Muscari: grape hyacinth
Height 15-40cm (6-16in)
Planting distance 7.5-10cm (3-4in)
Flowers early spring to early summer
Bulbs available in autumn
The individual flower spikes of grape hyacinths may seem a little insignificant, but en masse these plants are always useful for introducing splashes of blue to rockeries, window-boxes, border edges and woodland corners in spring. They also make good long-lasting cut. All the species look fairly similar, with just slight variations in height, flower colour and flowering time. They are easy to grow and colonize readily.
Muscari armeniacum has scented cobalt-blue flowers rimmed white, that appear in mid and late spring. The plants reach 20-25cm (8-10in) high. It is a popular species to grow since it increases rapidly. Muscari botryoides ‘Album’ has scented white flowers appearing from mid to late spring. It stands 15-25cm (6-10in) high. Muscari comosum has olive green and purple flowers all on the same spike. It flowers later than other Muscari, appearing in late spring to early summer, and it is also taller, standing 40cm (16in) high. A pretty violet-blue form, ‘Plumosum’, popularly called the feather or tassel hyacinth because of its feathery appearance, can also be obtained.
Muscari tubergenianum (syn. M. aucheri) has dark blue and pale blue flowers (’Oxford and Cambridge’) all on the same spike. These appear in early spring, 20cm (8in) above ground.
Plant the bulbs between late summer and late autumn, setting them 7.5cm (3in) deep and 7.5-10cm (3-4in) apart, in groups or drifts. They grow in any ordinary well-drained soil, but should be planted in full sun – in shade they produce excessive leaf growth and fewer flowers.
When the leaves start to turn yellow, divide overcrowded clumps every three or four years. Replant immediately.
Pests and diseases
The flowers can be affected by smut fungus.