One of the joys of hyacinth bulbs is the vast range of brightly coloured, fragrant flowers that lift our spirits after a long, dark winter. Some hyacinth bulbs are labelled as “prepared”, which means that they have been exposed to hot and cold temperatures, bringing them into flower more quickly and enabling us to manipulate them into producing cheery blooms at Christmas time. For blooms at Christmas, it is best to start hyacinths off by the first week of October at the latest.
A shallow terracotta bowl works well for hyacinths as they don’t need much depth. Place a few pieces of broken terracotta over the drainage holes to allow excess water to drain away, avoiding the holes blocking up with compost. A multipurpose peat-free compost will work well, and adding a handful of perlite will give an open and air-filled mixture. Half-fill the container with compost and water the compost enough to allow a little water to be squeezed out in the palm of your hand (but not too much – a mud pie will cause rotting later on).
Gently position your prepared hyacinths on the surface of the half-filled pot. Try not to push the bulbs into the compost as this may compromise the roots pushing downwards into the pot as they develop. Fill compost in and around the group of bulbs, burying the bottom halves and leaving the top halves exposed. Place the pot in a cool and dark place like a garage or shed; ideally, the bulbs should be exposed to temperatures of around 10 degrees Celsius to replicate the dark and cold winter which will induce root development.
From any time after six or seven weeks, we should start to see the bulbs shooting with little green domes at the tops. When the shoots are around five centimetres long, bring your pot of bulbs onto a bright windowsill or into a greenhouse. Keep the compost moist but not over wet and remember that this is supposed to be a bit of fun and not an exact science.
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