Planting Hyacinths Outdoors

It is said by many gardeners that the hyacinth should be grown only indoors where its fragrance, its earliness and the long life of the blooms make it an ideal indoor flower – that outdoors it is too stiff, too formal for an interesting display. My own opinion is that, like the geranium, in its formality lies its charm for it is different in habit to almost all other spring-flowering bulbs. A bed of hyacinths massed together with a background of flowering cherries or against the silvery bark of the birch, or interplanted with aubretia or arabis, make a display of the utmost charm. Two-colour schemes are most attractive, using pink and blue, or purple and white hyacinths. Or the yellow-flowering variety, City of Haarlem, interplanted- with purple aubretia, Dr. Mules, is a sight of the utmost brilliance. Or plant the pure white variety, L’Innocence, amidst a bed of the pale pink arabis – or carpeted with aubretia, Russell’s Crimson it is outstanding.Planting Hyacinths Outdoors

Yet another lovely combination is to use a white hyacinth with a red Juliae primrose – Joan Schofield or Mrs. Frank Neave is suitable – or plant the delicately coloured Pink Pearl midst a bed of primrose, Romeo, which bears huge rich purple blooms. The rich crimson-red variety, Garibaldi, will give a startling display if carpeted with a pure white primrose, Craddock’s White or Juliae alba. Growing amidst a bed of primroses will also cut down the cost of such a display for even the 15 cm. Carpeting will reduce the required number to at least half. Beds of hyacinths are too expensive to plant at random, but small beds on either side of a porch where they can enjoy the late spring sunshine will be long lasting, bright and fragrant.

The hyacinth’s love of water is equally applicable to outside plantings and a sandy soil containing plenty of humus, rotted manure or peat, will prove suitable. A dry, clay soil containing no humus will rarely produce a large, well-proportioned and sturdy bloom. Chopped seaweed is also excellent for hyacinths and so is cow manure. Heavy feeding is not necessary, the important point is to supply the moisture-holding humus.

Mid-October seems to be the most suitable time for planting both bulbs and the carpeting plants. Plant the bulbs 3 in. deep, and should the soil be on the heavy side, place around the bulbs a sand and peat mixture. Planting distance will depend upon the carpeting plants. If no under-planting is being done, plant the bulbs 9 in apart. In the mixed border a few clumps of hyacinths will add colour and fragrance, and here they may be left in the ground year after year. If given a top dressing of peat and rotted manure in midsummer they will continue to produce a spike of reasonable size for a number of years.


With hyacinths being as expensive as they are, this is all important. Plants that have flowered outdoors should have the dead blooms removed immediately they have completed their flowering. This will be when the blooms begin to turn brown. If they are allowed to form seed, they will exhaust the bulbs. Do not remove the stems, only the flower heads, for the stems contain sap that is required to be put back in the bulbs.

When the leaves have turned a yellow colour then is the time to lift the bulbs. This will be some time in May to make way for the summer bedding plants. Select a dry day for lifting and leave the bulbs on the bed exposed to the air for several hours. Then remove as much dry soil as possible and place the bulbs in a dry, open shed for several weeks until correctly dried. The bulbs should be turned weekly as they are liable to sweat. If bulbs of 16 cm. Size have originally been used, they may be used again the following year and after that should be planted in a mixed border. It is more economical to purchase the large bulbs which will produce a first-class bloom for two years. Bulbs which have been forced and possibly subject to high temperatures should be allowed to die down after flowering and should then be knocked from the pots and allowed to dry out in the same way as those planted outside. They will be of little use for indoor planting again, nor will they give a bloom worthy of an outdoor display. They are best planted in a border the following October where they will produce spikes of indifferent sizes and shapes but will still be useful for cutting for the house.

Commercial growers on the Continent never replant again in the same beds for at least three years and in my own garden I have noticed that the bulbs do give a better display if planted in the same beds in alternate years rather than for several years together.


The children will obtain much enjoyment from growing indoor flowers in a narrow-necked glass bowl or jar and this method will clearly show the hyacinth’s great love for water. During October an 18-cm. Bulb is firmly placed into the neck of the glass container into which has been placed some rain-water. The bulb should be suspended just above the water-level, the base of the bulb should not be touching the water. This should be placed in a cellar or cupboard for a month and when taken out will be found to have formed a mass of roots extending down into the water. Admittance to the light and to a warm room should be gradual, but it should be given a position of full light in ten days’ time. The bulbs will come into bloom early in the new year and are extremely ornamental with the roots almost as attractive as the bloom.

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