HARDINESS: Zones 3 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Adaptable
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Average
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Clusters of blue, white, or pink flowers; for beds, woodlands, naturalizing
SEASON OF INTEREST: Spring
FAVORITES: M. armeniacum 'Blue Spike', M. botryoides 'Album', M. latifolium
QUIRKS: Needs 6 weeks minimum winter chilling; leaves grow from fall to spring
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Daffodils, hyacinths, pansies, peonies, shrubs, trees
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Anywhere except extremely dry sites
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Can be invasive; dig out unwanted plants
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives many years; dig crowded clumps, separate, and replant in fall
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Excellent
PLANTING DEPTH: 4 in (10.2 cm)
DIMENSIONS: 6-18 in (15.2-45.7 cm) tall
Grape Hyacinth in the Landscape
Named for their grapelike clusters of tiny urn-shaped blue, white, or pink blossoms, grape hyacinths are adaptable, comely little plants that can be scattered almost anywhere in the landscape. They are just right for nestling up against tree trunks or planting beneath spring-flowering shrubs. Or use grape hyacinths in the perennial border in combination with the emerging shoots of peonies or as companions to other spring bulbs. In lawns that already include crocus, daffodils, or other small flowers, grape hyacinths are a welcome addition. Because grape hyacinths grow leaves from fall through winter, they are handy to use as markers to remind you where daffodils and other bulbs, which don't emerge all spring, are planted. And the blossoms also make dainty but fleeting cut flowers.
All in the Family
Most grape hyacinth reach 6-12 in (15.2-30.5 cm) tall and flower on leafless stems that jut from clumps of slender, grassy leaves. They are all hardy, care-free, dependable spring bloomers and vary only in intensity of color and fragrance.
Muscari armeniacum has fragrant dark blue-violet flowers accented by a thin white edge. The 'Blue Spike' cultivar has a denser cluster of double blue blossoms and makes a long-lasting cut flower. 'Cantab' has light blue flowers that appear later than most other types. M. botryoide is a centuries-old favorite with sky blue flowers that smell of plums. To add contrast to naturalized drifts of grape hyacinth, combine it with the pure white variety, 'Album', and the pink 'Carneum'. The flower spikes of M. latifolium feature dark violet-black flowers on the lower portion of the stem and lighter, blue-violet flowers toward the tip.
An unusual species is the tassel hyacinth (M. comosum), which grows to 18 in (45.7 cm) and produces shaggy, tasseled flowers in blue-violet. However, it can't be counted on for long-term performance and may flower well only the first year after planting.
Growing Grape Hyacinth
Plant grape hyacinths in early fall, spacing bulbs 2 in (5.1 cm) apart and 4 in (10.2 cm) deep in groups of 10 or more. Grape hyacinths are so easy-going that you can plant them simply by pounding a piece of 1 in (2.5 cm) diameter pipe into the ground 4 in (10.2 cm) deep, pulling out the plug of soil, dropping in the bulb, and then filling in the hole.
Thin gray-green leaves will appear a few weeks after planting and persist all winter. After the blooming show in spring, grape hyacinths slip into a summer slumber and will disappear altogether, remaining in a state of dormancy until fall.
Virtually pest- and disease-free grape hyacinths increase freely with little attention and can make colonies in only a few years. Should they become overcrowded, dig up clumps and move the bulbs in fall, when the new leaves appear.