Small grape hyacinths have big impact
Grape hyacinths (Muscari spp.) are useful in lots of situations. You can grow beautiful grape hyacinths in formal beds or cottage gardens and they’ll always make themselves right at home. While they may be called “minor bulbs” because of their small size, grape hyacinths really are major players in a spring landscape. Plant them in fall, and they’ll keep coming back for years. Plus, the flowers have a sweet scent described anywhere from grapelike to grassy.
Off to a great start
You’ll often find grape hyacinth bulbs sold at local stores in plastic bags. Always buy them before the bulbs dry out from being kept too warm. Most reputable mail-order companies will ship the bulbs at the best planting time for your area.
Bulb buying tips
- If they look shriveled and feel light when you pick them up, don’t buy them. You want them to be firm and moist.
- Store bulbs in a cool, dark place, such as your basement, until it’s time to get them in the ground.
- While in storage, bulbs sometimes develop a blue-green mold on their surface. It won’t harm them and dies after planting.
How to plant grape hyacinth
- Plant outdoors in early to midfall — this is a bulb that performs best if it has some time to root before winter.
- A spot with good drainage is essential — wet soil will rot the bulbs.
- Full sun to part shade is ideal for most grape hyacinths. While they will grow under trees that cast summer shade, it’s not the best spot. The foliage needs sunlight for several weeks after the flowers finish to feed the bulb for next year’s blooms.
- After the soil has been worked, scatter the bulbs and press them in with your fingers or make a hole using a soil knife.
- Set them so their tips are 2 to 3 inches below the surface, or two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall.
- Water the bed thoroughly after you plant.
As you plant, add compost and bulb fertilizer and work it into the soil. Follow the recommendation on the package, but if in doubt, go light. This is a bulb that blooms best if it’s not overfed. In future years, don’t bother feeding it at all.
How to get more grape hyacinth
Reseeding grape hyacinth
After they bloom, simply let the spikes of small pods turn brown and drop their black seeds. It will take these tiny sprouts four years or more to reach a blooming size, but it’s a great way to get a big sweep of color. Just avoid tilling the area or the seeds will be buried too deep to grow.
Dividing grape hyacinth
Grape hyacinths are easy to lift and divide, check out our article with steps to divide your plants.
Grape hyacinth comes in different colors and shapes
Deep violet-blue may be the color that comes to mind when you hear the name “grape hyacinth.” But not all grape hyacinth flowers look alike. There are unique shapes and colors, and shades of blue are not the only color options. Check out our slideshow below for a few cultivars to try.