I have been asked a number of times ‘why are my forced Hyacinths so behind?’. My first reply to that would be ‘Are you using prepared Hyacinth Bulbs?’ If you want to force them you must. The difference between a prepared and ordinary Hyacinth Bulb is that the prepared ones have been kept in really cold temperatures during the summer months to trick them into thinking it is spring when they come into the warm.
I start all mine off at the same time but stagger them coming into flower from Christmas day through the best part of January to lift my spirits on dull days with their dramatic colours and heavenly fragrance.
I am always moaning about drainage holes for plants but forced Hyacinths don’t need them. You can use lots of decorative bowls as seen in the picture as long as you don’t overwater them!
I like to use bulb fibre as it contains charcoal to keep the soil ‘sweet’. I pot them all up at the same time, in the first week of October, except those I use in bulb vases with water. 3/4 fill your container with the fibre, place as many bulbs as you can fit in each container without touching, don’t mix colours as they tend to bloom at slightly different times and put in more bulb fibre so only about a quarter of the bulb is showing proud from the soil. I give them a light watering I then place them in the darkest place I can find in a cold but frost free, outbuilding. You can put them in a dark place indoors but if you want them for Christmas, they may need to be started later if the room is warm.
By mid November, I check on them. The greenest and thickest looking I bring out from storage but not all at that stage, some I will leave and they will be fine, the cooler the weather becomes, the more their progress will be slowed which means I can stagger my blooming time of varieties. If the soil is very dry I will water lightly, add moss for a more attractive display and bring them in to the house. Bear in mind that the warmer and lighter the room, the earlier they will be in flower but if they are coming too fast, you can slow them down again by placing them in the cool. Only water them if the soil seems very dry.
When I use bulb vases, I don’t force them in the cool and dark at all, I just bring them straight in and put them in a bulb vase filled with water which I drain and change weekly to keep fresh, holding the bulb in place so the roots don’t find their way out. Because these are in the warm and I always place them in a sunny window, they don’t take very long at all to flower so by putting these in their vases towards the end of November, I can have them in flower for Christmas day, again if they are coming on too fast, slow them down by taking them somewhere cooler and darker.
After bulbs have finished blooming you can lift them and put them in a pot of compost to be planted out in the garden in the spring at 4 times depth of bulb. They won’t come early again in the garden the following year and they maybe single rather than double but they will still have that wonderful fragrance.
Hope this is helpful
Jane Edmonds 11 January 2017