The Colorful Hyacinth and Its Rich Backstory

A tricky flower to grow

By: THURSD. | 15-02-2021 | 3 min read
The wonderful scent of a flowering hyacinth is inseparable from spring. With its clusters of bright flowers that start blooming in early spring, they are pretty much a sign of all the magnificent things yet to come in your garden or home. No wonder that this beauty - which is more difficult to grow than you might think - remains a popular choice for many people.

Hyacinth Flower Facts

The hyacinth is a bulbous plant, and quite a large one. The bulb of the hyacinth is larger than that of a crocus or tulip. A few long, thick leaves with a rounded tip grow from the bulb. During flowering, a stem grows from the center, full of pink, purple, white, yellow, or red flowers. These flower buds are called nails and they can have up to 50 nails on one stem. Did you know that it's extremely difficult to tell from the bulb which color a hyacinth is going to be? Most growers solve this problem by giving the plastic container that holds the bulb the same color as the flowers. Hyacinths are originally a spring bloomer, making the world a bit more fragrant from March to May, but if you keep them indoors you can enjoy them all year round.

History of These Colorful Blooms

Hyacinth flowers have a rich history that is as colorful as their blooms. The hyacinth has a long history as an ornamental plant. The species was originally grown in the Mediterranean, and later in France. The Netherlands is now an important center of hyacinth cultivation. After the Dutch fell in love with the flower they started growing over 2,000 cultivars in the 18th century and became its chief commercial producer. The name “hyacinth” itself can be traced back to remote antiquity, a relict of a non-Greek language, sometimes called Thracopelasgian, spoken some 4,000 years ago. It is apparently connected with the blue color of water, indicating a reference to the true species, Hyacinthus orientalis, which possessed a blue flower, the plant later developing bud variations of white and pale mauve to deep mauve-purple.

Growing Hyacinth is Kind of Tricky.

After a growing season, new small bulbs will be found inside of the old flower bulb. These bulbs can be loosened and grown separately or between flower bulbs into new flowers. Hyacinths are propagated by hollowing or cutting, using knives. This is done manually or mechanically, whereby a light or latent contamination can be spread from bulb to bulb. The multiplication the of hyacinth, as with most bulbous and tuberous plants, is slow and labor-intensive. Breeders generally work over twenty years on a cultivar in order to get sufficient numbers that can be marketed.
The Colorful Hyacinth and Its Rich Backstory Growing Hyacinths The multiplication of the hyacinth. Image via Bloembollen Visie

The Meaning of Hyacinth Flowers

Every flower has its own special meaning, and the hyacinth is no exception. With its gorgeous appearance and intoxicating scent, you might assume that hyacinths are great flowers to give your beloved as a token of your affection, but no so fast! They can be known as a symbol of jealousy. However, hyacinths can also be used to symbolize sorrow or sincerity, making them a good choice in funeral arrangements. Ancient Victorians also considered the hyacinth to be a symbol of sporting activities, so they may be useful as a celebratory bouquet in that setting, too.

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