True Blue Grape-Hyacinths
Common Name: grape hyacinths
Botanical Name: Muscari armeniacum
Plant Type: spring flowering perennial bulb
Mature Size: up to 8 inches
Origin: Armenia, southeastern Europe
Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8
Foliage: narrow, strap-like, floppy, green, 12 inches long
Flowers: fragrant, blue with a white line along the rim of upside down urns in a tight pyrmidal cluster
Fruit: each pod bears 3 seeds
Exposure: sun to partial shade
Uses: cut flower, naturalizes, woodland's edge, planters, massing, borders, cottage gardens, small gardens
Propagation: Lift and divide offsets in summer after flowering.
Pruning: Don't cut back foliage when it's green.
Problems: may become invasive
Grape hyacinths are coveted for their varying shades of blue, their pleasant light fragrance and their ability to grow easily and prolifically. They spread via underground bulblets and seeds, which makes them perfect for naturalizing. Just throw them on the ground and plant them where they land. This planting method creates beautiful colourful drifts that look as though Mother Nature had planted them herself. Crocus, daffodils and snowdrops are also suitable for naturalizing.
Plant bulbs 3 inches deep and apart preferably in groups of 10 or more, in full sun in well draining soil in autumn. Their eager green, droopy, narrow leaves grow up to 12 inches long and appear very early in spring. The leaves are soon followed by leafless flower stalks that emerge from the centre of the leaves. Small urn shaped, deep blue fragrant flowers are tightly massed into a cone shape atop the stem. The cluster of flowers resemble a bunch of upside down grapes or miniature hyacinths, hence their common name of grape hyacinths. Flowering begins in March in many locations, and continue to the end of April. In summer, foliage dies down and the bulbs become dormant only to reappear again the following spring.
The are a few cultivated varieties that are even more beautiful and diverse than the species. Plant breeders have developed a stunning cultivar with white flowers, not blue, called 'White Magic' (Muscari aucheri 'White Magic'). Another popular cultivar is the broad-leaf grape-hyacinths (Muscari latifolium). They bear the usual urn shaped flowers except for the top of the flower cluster where there are light blue sterile blossoms. It has won multiple awards including the Bulb of the Year in Holland, UK and Germany as well as the Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticulture Society. There are many other varieties and cultivars that are widely available so you can enjoy a variety of these pretty spring treasures.