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Grape Hyacinth Planting Guide

Grape Hyacinth Planting Guide


Garden Pearls

Grape_hyacinths

Like clusters of tiny white and blue pearls, grape hyacinths are ideally suited for decorating the edges of gardens, containers and paths. Think of them as affordable jewelry for your landscaping. We’ve heard these little flowers compared with the delicate work found in Faberge eggs and seen up close, the resemblance is understandable. For those inclined to snip a few small flowers for a bedside bud vase, you’ll want to make sure these petite treasures are available. Many even offer a light, grapey scent to confirm that winter has past and spring really has arrived. And blues – well, these are some of the best true blues in the gardening world. Combine their color, cost and constitution and you’ll agree that these belong in every garden.

 

Outdoor Beds
  • Find a location where the soil drains well. If there are still water puddles 5-6 hours after a hard rain, scout out another site. Or amend the soil with the addition of organic material to raise the level 2-3″ to improve the drainage. Peat moss, compost, ground bark or decomposed manure all work well and are widely available. While grape hyacinths aren’t fussy about soil, they will not survive in soggy soil or standing water.
  • Site your grape hyacinths where they will get good light – full or three quarter day sun will produce the best blooms.
  • Dig holes and plant the bulbs 3-4” deep and 3” apart. The bulbs are round, with small points on the sides that should be placed facing up.
  • After planting, water well to settle the soil around the bulbs. Roots and foliage form in the fall. Flowers form in the spring.
  • When in bloom, feel free to cut grape hyacinth flowers for tiny, perfect bouquets. This will not hurt your plants.
  • After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don’t cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the bulb for the future. Water as needed during active growth periods; about 1″ of moisture per week is a good estimate.
  • Late in the spring the leaves will yellow and die back as the plant slips into dormancy. The foliage may be removed at this point. Your bulbs will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle.
  • Grape hyacinths will self seed and spread over time. Most gardeners love this tendency to naturalize. Eventually crowding may occur and flowering activity may decline. If this happens, dig up the bulbs and separate them. Distribute them around your garden or share your bounty with friends. Replant promptly. These plants typically perform beautifully for many years.

Pots, Barrels, Tubs & Urns
  • Use tall or shallow containers; grape hyacinths work well when mixed with other petite flowers, like pansies or miniature daffodils, or when tucked around the ankles of taller plants.
  • Fill your containers with good quality, well-drained soil. Almost any commercially available potting medium will work fine. Make sure there are adequate drainage holes; grape hyacinths must never sit in waterlogged soil or they will rot.
  • Site your grape hyacinths where they will get good light – full or three quarter day sun will produce the best blooms.
  • Dig holes and plant the bulbs 3-4” deep and 3” apart. The bulbs are round, with small points on the sides that should be placed facing up.
  • After planting, water well to settle the soil around the bulbs. Roots and foliage form in the fall. Flowers form in the spring.
  • When in bloom, feel free to cut grape hyacinth flowers for tiny, perfect bouquets. This will not hurt your plants.
  • After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don’t cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the bulb for the future. Water as needed during active growth periods; about 1″ of moisture per week is a good estimate
  • Late in the spring the leaves will yellow and die back as the plant slips into dormancy. The foliage may be removed at this point. Your bulbs will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle.

Indoor Forcing
  • Grape hyacinths can be forced into bloom indoors in winter to add a splash of color and light fragrance to your home. They are easy to force and a good choice for beginners. You will need a cool place to chill the bulbs. An unused refrigerator or a basement where the temperature is 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit will work well. (Do not attempt to force bulbs by placing pots in the refrigerator where you keep fruits and vegetables. Produce gives off ethylene gas as it ripens and this retards bulb growth.)
  • Plant the bulbs 3-4″ deep and 1-2″ apart and place the containers in a cool site (see step 1 above) for 10-12 weeks. Check occasionally to confirm that the soil hasn’t dried out entirely – lightly moist is best. During this time the bulbs will grow a significant network of roots that will eventually peek out the drainage hole in the pot’s bottom. This is a sign that your bulbs are ready to begin the flowering process.
  • Move your pots to a light area where the temperature is warmer. Grape hyacinth blossoms (and those of all other forced bulbs) will last longer if moved to a room that is a bit cool. Hot, dry air pushes the bulbs to flower quickly, but the show also passes fast. Plant several pots and bring them into the warmth in stages, a few days apart, to extend the flower display for a number of weeks.

 

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Muscari

If you’re looking for hardy, no-care, “Plant and Forget” spring flowering bulbs, look no further – load up on Muscari. These bulbs are so winter hardy and easy to grow that no garden should be without them.

There are about 30 different species of Muscari, but only 4 or 5 are widely available. Best known are the Muscari armeniacum or, as they are more commonly known, Grape Hyacinths. They are so named because their clusters of small, bell-shaped, cobalt-blue flowers look like clusters of upside-down grapes.

There is a famous planting of them at the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland which is known as the Blue River. This is a dense planting of Muscari armeniacum that winds through the Gardens, past trees, shrubs, and other spring flowers. Year after year, this is one of the most photographed scenes in this park. Try planting a large drift of Muscari armeniacum in your garden for a similar effect.

An additional benefit is that all Muscari have a lovely fragrance. The more you plant, the more fragrance you get.

Other, cultivated varieties of Muscari armeniacum come in different shades of blue, and one variety comes in white. Different species of Muscari provide additional variety in terms of colour and form: Muscari azureum has a somewhat more open and less “grapey” look, Muscari latifolium is two-toned: light and dark blue, and Muscari plumosum is feathery and mauve in colour.

In terms of their care:

  • all species’ bulbs should be planted at least 3″ (8 cm) deep, in a location where the water can’t settle in winter
  • plant bulbs in zones 3 – 9, except for M. latifolium which prefers zones 2 to 5

All species will naturalize extremely easily (i.e. come back year after year and gradually multiply); that is, unless you plant them in completely sunless or swamp like conditions!

Muscari are all-round flowers: they are excellent as cut flowers, when planted in rock gardens, beds, borders, under shrubs, and trees, and can be used for indoor forcing. The following chart shows some of the species and varieties available from nurseries, and from mail order and on-line catalogs. To indicate that they are fragranced, I have put an asterisk (*) after the name of each variety.

Chart can be found here, highly recommend viewing, there are some really pretty varieties 🙂

 

like this one ~ M. plumosum

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

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2 responses

  1. When I used to live in another town only 50km from were I live now, I used to keep Hyacinths in pots, and I had lots of colors….Out of all, I Love the White & Dark Purple.

    Don’t know what did happen to the bulbs I took with me here in this town, lost the pots or lost the bulbs somehow 😀 ..NEVER MIND.
    After few years here, decided to change decoration & style, and, I took to the rubbish tip 3 trailers full of bulbs…All kinds and many varieties 😀
    I only have few left in front yard.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    • me too, my bulbs must need replenished this fall, i am not getting many flowers … not sure why. don’t see evidence of ground critters

      March 31, 2013 at 1:23 pm

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