WHAT IS A HYACINTH?
Hyacinths are a bulb plant that lives for three to four years, and flowers during the South African Winter and Autumn. As they are originally a European plant, which flowers in the reverse seasons of the European Summer and Spring, hyacinths can sometimes be a difficult plant to grow at home. It is a bright, beautiful plant that comes in a variety of different colours (blue, white and pink), and is most known for its enchanting scent. Hyacinths do well as both potted plants and when left to grow freely in the garden.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE HYACINTH?
Dutch bulb-flower farmers have bred this plant since the beginning of the 17th century. According to Greek legend, the hyacinth received its name from a Greek god competing for a mortal’s attention. Long ago, there was a beautiful Spartan prince named Hyakinthos. Hyakinthos was the lover of the sun god, Apollo. However, due to his beauty, Hyakinthos had also caught the eye of Zephyr, the god of the western wind. Hyakinthos only had eyes for Apollo, and one day Apollo decided to teach Hyakinthos the art of quoit (a discus-like sport). Zephyr, seeing this, flew into a jealous rage and used the wind to hurl the discus back at Hyakinthos. The discus killed Hyakinthos by striking him in the head. Apollo wept profoundly, and after trying to save him with a variety of magics and medicines, Apollo created a beautiful flower from the pool of Hyakinthos’s blood on the floor. Apollo named this flower ‘hyacinth’ after his lost love. Subsequently, the hyacinth has become symbolic for play or sport in the language of flowers and represents constancy – while blue hyacinths express sympathy. It’s easy to imagine the flower which Apollo grew was a fragrant, pink hyacinth.
- Hyacinths are perennial blubs – they only flower for one season a year.
- They are normally planted outdoors but are an easy flower to force in a pot, and can be forced to flower out of season.
- They are a popular snack for small rodents. Consider interplanting them with daffodils as a rodent-deterrent.
- Hyacinths also contain oxalic acid and exhibit a level of toxicity. Therefore, ensure you are wearing gardening gloves when handling them to prevent itchy skin. Keep out of reach of small children and monitor if they are ingested by an animal or child.
CARING FOR HYACINTH:
- The soil should be well-drained, and moderately fertile.
- After the Hyacinth has flowered, cut back the flower stalks to conserve energy for the following year but not the foliage!
- Let the leaves die back naturally, at which point they can be removed. The leaves are what gather energy for the plant.
- If summer and spring are particularly dry, consider watering the hyacinth occasionally – but do not overwater as it will rot!
- If it is in a container or are receiving excessive moisture, cover or move the plant to a sheltered area.
- They can also be brought back inside after the foliage has died back to store in a cool, dark and dry place until the following year.
PLANTING AND REPLANTING:
- Hyacinths require consistent ground temperatures of below 16°C to bloom.
- Hyacinths prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil pH, use organic matter sparingly.
- Hyacinths do best in full sun to partial shade.
- If you are growing your hyacinth outdoors, plant it a few months before its flowering season.
- Plant these bulbs pointed-end up, around 17cm to 20cm deep, with 12cm to 15cm space between each plant.
- Before planting, ensure the ground has been loosened and incorporated fertiliser or bone meal within.
- If you are transplanting the bulb, water sparingly, and do not water again until the bulb flowers the following year.
- If you are forcing your hyacinth indoors for early growth, keep in a dark place for ten weeks, with a temperature no higher than 7°C to allow the roots to develop. When the shoots are 2,5cm tall, increase the light and temperature gradually.
- After flowering, the forced hyacinth can be transplanted to the garden too as it will flower in the following years.
- Please note: Over-water your hyacinth and it will develop rot and die.