Hyacinth care - 'deadhead?' Water? Etc.

blue_ivy(5 IN)February 24, 2009


I feel a little like someone just handed me an infant, and I have no idea what to do for the thing!

My friend gave a some very beautiful potted hyacinths, bought at a grocery store and already blooming. I saw the recent post about whether to re-pot, but my questions are a little more basic.

I head someone say I should "deadhead" the spent blooms, but I don't know whether that means I should pick off the small individual blooms, or lop off each whole stem with multiple blooms once most of them are brown.

Also, if I deadhead the blooms, I won't get seed, right? I don't care about getting seed so much as having healthy hyacinths next year, but I am curious about them.

Also - I feel so clueless - I have no idea how much I need to be watering them! They are flowering, so do they need more water? How much now, and how much at other times when they are not blooming?

How long do blooms typically last? I feel like I must be doing something wrong because the blooms started fading pretty much as soon as I brought them home.

Thanks so much for humoring total newbie questions!!

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maidinmontana(Zone 5 Billings MT)

Hyacinth, like most bulbs have a cycle they go thru. They sleep (dormant, like a bear hibernates in the winter) then they "wake up", start growing roots, leaves and lastly a flower. When it has completed this cycle, it goes thru the same process only backwards. First the flower dies off, then the leaves/foliage starts to turn yellow and eventually dries out. This is due to the amount of energy the bulb has. It only does three things, roots, leaves then flower. When each process is complete, the bulb stores the energy for the next season. It is necessary to let the bulb go thru all the stages naturally. Let the flower die, as well as the foliage. This puts the energy back in the bulb so it can repeat the process next spring.

Once this happens you an cut it all back, to the soil level. Set it in a dark cold room with no water, food or light. This simulates winter if it were planted outside. The bulbs should not freeze, but need a cold spell to repeat the cycle. The one you recieved was most likely "forced" which means they encouraged it to start it's cycle in an unnatural way. In doing this it probably used too much force and the bulb will probably not go thru another cycle. When they do this artificaly, the bulb is "spendt". But you can buy bulbs in the fall and do the same thing if you want them in your house, if you want them outside plant in the fall and when they are ready they will come up, depending on your climate. Be sure to read on how deep to plant them as you don't want the bulb to freeze.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 10:51AM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Hyacinths prefer cooler conditions so being kept in a warm store and then a warm home will speed things along. If you have them out in the garden and get a spell of warm weather they will do just the same. They know they have to get done before the hot weather sets in, just as maidinmontana said.

For the deadheading bit - cut off the flower stalk when most of the flowers are brown. Leave the leaves to finish the cycle.

While the leaves are still green and actively growing (they feel firm and have good colour) you can feed the plant with a liquid fertiliser that has good potash - something suitable for indoor flowering plants.

When the leaves start to feel limp, change colour towards a more yellow tinge - ease back on the water. If your weather is kindly and the pot is of a decent size - put it outside to experience the changing spring weather. Keep an eye out for aphids - green or black. If you're not squeamish - squishing them is the fastest and safest way to deal with them on a single plant.

Once the leaves are yellowish or pale brown - they've finished and you can then put the pot into storage. Put a note on your calendar to either plant out or repot later in the year. If the pot was mean - make it bigger.

It is seldom that bulbs make the same 'packed stem' display after their year of glory. However, they will send up good stalks, have daughter bulbs, and scent the garden deliciously if you do decide to 'liberate' them.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 7:17PM
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