Hyacinthus orientalis, the common hyacinth, garden hyacinth or Dutch hyacinth, is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloidiae, native to southwestern Asia, southern and central Turkey, northwestern Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel. It was introduced to Europe in the 16th century. It is widely cultivated everywhere in the temperate world for its strongly fragrant flowers which appear exceptionally early in the season, and frequently forced to flower at Christmas time.
It is a bulbous plant, with a 3–7 cm diameter bulb. The leaves are strap-shaped, 15–35 cm long and 1–3 cm broad, with a soft, succulent texture, and produced in a basal whorl. The flowering stem is a raceme, which grows to 20–35 cm (rarely to 45 cm) tall, bearing 2–50 fragrant purple flowers 2–3.5 cm long with a tubular, six-lobed perianth.
In Greek mythology, Hyakinthos was a young man admired by Apollo and Zephyr, but killed by a discus in a jealous fight between the two gods; a flower was allegedly named after him when it sprang from his blood. However, Theophrastus describes both a cultivated and a wild plant called ὑάκινθος (hyakinthos), neither of which are considered to be the modern hyacinth.
The reproduction of the plant in cultivation can be done easily by dividing the newly appeared bulbs from the main plant. In nature, this method is also used by the hyacinth but the plant also has a specific kind of reproduction by seeds.
The plant is pollinated by different insects such as honey bees. The flowers are very fragrant and attract the insects by rewarding them with nectar.
After flowering the ripening of the seed capsules begins. They are fleshy, spherical structures. When the capsules reach maturity, they get dried and split into three parts. Each part has two subdivisions and contains a different quantity of seeds. The seeds are black grains with one white elaiosome of variable size. The seeds are dispersed through myrmecochory; that is, ants find the seeds and take them into their burrows where they use the elaiosome for food. There the seeds can germinate.
H. orientalis has a long history of cultivation as an ornamental plant, grown across the Mediterranean region, and later France (where it is used in perfumery), the Netherlands (a major centre of cultivation) and elsewhere.
It flowers in the early spring, growing best in full sun to part shade in well-drained, but not dry, soil. It requires a winter dormancy period, and will only persist in cold-weather regions. It is grown for the clusters of strongly fragrant, brightly coloured flowers. Over 2,000 cultivars have been selected and named, with flower colour in shades of blue, white, pale yellow, pink, red or purple; most cultivars have also been selected for denser flower spikes than the wild type, bearing 40–100 or more flowers on each spike.
- 'Aida' (deep blue)
- 'Anna Marie' (pink)
- 'Blue Festival' (pale blue)
- 'Blue Jacket' (blue)
- 'Chicago' (violet blue)
- 'City of Haarlem' (cream)
- 'Delft Blue' (blue)
- 'Fairly' (white)
- 'Gipsy Queen' (salmon pink)
- 'Jan Bos' (deep pink)
- 'L'Innocence' (white)
- 'Miss Saigon' (deep pink)
- 'Ostara' (blue)
- 'Paul Hermann' mauve-pink
- 'Royal Navy' (dark blue)
- 'Yellow Queen' (cream yellow)
Hyacinths are among the most popular bulbs selected for the process known as forcing, whereby plants are induced to flower earlier than their natural season (in this case, Christmas). It involves depriving bulbs of light and warmth for a period of several weeks, before growing them on in a bright, cool place such as a kitchen windowsill. It is possible to grow the bulbs in a narrow-necked vase of water, thus being able to view the root growth. Alternatively, bulbs can be purchased pre-forced.
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species".
- Brickell, Christopher, ed. (2008). The Royal Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 552. ISBN 9781405332965.
- Raven, J.E. (2000), Plants and Plant Lore in Ancient Greece, Oxford: Leopard Head Press, ISBN 978-0-904920-40-6, pp. 26–27
- "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 50. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Aida'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Anna Marie'". Retrieved 25 August 2020.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Blue Festival'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Blue Jacket'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Chicago'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Hyacinthus orientalis 'City of Haarlem'". Retrieved 25 August 2020.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Delft Blue'". Retrieved 25 August 2020.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Fairly'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Gipsy Queen'". Retrieved 28 August 2020.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Jan Bos'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Hyacinthus orientalis 'L'Innocence'". Retrieved 28 August 2020.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Miss Saigon'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Ostara'". Retrieved 28 August 2020.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Paul Hermann'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Royal Navy'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Hyacinthus orientalis 'Yellow Queen'". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
- "Bulbs for Christmas flowering". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
- "Forcing spring bulbs". Greenshare factsheets. University of Rhode Island Landscape horticulture program. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2013.