passed, and should then flower normally for the following year. Do not try to use these bulbs a second year for forcing indoors.