Hyacinths are spring-flowering bulbs with long, narrow leaves that are folded lengthwise. Hyacinths are highly fragrant flowers that bloom in dense clusters.
Hyacinth is the common name for approximately 30 perennial flowering plants of the genus Hyacinthus (order Liliales, family Liliaceae) of the Mediterranean region and Africa.
The common Hyacinth (Hyacinthus Orientalis), whose flowers open fully and look like little starfishes, should not be confused with the common grape Hyacinth flowers (Muscari Botryoides).
The common grape Hyacinth bears tight blooms in a raceme resembling clusters of grapes. Both are spring-blooming bulb plants.
The common garden Hyacinth, Hyacinth Orientalis, originated in Anatolia and was brought to Europe in the 16th century. The Hyacinth bulb produces a dense, compact spike of flowers, 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) tall.
Hyacinths are highly fragrant, bell-shaped flowers with reflexed petals. The waxy, densely-packed florets come in shades of white, peach, orange, salmon, yellow, pink, red, purple, lavender and blue.
The 7-8 leaves of the hyacinth are fleshy, glossy green and strap shaped. The Hyacinth bulb is a light purple or cream in color and are covered with dry, papery, skin-like layers.
Facts About Hyacinths
An ancient Greek legend describes the origin of the Hyacinth. Two of the gods, Apollo and Zephyr, adored a handsome young Greek called Hyakinthos. Apollo was teaching Hyakinthos the art of throwing a discus.
Zephyr, who was the god of the west wind, was overwhelmed with jealousy and he blew the discus back. It struck Hyakinthos on the head and killed him. From his blood grew a flower, which the sun god Apollo named after him.
- The word 'Hyacinth' has also surfaced in an ancient language (called 'Thracopelasgian') which was spoken 4,000 years ago.
- The wild Hyacinth is a native of Turkey and the Middle East, along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Hyacinths were grown in Europe in the time of the Greeks and Romans. Both Homer and Virgil noted its sweet fragrance.
- After this, the Hyacinth faded from history and did not reappear until the 16th century when it was reintroduced into Western Europe from Turkey and Iran. Leonhardt Rauwolf, (a German doctor) collected some Hyacinths when he visited Turkey in 1573.
- Hyacinths have been cultivated commercially since the second half of the 16th century. They became very popular in 18th and early 19th century Europe.
- The bulbs are now grown commercially in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In the Netherlands Hyacinths are also grown as cut flowers.
- The common garden Hyacinth is cultivated to a minor extent in the Netherlands for the perfumery trade. However, most Hyacinth perfumes sold are synthetic, based primarily upon phenylacetaldehyde. Hence, the Hyacinth is also called the Dutch Hyacinth.
- The normal bloom time for Hyacinths is from March to April.
- In the Victorian language of flowers, the Hyacinth flower symbolizes sport or play. The blue Hyacinth signifies sincerity.
Varieties of Hyacinths
- Single Hyacinths : The full heads on these classic hyacinths look good in the garden or when forced in pots. The Blue Giant is one of the largest singles which has sky blue flowers with dark blue veins.
- Double Hyacinths : Fluffy whorls of colorful flowers are arranged on 10-12 inch stems. Hollyhock is an outstanding variety that features dark pink blooms.
- Multiflora Hyacinths : Each bulb produces a number of flower stalks with loose arrangements of flowers. These are less formal than singles and doubles.
- Plant hyacinth bulbs in fall, 6 to 8 weeks before a hard frost is expected and when soils are below 60 degrees F.
- This is usually during September and October in the North, and October and November in the South.
- Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2 to 4-inch layer of compost.
- Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep.
- Set the bulb in the hole, pointy end up, then cover with soil and press firmly.
- Space bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart.
- Water thoroughly after planting.
After they bloom in spring, allow the plants to grow until the leaves die off. They need time after blooming to store energy in the bulbs for next year. To remove the dead plant, either snip them off at the base, or twist the leaves while pulling lightly.
Hyacinth Plant Care
- Keep Hyacinths watered during dry spells in fall.
- After the plants have finished flowering in spring, cut back flower stalks but allow the leaves to die back naturally, hiding the unsightly foliage with annual or perennial plantings.
- An annual application of compost should provide adequate nutrients.
- Flower size may decline in subsequent years, so some gardeners treat Hyacinths as annuals and plant fresh bulbs each fall.