While Tulips and Daffodils remain the most popular spring flowering bulbs my personal favorite is the Grape Hyacinth. Also known as Muscari this bulb originally came from Eurasia and got its name from its purple flower which resembles a bunch of grapes. Grape Hyacinths are among the earliest flowers that bloom in the spring and the blooms last for several weeks. They have a sweet fragrance and they are great for planting under taller bulbs such as daffodils and tulips.
Grape Hyacinths are very easy to grow and they multiply quickly. They thrive in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8 and also can be forced into bloom indoors during the winter. They can be used throughout your garden including flower beds, containers, and rock gardens or even naturalized in your lawn similar to daffodils. They also can be found growing in woodlands and meadows and I find that they look best when they are planted closely together in a mass planting. Although purple is the most common color there are also blue, white and even a pink variety which is a new color introduced in just the past few years.
The bulbs should be planted 3 to 4 inches deep and about 3 to 8 inches apart. The bulb is round and the tip should be planted facing up. After you plant the bulbs you should water them in thoroughly. Grape Hyacinth leaves actually emerge in late summer or early fall and they then bloom the following spring. After they flower the foliage should be allowed to ripen and removed when it can easily be pulled away from the bulb without disturbing it. Grape hyacinths like a soil that is well drained and not too rich but frankly I’ve had success growing them just about everywhere. The only places that they haven’t prospered are situations where the soil stays so soggy that it is perpetually wet. They prefer full sun but will tolerate light shade and once planted they really need very little care. They don’t need to be fertilized and the only additional activity that you may have to consider is separating the bulbs when flowering isn’t as prolific as it usually would be.
While Grape Hyacinths are most commonly planted in flower beds I have had a great deal of success planting them in containers as well. I follow the same planting instructions as I do when I plant them in a flower bed and they make a great companion plant in the container with other smaller flowers such as pansies or miniature daffodils. Finally, although they are considered to be deer resistant I have experienced years when the deer have eaten the foliage during the winter. Some protection or the use of repellants may be needed to keep the deer from eating the plants before spring arrives. Grape Hyacinth bulbs are relatively inexpensive and you usually get a significant number of bulbs for the price. Why not get some here at Blooming Secrets and try growing them in your garden or if you are really adventuresome try forcing some into bloom this winter.