Short Forced Hyacinths - Knowledgebase Question

East Chatham, NY
Avatar for psbues
Question by psbues
January 21, 1999
This year I am trying to force hyacinths. I bought pre-chilled bulbs and followed the directions for planting in water in clear forcing jars in dark, cool spaces until the foliage came up. I moved them to a cool north-facing window, and all have sent up blooms. The blossoms are fragrant but stunted - not more than 2 1/2 - 3 inches in height from the bulb. What did I do wrong?

Answer from NGA
January 21, 1999
Forcing bulbs is a bit of a gamble on timing and results, and pre-chilled bulbs can be a bit more of a gamble, especially since there may have been unknown temperature fluctuations beyond your control. Ideally, a controlled chill (for hyacinths) would run about 12 to 15 weeks. It would start in the mid to upper 40's until roots form, then cool to about 40 degrees until there is bit of growth. (This is the part most important for shoot development.) If the growth is too tall before 12 weeks elapse, then the bulb would be held very cold (nearly freezing) to slow it down until the minimum is satisfied. Next it is brought into the light but still kept "cool" (55 - 60 degrees) for two to four weeks to bloom. So, in a nutshell, it's hard to say if you did anything wrong or if something else happened during this somewhat amazing artificial process. At least they smell good!

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