Fragrant hyacinths for spring

Hyacinths are extremely fragrant spring-flowering bulbs, and along with tulips and daffodils, they belong to the big three of Dutch-produced bulbs.

In Holland, the cultivation of this flower bulb goes back more than 400 years. All modern cultivated varieties come from the species Hyacinthus orientalis.

It is quite an art for professional growers to produce the fat bulbs that bear the heavy, dense clusters of flower spikes that we’re used to seeing. But growing them in the garden, or forcing them indoors, is easy.

Bulb planting and care tips


Development of a hyacinth flower bulb
Photo: Netherlands Flowerbulb Information Centre

Newly-planted, these bulbs will start out as big, heavy flowers, but in subsequent years the flower stems get longer and flower clusters become looser.

Many gardeners – I’m one – prefer the more natural appearance of established flowers to the pumped-up look they have in the first year.

These bulb plants bloom in the early to mid-spring, and like all spring bulbs, need to be planted in fall. Choose a well-drained spot that’s sunny if you want them to come back year after year.

If you’re treating them as annuals – pulling them out after flowering – try them in the shade too, where their flowers will last longer than in sun.

For garden planting, avoid buying the fattest bulbs. These produce top heavy flower stalks, which often fall over, and are best suited for indoor forcing.

Depth and spacing

Plant bulbs about 8 inches (20 cm) deep and space them about 6 inches (15 cm) apart.


Bright pink Hyacinth ‘Anne Marie’
Photo: ©

While the rivers of hyacinth planted at the famed Keukenhof Garden in Lisse, Holland, are impressive, the best way to use these bulbs in your flower garden is to plant them in groups of 3 to 5 bulbs of one cultivar.

If you’re growing them as annuals, you can also try larger groups or beds of solid or complementary colors.

As with all bulbs that you want to keep as perennials, let the leaves grow after flowering until they turn yellow, but don’t worry about doing this if you’re going the pull them out.

You can also try growing these bulbs for indoor enjoyment in the winter. Here’s how to force them into bloom.

Popular cultivars and colors


Pure white Hyacinth ‘Carnegie’

White: ‘Carnegie’ – pure white, ‘L’Innocence’ – pure white, ‘White Pearl’ – pure white

Blue: ‘Atlantic’ – blue, ‘Blue Jacket’ – deep blue, ‘Delft Blue’ – blue, ‘Ostara’ – deep violet-blue

Mauve-violet: ‘Amethyst’ – lilac-blue, ‘Anna Liza’ – violet-blue, Splendid Cornelia’ – violet-blue

Red: ‘Amsterdam’ – deep carmine red, ‘Hollyhock’ – deep red double flowers, ‘Jan Bos’ – carmine red

Pink: ‘Anna Marie’ – bright pink, ‘Fondant’ – pink, ‘Lady Derby’ – salmon pink, ‘Marconi’ – deep pink, ‘Pink Pearl’- brilliant bright pink

Yellow, Orange: ‘City of Haarlem’ – bright yellow, ‘Gypsy Queen’- salmon orange