Muscari (Grape hyacinth)


Muscari are hardy, small, bulbous perennials, with tiny flower spikes. A popular spring bulb that is best planted en masse for good effect, providing a rich splash of blue to rockeries, containers and border edges.

Family: Asparagaceae (asparagus)
Botanical Name: Muscari
Common Names: Grape hyacinth

Foliage: Deciduous (dies back after flowering). Linear strap-shaped narrow, arching green leaves.

Flowers: Short spikes of tiny bell shaped flowers. Often fragrant. The flowers are mainly blue in colour but white, pink, violet and yellow forms are also available.

Flowering Period: April-May.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, moderately fertile soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.

Conditions: Best in full sun. Can be grown in aspect, in either an exposed or sheltered location.

Habit: Tufted, clump forming.

Type: Bulbous perennial.

Origin: Europe, mediterranean and south-western Asia.

Hardiness: Fully hardy in most regions of the UK.

Planting and Growing Muscari

Easy to grow and establish. Plant bulbs when they are available in the autumn. Set them 3in (7.5cm) deep and 3-4in (7.5-10cm) apart, in groups or drifts.

The grape hyacinth is a vigorous grower that spreads well once established. Ideal for rock gardens, border edges, containers and naturalizing in lawns (short grass).

Some species (such as M. armeniacum) can quickly become invasive if growing conditions are good.

Muscari make excellent long-lasting cut flowers when picked for the vase.

Taking Care of Muscari

Remove spent foliage once it has died back naturally.

Divide established clumps every three or four years once the plants have died back. Replant immediately.

Pests and Diseases

Flowers can be affected by smut fungus.

Propagating Muscari

Increase from seed sown in autumn under the protection of a cold frame. Alternatively, divide established clumps or separate offsets in summer.

Popular Varieties of Muscari

All the species appear very similar in form, shape and size, with minor variations in height and flower colour. Height ranges from 6 to 16in (15-40cm), depending on variety.

Muscari armeniacum (American Grape Hyacinth) has scented cobalt-blue flowers rimmed white. Flowers in mid and late spring. Height to 10in (25cm). Good cultivars include 'Blue Spike' (double flowers), 'Cantab' (single, sky blue), 'Early Giant' (electric-blue flowers).

Muscari botryoides bears deep blue flower-spikes in early spring. Cultivar 'album' is a lovely sweetly scented white form. Height to 10in (25cm).

Muscari comosum (tassel or feather grape hyacinth) is a rare, later flowering form, with olive green/purple flowers that bear a tuft of bright blue-purple florets above. Height to 16in (40cm). A pretty violet-blue form, 'Plumo-sum' has a lovely feathery appearance.

Muscari latifolium has broad leaves with two tone dark blue and pale blue flowers on the same spike. Early spring flowering. Height to 8in (20cm).

Muscari macrocarpum (yellow grape hyacinth) has 3in (75cm) long flower spikes with clear, waxy yellow blooms arising from purplish blue buds in spring.