Heavenly Hydroponic Hyacinth

There’s a sense of excitement that happens to most gardeners when the first frosty fingers of Autumn herald the time of hiding hidden treasures – and by that we mean, planting Bulbs!

However, what about those plant lovers who don’t have a garden? Or even a balcony, let alone ready access to a pot full of soil? Do you want to grow flowers, but don’t have anywhere to grow them? Well, listen up – we have the perfect solution for you. Yes, there is a way of growing certain bulbs without even getting your hands dirty.

Growing bulbs indoors in water – hydroponically – can be fascinating as you watch the development of roots, leaves, and flowers happening. Interestingly, growing your plants this way uses 90% less water than you’d use in the garden. Hydroponic gardening will give you faster and higher yields than soil gardening too. And you don’t have to have a degree in horticulture to make it happen. If you think this technique is only for experts, you’re mistaken. It’s so easy, even a child can do it – and why not get them in on the action too. It will give you the perfect excuse for not only quality time with them, but it’s a great opportunity to teach them about nature and flowers. Frankly, sometimes one can’t help but wonder how all of that plant infrastructure was crammed into such a small bulb!

The main question is – Which flowers are most suitable for Hydroponic gardening. Well, there are those in the Narcissus family amongst others, but the Hyacinth is the easiest to grow in a glass vase, kept indoors to flower into their fragrant beauty. Overseas, they suggest that people bring them indoors once they’ve flowered in the garden so they can enjoy the heavenly scent. And man, these curly flowers in sparkling spring colours do deliver on that.

Their short but intense vegetative phase makes them the ideal candidates for the simplest hydroponic methods. But do be patient! Forcing hyacinth bulbs to bloom indoors is simple; but it can take as long as 13 weeks for the bulbs to come into flower.

There are specially designed vases in the shape of an hourglass for this purpose, where the bulbs sit in the bulge just above the water level. Otherwise, if your budget doesn’t stretch to buying another vase, place marbles or pebbles in a large glass bowl and place the bulbs on the pebbles.

Then just follow these easy tips, and soon you’ll have your favourites bursting out in a riot of colour, turning that white (or gray) canvas into a masterpiece to match Monet’s Water-Lilies. In the Victorian language of flowers, Blue Hyacinths mean sincerity. And we sincerely hope you’ll not be sorry when you see Spring creep over your windowsill…

Fill the bowl with water to reach, but not come into contact with the plant, about 5mm below the bulbs. They should be able to just ‘smell’ the water. Place the bowl and bulbs in a place with bright light, but away from direct sunlight – and make sure it’s not near electric heaters or fires. And turn the vase or bowl every now and then so the plant does not lean toward the light.

If you’re looking to try ‘harvest’ the bulbs for next season, these are the things you’ll need to do to ensure best results. (Although, it must be said that many end up in the bokashi or on the compost heap, once they’ve been thanked tenderly for their efforts. Callous? No – simply practical. They may come back weaker or more feeble next year, so rather buy some more in. A steal at the price!)

Hyacinths are very quick at developing seeds. Avoid this by cutting the stalk as soon as the flowers wilt away. If you don’t, next year you will have less vigorous bloom.

The bulbs are quite delicate – do take care when handling them. When the bloom is over, cut the stem 1 – 1 ½ cm under the inflorescence to make sure that the plant diverts all its energy back into the bulb.

The bulbs need their leaves to gather energy for next year’s blooms. At the end of the spring season, the foliage will die back naturally, at which point it can be removed. So only once the stalk has gone dry, should you cut it all off. Don’t rip it off though!

By the way, as that the bloom of these charming flowers is fairly short, adding some organic blooming fertiliser will make them last longer.

 (Check *here* for bulb food perfectly formulated for just this)

If the water under the bulbs turns green and gives off a slight smell, add a specialised cut-flower food like Chrysal. This not only checks bacterial growth that makes the water unsightly, it also adds nutrients to the water, helping to ensure peak flowering. Alternatively, you can replace the water when necessary.