HARDINESS: Zones 3 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Neutral to slightly acid
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Moist, organically rich
PREFERRED LIGHT: Partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Spikes of blue, pink, and white flowers; for beds, woodland gardens
SEASON OF INTEREST: Mid to late spring
FAVORITES: H. hispanica and cultivars 'Blue Danube', 'Rose Queen', 'Excelsior', 'Alba'
QUIRKS: Needs 8 weeks minimum winter chilling; bulbs settle into the soil over time
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Azalea, dogwood, ever-green groundcovers, ferns, hosta
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Shaded sites with organically rich soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Occasionally invasive if allowed to reseed
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives for decades; rarely needs rejuvenation; divide to increase stock
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Excellent
PLANTING DEPTH: 5 in (12.7 cm)
DIMENSIONS: 12-15 in (30.5-38 cm) tall, mature clumps 12-24 in (30.5-olcm) wide
Wood Hyacinth in the Landscape
An excellent choice for the woodland garden, 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 also lovely mingling with evergreen groundcovers, such as periwinkle (Vinca minor) or pachysandra. Or plant them at the bases of colorful spring-flowering shrubs, such as azalea and forsythia.
Often found in nursery catalogs under one of their older names, Scilla campanulata or Endymion hispanicus, wood hyacinths have been reclassified as Hyacinthoides hispanica.The new name is apt because of the plants' resemblance to true hyacinths. Although 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 in mixtures of blue, pink, and white. A few named varieties do exist. 'Danube' is a dark blue variety that is particularly abundant, 'Excelsior' is violet-blue with a dark blue stripe, 'Rose Queen' is sparkling pink, and 'Alba' is snowy white.
Growing Wood Hyacinth
Wood hyacinths are care-free bulbs that you can plant and forget. Handle them carefully before planting them in fall and plant them as soon as possible, because the bulbs dry out easily. Plant in small colonies of 10-25 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 mold, or rotted manure. Set bulbs 5 in (12.7 cm) deep and 4 in (10.2 cm) apart, and water them in as you fill the planting hole. Add a 4 in (10.2 cm) layer of
bark chips, evergreen boughs, straw, or other fluffy organic mulch to insulate the plantings. Each spring, clip off old flowers and let the leaves ripen through midsummer, when they turn yellow and die back. Pest and disease problems are rare.
Increasing the Bounty
Wood hyacinths produce seed and develop offsets. Scattered seedlings can be numerous, but you will see few if you cut off the flowers before they set seed. To increase your supply, dig, divide, and replant young bulbs in early summer, while the leaves are still green. Wood hyacinths pull themselves deeper into the ground over time, so be prepared to dig