Muscari is a spring-blooming bulb that can be treated almost like a ground cover thanks to its evergreen, grass-like foliage. Its blooms provide a pop of blue or purple in early spring, and its small size makes it easy to tuck a few of these hardy bulbs into just about any open spot in your garden.
Muscari, AKA Grape Hyacinth
There are about 40 species in the genus Muscari that produce spikes of blue flowers resembling bunches of grapes, which explains the common name of grape hyacinth. The botanical name is derived either from the Turkish name for the bulb or from the Greek word 'moschos' or 'musk,' referring to the scent of some species. Muscari are native to Eurasia. The two most common species in cultivation are Muscari armeniacum and Muscari botryoides. Muscari have been in cultivation in England since 1576.
These lovely blue or purple bulbs bloom in early to late spring, depending on the species. Muscari are beautiful in rock gardens and are often grown as underplantings for tulips and daffodils. They naturalize readily and are very pretty in a meadow or lawn. Bulbs can be forced into bloom indoors, but an artificial cold period is required.
Growing Muscari in Your Garden
Muscari are easy bulbs to grow and are a low-maintenance, attractive addition to flower beds and containers, or for planting beneath trees. A mass planting of them looks best, since the flowers individually are fairly small.
Where to Plant Muscari: Light and Soil Requirements
Grape hyacinth are planted in early fall. The small bulbs should be spaced about three inches apart and planted about three inches deep, and they need soil that's fertile and not soggy.
They prefer full sun during their growing period but will tolerate light shade or half-day sun. They flower early and often have most of their growth finished before many trees are completely leafed out, which makes them suitable for a variety of sites.
Muscari are hardy in Zones two through eight. They can be grown in warmer areas, but will need a period of refrigeration to kick start blooming.
Watering and Fertilizing
These bulbs prefer even moisture while they are growing but can tolerate dry conditions when they are dormant in midsummer. They are adaptable to a wide variety of soils as long as drainage is good. Bulbs may rot in very wet soil.
When muscari have finished blooming, cut back the flower spikes for a tidier look. The foliage has to be left in place until it has withered so that the bulb can store nutrition for the following year's bloom. In many species, the foliage reappears in the fall and remains evergreen all winter.
Muscari Pests and Diseases
Muscari are seldom bothered by any pests or problems, including visiting animals. All parts of the plant are mildly poisonous.
Muscari naturalize readily, reproducing from offsets (small new bulbs that form from the older parent bulb) or from seeds. Self-sown seed may mature with a different color flower.
Beautiful Muscari Varieties for Your Garden
Muscari is most commonly available in shades of blue and purple, though there are some bi-color varieties as well. By choosing a few different varieties, you can extend the length of time you have grape hyacinths blooming in your garden.
Muscari armeniacum 'Blue Spike' is a double-flowered muscari that blooms in a vibrant cobalt blue. The plants grow six to 12 inches tall and have branching stems, so unlike most muscari varieties, you will end up with multiple flower spikes on each stem.
Muscari armeniacum 'Early Giant' had deep, purplish-blue flowers that grow to about 12 to 15 inches tall, making this one of the taller grape hyacinth varieties you can grow. It also blooms a bit earlier than other muscari varieties.
Muscari botyroides 'Superstar' has densely-packed periwinkle blue flowers edged in white. It grows to four to six inches tall and generally blooms in late April through early May.
Muscari armeniacum 'Mt. Hood' is one of the most unique grape hyacinths. The blue and white bicolored flowers grown on a tightly-packed flower spike. However, the unique thing about this, in addition to its bicolor shading, is that the top few flowers on each spike are pure white, like snow sitting on top of the blossom. This makes it easy to see where this variety got its name.
Muscari armeniacum 'Valerie Finnis' has gorgeous, pale blue, fragrant flowers. It grows to six to eight inches tall and blooms for several weeks in mid-spring.
Easy, Low Maintenance Blooms Year After Year
Muscari are easy, beautiful, and not picky about where you plant them. As a bonus, they'll spread over time, filling an area of your garden and making more plants for you to transplant elsewhere - a win-win, all around.