Hyacinthus orientalis [common hyacinth, garden hyacinth or Dutch hyacinth], is a perennial flowering plant, 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 grows to 20–35 cm [rarely to 45 cm] tall, bearing a spike of 2–50 fragrant flowers 2–3.5 cm long with a tubular, six-lobed perianth.
^ Hyacinth ‘Jan Bos’
Hyacinthus 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 and requires a winter dormancy period. It is grown for the clusters of strongly fragrant, brightly colored flowers.
^ Hyacinth ‘Midnight Mystic’ flower buds.
Over 2,000 cultivars have been selected and named, with flower color varying from 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.