I had hyacinths with great foliage this year but no buds or flowers. I'm not sure what happened. What can do differently next year so that I have flowers?
This is a common question folks have. I think a lot of the problems like this go back to understanding how bulbs normally operate in the wild.
Most of our spring flowering bulbs are native to the Eastern Mediterranean. They grow on rocky, gravelly hillsides where pretty much all of the rainfall comes during the winter months followed by a long dry, rainless summer.
Their growth cycle reflects the influence of that environment: They sprout, grow and bloom in spring with the rains and then die down and "hide" when the long, dry summer arrives.
Unfortunately, our garden beds don't operate like that. We're watering through the summer and fall to keep the rest of our flowers and shrubs happy. That can create problems with spring flowering bulbs since they're not totally happy with that constant moisture through the summer, especially with our heavy clay soils.
This unhappiness in the bulb manifests itself with the plant not blooming or even dying off.
There are a couple things to do to help fix or at least mitigate the problem. First, make double sure drainage around and below the bulb is adequate. Mixing ample amounts of decomposed organic matter into the soil around and to a depth of 12 inches below the bulb should do the trick.
The second thing is to take special care of the plant after it's done blooming, as that is a very important time for your bulbs. They're building themselves up for next year and forming the flower buds that you'll enjoy a year from now.
After the bulb is done blooming, you want to cut down the old spent flower stalks but be careful to leave the foliage alone. Cutting off the spent flowers not only neatens the plant, but it also prevents the plant from forming seed.
You don't want the plant wasting energy making seed. You want that energy going into making the bulb as big and happy as it can. Leave that foliage alone for now. It's building the bulb for next spring.
Also, some fertilizer scattered around the bulb and watered in well will help the bulb.
In a month or so, the foliage will start to naturally yellow and die down. At that point, you can cut it off and let your bulbs sleep all summer, fall and winter so they're ready for you next spring.
Since your bulbs aren't blooming at all, I'd consider digging them up in October, working the soil up with some compost, and replanting them.
They may not bloom next year, but it should give them a fresh start, and they should start giving you some flowers the year after.
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