By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Hyacinths are the harbinger of warm weather and the herald of a season of bounty. Bud problems with hyacinth are rare but occasionally these spring bulbs fail to bloom. Various insects and animals find buds a tasty addition to their early spring diet while improper chilling could cause hyacinth flower problems. If you are sure you picked good bulbs and they are situated properly, get down on your hands and knees and find out the real reason your flowers have gone missing.
Spring bulbs need a period of at least 12 to 15 weeks of chilling. This helps bulbs break dormancy and sprout a vigorous root system. Hyacinths are normally planted in fall in order to allow nature to provide this chilling period. Alternately, you can purchase pre-chilled bulbs and plant in spring.
If your buds are forming but dropping before they have a chance to open, the cause may be in your soil. Improperly drained soil is a death knell for most bulbs. It promotes rot which can stop growth in its tracks.
Another potential cause is poor soil nutrition. Always incorporate a good bulb food at planting to give your bulbs the best chance at sprouting and blooming.
In addition, over time, bulbs naturalize and form bulblets which grow into full bulbs within a couple of years. The old bulbs will stop forming flowers, but never fear, the bulblets will soon be performing and a new crop of flowers will form.
Tender shoots are irresistible food for animals that have survived the lean winter months. Outdoor hyacinth plants are prey to:
A very common condition where flower bulbs simply disappear is caused by cutworms. Cutworms don’t often bother flower bulbs but, on occasion, they will come in the night and simply snip and chomp away a tender bud.
More likely causes for sudden bud problems with hyacinth are animals. Deer and other grazers eat tender shoots like candy and the forming bud is especially delicious. Usually the animal will take the entire plant, greens and all, but sometimes it is just the flower. Although animal pests can take a serious chunk out of your bulb patch, they do no lasting harm to the bulb itself unless you are plagued by digging rodents. Use repellents or cover the bulb patch with chicken wire or a row cover to prevent hyacinths from becoming a midnight snack.
Hyacinth bud drop is a rare problem. Hyacinths are hardy bulbs with few pest or disease issues. Hyacinth blooms dropping off at the end of the season signal the time for the foliage to gather energy and recharge the bulb. Blooms only last a few weeks and then fade and die, raining the tiny florets to the ground as they go.
In order to ensure a future crop of blooms, it is a good idea to divide a patch every 2 to 3 years. Allow the foliage to persist until it starts to yellow and then dig up the bulbs. Remove any with rot or disease and pick out the largest bulbs. Replant these in well worked soil that has been amended with organic supplements. This will allow the largest, healthiest bulbs to thrive without the sapping effect of an overcrowded patch.
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While the hyacinth is generally a low-maintenance garden flower, errors made in planting, after flowering or while watering can lead to unsatisfactory blooming. Some mistakes can even lead to the development of disease. Here is a short list of mistakes to avoid while growing hyacinths in your garden.
Plant hyacinth bulbs at a depth of 6 to 8 inches. The roots need to reach down for water, and the stem needs buttressing at its base to support the abundant florets of each hyacinth flower. Planting at this depth also helps the hyacinth avoid surface soil pests such as nematodes that can attack the bulb and kill it.
An annual dose of organic compost provides all the fertilization that hyacinths need. Feeding with fertilizer after flowering will result in dramatic leaf growth at the expense of new blossoms. Deadhead hyacinths only after blooming to encourage more flower development.
Avoid overwatering: it is the single most costly error in caring for hyacinths. This plant is subject to a number of mold-based diseases, most of which happen due to damp soil with inadequate drainage. These include yellow rot, root rot and gray mold. If your hyacinths develop any of these diseases, you must dig them up and destroy them.
However, be sure to water the hyacinth during extended dry periods of over 2 weeks with less than 5 mm. (1/5-inch) of rainfall. Allow the soil to dry down to a depth of 2 inches between waterings.
Allow the leaves to continue growing after flowering, so they can produce the food that supports the next season's growth from the bulb. The main bulb will start to wither and will produce few offsets if leaves are trimmedin midsummer. You can cut back the flower stems, but leaves must die back slowly. Plant some annuals or ornamental grass in front of the hyacinths to hide this foliage as it turns brown.
Perennial hyacinths need the cold conditions of winter to achieve dormancy. The bulbs consolidate the storage of nutrients during that time so that they can revive and grow again in the warmer soil and air in the spring. If bulbs are moved into warm conditions for winter, the primary bulbs and offsets will wither and fail to form roots when transplanted outdoors again.
To ensure blooms the following spring, plant hyacinths no later than early October. The hyacinth bulbs need a 15 to 16-week period of cold conditions near or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure successful root development for blooming in April to May.
Avoid these mistakes in planting, feeding, watering and trimming to help your hyacinths bloom fully in your garden for up to 5 years. Healthy hyacinths will resist disease and insects more successfully than those weakened by improper care.
Hyacinth is a hardy perennial that spreads by sprouting smaller bulbs off its main bulb. You can transplant outside once the bulbs are established, after about 3 years of growth. Follow these steps to ensure the minimum of shock and maximum of bloom in summer for your transplanted hyacinths.
You can transplant hyacinths in the fall, but it is easier to find the bulb clumps in the late spring once the flowers have bloomed and dropped off.
Use a garden trowel or spade to dig vertically into the ground a few inches away from the main stem. Push the trowel or spade down 6 inches to avoid cutting the bulb clump or root system. Gently lean down on the handle of the trowel or spade to lever the bulb clump up to the surface. The bulb should be at the center of a clump, with several small offsets attached.
Divide up the bulb clump, and carefully extract the largest offsets. Some of these will have their own small bulbs attached. These are the best candidates for transplanting.
Dig a hole for a mass planting about 6 inches deep. Make the hole about 15 inches in diameter. Add bulb fertilizer and cover it with garden soil.
Choose 3 of the bulb offsets and plant them at the bottom of the hole, 4 to 5 inches apart. Press the dirt down firmly for support. Water until soil is soaked, providing more water for the next 3 days till roots are settled. If you have sufficient space, plant more groups of hyacinths in the same manner.
Your transplanted hyacinths will need a period of cold weather in which to lie dormant before they will bloom again. Leave them alone after transplanting and monitor their growth next spring.
Water sparingly, but provide more in the dry period of late summer. Deadhead the blooms grown from bulbs to retain nourishment. If you have purchased self-sowing hyacinths, leave the flowers on till they drop off of their own accord.
Guard your hyacinth bulbs from digging pests and rodents by fencing them off. Alternatively, if rodents are chewing on the bulbs, dig them up again carefully and install hardware cloth (a stiff fabric with wire mesh embedded in it) to create a barrier that will safeguard the roots.
In cases where the growth is weak or slow, check for symptoms of insect or disease infestation. Destroy diseased bulbs and dig out old soil. Then add fresh topsoil with some sand and fertilize. Guard against overwatering as well, as this will encourage the growth of fungus.
Hyacinth bulbs are hardy in winter down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, so there is no need to cover them or bring them in for the winter.
Will hyacinth plants thrive in Zone 7?
Yes, you can grow these plants in Zone 7 and they should be fine. However, you should keep in mind that in Zone 7, you may have trouble getting them to chill over the winter. They need at least 7-8 weeks of temps below 45 to bloom the following year. These articles will help:
Should I plant a Hyacinth bulb that has sprouted prematurely? Found a hyacinth bulb in a box starting to sprout with small root. Should I keep the bulb in the refrigerator for a few week (now late March and already summer temperatures) or put in water or plant it now? Know nothing about hyacinths except knew they could be kept in water (roots). Think I am in zone 9a or b, not sure.
You should plant the bulb ASAP if it has sprouted prematurely.