Hyacinths are a beautiful and easily recognizable flower characterized by their impressive blooms in a broad range of colors, including traditional purple and blue. Like many other flowers, the hyacinth grows from bulbs that are traditionally planted in the ground. Unlike other plants, however, the hyacinth thrives when exposed to cooler temperatures and insane amounts of moisture, allowing for the possibility of flowering in water.
When a hyacinth is flowered in water, the blooms grow rapidly and have brighter healthier colors. The plants can then also be grown whenever the gardener desires without having to wait for the external temperatures to change to suit traditional growing patterns. The downside is what can be done with the hyacinth bulbs after the period of growth has ended.
What to Do with The Hyacinth Bulbs
Unfortunately, gardeners do not have many options once they choose to flower their hyacinth bulbs in water. The process can generate beautiful blooms, but also saps the bulbs of energy and nutrients, resulting in flowers that can no longer grow. For many, the only option available is to throw away the bulbs once the flowering in water is finished, as they will not bloom again no matter how much you fertilize.
If you are adamant about attempting to force another season of flowers, move the bulbs to cold storage at a temperature between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-16 weeks. You can then repeat the flowering process. Sometimes the bulbs will grow new blooms, but they will not be vibrant and are likely to die early. Gardeners and horticulturists have not yet invented a way to preserve the bulbs any further.
What Is Flowering in Water?
Many people have heard of the practice of flowering hyacinth bulbs in water, also called forcing. During this process, pre-chilled bulbs are suspended in bulb vases, also called forcing jars. These forcing jars have an opening at the top, a thin neck, and then a wide base to be filled with water. The hyacinth bulb sits in the top section where it receives only a little bit of water. The roots then dangle into the rest of the jar and are submerged in water.
The hyacinth is left in a cool, dark place until the flower starts to bloom. Once the flowers emerged, gardeners are encouraged to transfer the jar to a location where the temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This new location allows for faster growth. Once the blooms grow some more, the hyacinth can be transferred to another space, this time one that gets up to 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit with plenty of sunlight.
When flowered in water, hyacinth blooms will typically last for four weeks before they begin to wilt. Once the flower dies, the bulb has been depleted of its hydration and its resources and is unlikely to survive another planting.
The Growing Method to Preserve Bulbs
Individuals who want to grow hyacinth bulbs with a method that will preserve the original bulb should eschew the water version and instead plant their flowers in pots with regular soil. Gardeners should still keep the bulbs cool until they sprout, and the hyacinths can then be moved to a warmer environment. However, the bulb will be surrounded by several inches of nutritious soil and will be watered on a regular basis, allowing the bulb to replenish its nutrients and survive storage.
Anyone who plants hyacinths in regular soil should choose a brand that is of average strength and density, meaning it has the nutrients of a temperate zone and allows for some water drainage during planting. Hyacinths do not need to be planted deeply and can survive with around 4-5 in. of soil. Just make sure the bulb is covered but not smothered by the surrounding dirt. When possible, choose a terracotta pot and plant accordingly.
How to Store Used Hyacinth Bulbs
Once they grow in ideal conditions and not forced, the hyacinth bulbs can be stored until the next season. It’s important not to remove the bulbs from the soil until they are ready, though, as taking them too early can leave them sapped of nutrients and unable to bloom for another year.
After the blooms have started to fade and die for the year, cut them away. Leave the leaves behind, as these are essential for storing moisture and nutrients. Continue to water the bulb as usual and wait for the leaves to start to brown. This step can occur after several days or even several weeks. Once browning begins, reduce your watering by half. Once the leaves are completely deceased, stop watering and wait for the soil to dry.
After the soil dries, it’s time to remove the bulbs. The next step will be curing. There is little a gardener has to do besides clean off dead foliage and growth from the hyacinth bulbs and let them rest in a newspaper for three days in a cool, dark place. After three days, transfer the bulbs to a comfortable mesh bag and keep them in the same cool and dark location.
The hyacinth bulbs are now ready to bloom for another year. They can either be grown in the traditional style in soil or can be forced. Just remember that forced bulbs will be unlikely to bloom again.
Hyacinth bulbs can be preserved, but only when grown in the proper conditions. Because flowering in water, also called forcing, removes nutritious soil from the growing occasion, hyacinths grown using this method often leave bulbs that cannot be cured or saved. These bulbs should instead be thrown away, and the gardener will need to buy new ones.
Anyone who does want to preserve hyacinth bulbs from one season to the next should instead follow the traditional growing method. While this means there may be some limitations on the ideal growing situation, and the flowers might take longer to bloom, the plant will be healthier overall and will survive for another season.