The simple facts about wood hyacinths

The simple facts about wood hyacinths

The ruggedness of this plant makes it an excellent choice for a woodland garden. Here are some facts and growing advice for this hardy plant.

The simple facts about wood hyacinths
The simple facts about wood hyacinths

The best features of the wood hyacinth

  • Wood hyacinths grow into robust clumps that bear loose spikes of blue, pink or white flowers in mid to late spring.
  • The bell-shaped flowers, also called Spanish bluebells, can be cut for bouquets, adding a touch of the woods to the scenery indoors.
  • Plant wood hyacinths beneath large trees in partial shade, and combine them with other shade-tolerant perennials, such as ferns, hostas and woodland phlox.
  • They are lovely mingling with evergreen ground covers, such as periwinkle (Vinca minor) or pachysandra.
  • Plant them at the base of colourful spring-flowering shrubs, such as azalea and forsythia.
  • Wood hyacinths have been reclassified as Hyacinthoides hispanic but can often be found in nursery catalogues under one of their older names, Scilla campanulat or Endymion hispanicu. The new name is apt because of the plants’ resemblance to true hyacinths.
  • Their fragrance is light compared with that of traditional garden hyacinths.
  • Wood hyacinths are much more vigorous and willing to persist and increase year after year.
  • Wood hyacinth bulbs are most often available with flowers in violet-blue or mixtures of blue, pink and white.
  • A few named varieties do exist: abundant ‘Danube’ is dark blue, ‘Excelsior’ is violet-blue with a dark blue stripe, ‘Rose Queen’ is sparkling pink and ‘Alba’ is snowy white.

Increasing the bounty

  • Wood hyacinths produce seed and develop side shoots, called offsets.
  • Scattered seedlings can be numerous; reduce them by removing faded flowers before they set seed.
  • Dig, divide and replant young bulbs in early summer, while the leaves are still green to increase your supply.
  • Wood hyacinths pull themselves deeper into the ground over time, so be prepared to dig.

Growing wood hyacinth

Wood hyacinths are care-free bulbs that you can plant and forget. Here’s how best to grow them:

  • Plant them in fall as soon as possible after buying them, because the bulbs dry out easily.
  • Plant in small colonies of 10 to 25 bulbs in a natural-looking drift.
  • Wood hyacinth bulbs have both flattened bases and tops. To tell which end is up, look for scales folded around each other; this indicates the top and should face up. It’s no disaster if you make a mistake; bulbs planted upside down will straighten themselves out and grow just fine.
  • Before planting, amend the soil with compost, leaf mould or rotted manure.
  • Set bulbs 12 centimetres (five inches) deep and 10 centimetres (four inches) apart, and water them in as you fill the planting hole.
  • Add a 10 centimetre (four inch) layer of bark chips, evergreen boughs, straw or other fluffy organic mulch to insulate the plantings.
  • Each spring, snip off old flowers and let the leaves ripen through midsummer, when they turn yellow and die back.
  • Pest and disease problems are rare.

The hardiness of wood hyacinths make it a very reliable plant to have in your garden. Follow these steps to ensure they grow healthy and beautiful.

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