Planting Hyacinths: What You Need to Know

Bring on spring by planting hyacinths.

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If there was a group for hyacinth addiction, I’d be a lifetime member. I can’t resist the pots of forced hyacinths that appear at the grocery store in the midst of winter. When I detect a whiff of that intense fragrance, I literally stop and smell the hyacinths. It’s the perfect remedy for spring fever.

Pink, White and Purple Dutch Hyacinth

Etouffe Blend Dutch Hyacinths

Dutch hyacinths fill spring scenes with fragrance.

Photo by: ColorBlends FlowerBulbs at

ColorBlends FlowerBulbs at

A single potted hyacinth can scent a small home, and it only takes two—one on each floor—to perfume a larger home. When you can grab 4-inch pots of these bulb bloomers for $2.99, that’s a flower bargain worth snapping up. Learn a few tips to make the most of these spring harbingers.

Choose the Right Plant

Hyacinthus Orientalis Forced Hyacinth Bulbs In Pot

Pink Dutch Hyacinth

Forced pink Dutch hyacinth bulbs burst into flower and make a perfect pre-spring planting indoors or out.

Photo by: Wouter Koppen for

Wouter Koppen for

Hyacinths open flowers from the bottom of the spike to the top. Each of those individual blossoms releases fragrance. To get the longest-lasting, sweetest-smelling flower display, select a plant with flower buds that are mostly closed. If you don’t care what color the flowers will be, grab the plant with the tightest flower buds. If you want a specific flower color, choose the plant with the tightest buds that show a hint of color. Don’t go by pot labels—they can get mixed up. This pot (above) is at an ideal stage for purchase, providing immediate fragrance from the open blooms and a promise of perfume to come from the budded flowers.

Dress ‘Em Up

Forced Bulbs Hyacinthus Orientalis ‘Blue Pearl’

Blue Pearl Dutch Hyacinth

Forced ‘Blue Pearl’ Dutch hyacinth bulbs create a pretty contrast when dropped into pink pots and batter bowl.

Photo by: Wouter Koppen for

Wouter Koppen for

As soon as you get the hyacinths home, slip them out of the plastic sleeve around the pot and into an eye-catching cachepot. Ideally, you should have a saucer beneath your pot or be able to drain the water easily from the cachepot.

The best place to display a potted hyacinth is near a bright window in a cooler room (temps in the mid- to upper 60s). If your home’s daytime temps hover higher than that, try to stash the plant in a cooler spot overnight—a non-freezing attached garage, unused bedroom with the heat off or cool basement. Cool air helps the flower show to last longer.

Drop the Pot

Forced Bulbs Hyacinthus Orientalis

Forced Dutch Hyacinth Bulbs In A Vase

Forced Dutch hyacinth bulbs fill a vase with spring beauty. Hyacinths include ‘Blue Pearl,’ ‘White Pearl’ and ‘Purple Sensation.’

Photo by: Jeannine Govaers for

Jeannine Govaers for

For a creative and unusual bouquet, slide hyacinths out of their pots and showcase bulbs and roots. A deep, clear vase supports the top-heavy blooms, which often need a stake and string as flowers open. To water, moisten soil carefully without creating a standing puddle in the vase.

Plant Outdoors

Spring Container Garden With Forced Hyacinths And Pansies

Dutch Hyacinths With Pansy

Plant forced Dutch hyacinth bulbs into an outdoor container garden for a long flower show. Add pansies in a matching hue.

Photo by: Wouter Koppen for

Wouter Koppen for

Another option for pre-spring hyacinth bulbs is to shift the plants from their pots into outdoor containers. The plants need to be acclimated to outdoor temperatures and sun, so place them outside for a few hours each day prior to planting, gradually increasing the time each day. Hyacinths tucked into outdoor pots tend to present a longer display than their indoor counterparts. Avoid planting hyacinth plants outside if temperatures are dipping into the 20s at night. They’ll do best if overnight temps hover in the upper 30s or higher.

Buy Pre-Chilled Bulbs

Forced Chilled Spring Bulbs

Pre-Chilled Spring Bulbs

Pre-chilled spring flowering bulbs can come loose and ready for planting. Good bulbs for forcing include tulip, hyacinth, allium and crocus.

Photo by: Steven Bemelman for

Steven Bemelman for

Another option for planting hyacinths prior to spring’s official debut is to buy pre-chilled bulbs. These hyacinth bulbs have already been chilled by suppliers, receiving the necessary 11 to 14 weeks of chilling to force them to flower. Search for pre-chilled bulbs online to find these ready-to-grow beauties. You can also find pre-chilled bulbs of other spring flowers, including tulips, crocus, daffodils and grape hyacinths. 

Forced Bulbs Hyacinthus Orientalis In Jars

Dutch Hyacinths In Forcing Jars

Forced Dutch hyacinth bulbs burst into bloom on a windowsill. Forcing jars showcase roots and blooms.

Photo by: Wouter Koppen for

Wouter Koppen for

When you start with pre-chilled bulbs, explore display options that let the bulbs shine. A traditional way to grow pre-chilled bulbs is in forcing jars. These curvy jars support hyacinth bulbs as they sprout roots, leaves and flowers. To find forcing jars, check with florist shops or garden centers, or search online. Keep the jars filled with water to just below the base of the bulb.

Hyacinthus Orientalis Hyacinth Bulb Centerpiece

Dutch Hyacinth Wrapped In Yarn

Create a spring centerpiece by wrapping forced Dutch hyacinth bulbs in chunky yarn.

Photo by: Wouter Koppen for

Wouter Koppen for

Consider other bare-bulb display ideas, like wrapping bulbs in chunky yarn, setting them in a deep glass bowl atop polished stones or perching them in a vase filled with sea glass. Of course, you can always plant bulbs into pots—indoors or out—water, and wait for the show to begin. It takes a pre-chilled hyacinth bulb two to three weeks to grow leaves and bloom—and release that intoxicating scent of spring.

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