Grape Hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum

Muscari armeniacum in bloom.

Grape hyacinth has long, linear leaves.

Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) is a mid-spring blooming, perennial bulb in the Lily Family (Liliaceae) native to southeastern Europe. It is NOT a true hyacinth (genus Hyacinthus). The name of the genus, Muscari, comes from the Greek word for musk, referring to the scent produced by the flowers of many species in the genus. The common name comes from the resemblance of the clusters of the small, bell-shaped, cobalt-blue flowers to upside-down clusters of grapes. Grape hyacinth is hardy in zones 3-9.

Long, linear, floppy green leaves emerge from the ground in early spring and are soon followed by the flowers. The foliage dies back following flowering in the early summer, but unlike many other spring-blooming bulbs, it starts growing actively again in mid-fall and persists through mild winters.

Grape hyacinth blooms in early spring

A self-seeded grape hyacinth.

Each bulb produces one to three 4-8 inch high flower stalks with 20-40 tightly packed flowers per stalk. Each bell-shaped floret has a thin white band on the rim. Most have a mildly sweet fragrance variously described as slightly grassy or grapey. They are excellent as cut flowers and can be used for indoor forcing. The flowers open sequentially from the bottom up the inflorescence, with the lowest flowers withering as the top ones open. Pollinated flowers are followed by tripartite seed pods. They readily naturalize, reproducing by division and self-seeding, and may even become invasive in some situations.

Grape hyacinth produces 1-3 flower stalks per bulb (L), with 20-40 tightly packed florets (LC). Each bell-shaped floret has a white band on the rim (C). The flowers open from the bottom up the inflorescence (RC), and if pollinated are followed by tripartite seed pods (R).

Grape hyacinth combines well with other spring bulbs and low perennials.

A mass planting of Muscari.

Grape hyacinths are good for planting in rock gardens, in the front of beds and borders, or along walkways and paths. They mix well with other early blooming bulbs, and are a popular container plant. They look best in masses and loose drifts, and are particularly nice when allowed to naturalize under trees and shrubs.

There is a famous planting of grape hyacinth at Keukenhof Gardens in The Netherlands known as the Blue River. This dense planting of M. armeniacum winds past trees, shrubs, and other spring flowers, giving the illusion of a flowing blue river. You can try planting a large drift of grape hyacinth in your garden for a similar effect – but you’ll need a LOT of bulbs!

Displays of blue grape hyacinths, including the “Blue River” (RC) at Keukenhof Gardens, The Netherlands.

Grow grape hyacinth in well-drained soil in sun to shade. Place in full sun for maximum vigor. However, the flowers last longer in partial shade.

Plant the bulbs in the fall, placing bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep and 2 inches apart. The plants benefit from bone meal applied at planting and after blooming. Reduce watering after the foliage begins to die back.

Muscari ‘Album’.

There are several varieties of this species (or M. botryoides, another early spring bloomer that is virtually indistinguishable in appearance from M. armeniacum).

  • ‘Album’ – is a fragrant, white-flowered selection that is not as vigorous as the standard type.
  • ‘Blue Spike’ – has flax blue flowers with double florets on branched flower spikes.
  • ‘Carneum’ – has pinkish flowers.
  • ‘Cantab’ – has sky blue, slightly fragrant flowers and blooms slightly later than the standard type.

    Muscari ‘Superstar’.

  • ‘Fantasy Creation’ – has double blue flowers that may develop green overtones as the flowers age.
  • A lighter blue cultivar of grape hyacinth.

    ‘Saffier’ – has deep blue flowers that are longer lasting than most varieties because they are sterile.

  • ‘Superstar’ – has densely packed periwinkle-blue florets edged in white, topped with a cap of paler florets.

There are about 40 species of Muscari, but only a few are widely available.

  • M. azureum – has bright blue flowers that open more widely than M. armeniacum. This 4-6” tall species blooms in early spring. The variety M. azureum alba has white flowers.
  • M. comosum, or tassel hyacinth – blooms in late spring, with purplish brown flowers on 8-12” plants.
  • Muscari latifolium

    M. latifolium – this native of pine forests in Turkey produces a single leaf from each bulb. It blooms in early spring with bi-colored flowers clusters that have pale blue florets on top and are dark blue-black on the bottom. The 6-12” plants prefer cooler zones 2-5.

  • M. plumosum (also commonly classified as M. comosum plumosum) or feather hyacinth – has sterile and threadlike, purple-blue flowers that create the appearance of a feathery plume.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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  1. Grape hyacinths will make a great addition to my spring garden.

  2. Love the look of these grape hyacinths! I’ve been wanting to add some additional bulbs to my mix of tulips and daffodils…and these look like they’d be just right. Am going to look for these bulbs this week. Like the tip about the chicken wire to prevent dig-up of newly planted bulbs, so may try that. Thanks for a great article!

  3. The grape hyacinth is really adorable. I did have these as well as a white version in my garden. They seem to have done ok. I think the mass planting at Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands is really lovely. How well do they do as a dried flower?

  4. Love the blue river look! I have seen a definite increase over the years of the different varieties, I like this. Also have noticed more spot plantings in older cemeteries as I do my genealogy research.

  5. I am going out to look for these bulbs today. I like that you can grow them along the edge of a sidewalk and I love the blue color.

  6. After our first full year in our house, I’m starting to plan out my fall planting and grape hyacinth is definitely on the list. That blue river in the Netherlands is AMAZING…maybe I can get a little blue creek going underneath my trees????

  7. I do have grape hyacinths in my garden but will be adding a few more colors. I love to see them popping up in early spring as I am getting sick of the long winter. The Blue river gardens were amazing but would not work very well in my small yard.

  8. I have always loved this beautiful hue each spring. It makes me feel that winter is behind and my favorite season is starting. The use of bone meal at the time of planting and again in the spring is helpful to know. I can figure out how many bulbs I will need to buy, using the circumference of the round beds under the deciduous trees .
    Thank you for this interesting article.

  9. Article helped me with ideas for where to plant the bulbs this fall as I start planning next years garden

  10. I didn’t realize there were so many species of Muscari. I’ll have to look for additional types for my garden.

  11. I love my grape hyacinths, but after a few years they do continue to spread and multiply. Such a beautiful spring blue. Beautiful near other spring flowers like pansies.

  12. Very interesting! Would they tolerate being cut back after they are done flowering? I am thinking they would bring some beauty along the borders before the grass needs to be cut in tje spring.

  13. I love the pictures of the Kuekenhof Gardens as they brought back memories of the gardens when I was there.
    I need to plant some hyacinths!

  14. Grape Hyacinth is one of my favorite perennial spring flowers. We have recently moved and look forward to planting many this year. Interesting to note that it is NOT a true hyacinth (genus Hyacinthus) and that the name of the genus, Muscari, comes from the Greek word for musk, referring to the scent produced by the flowers of many species in the genus. I did not know this. Also, the honey bees love my potted Grape Muscari this year. Every flower was coated with bees. Thank you for continuing these educational articles.

  15. I never knew there was many types of Grape hyacinth’s. I do have some growing in my garden but have no idea what type . I was given the bulbs from a friend.

  16. I have two varieties of these Blue Grape and Blue Magic. I love them both although Blue Grape has larger flowers and deeper color. It is also nice because the Blue Magic blooms just a tad bit earlier and when they are starting to fade the Blue Grape are at peak. What I did not know, and learned from this article, is that they are good as cut flowers. I love, especially in the spring, to cut flowers and bring them in the house. This spring I will absolutely cut some for a small vase.

  17. Can’t wait to see my grape hyacinths soon I hope. I enjoy throwing the seeds on my lawn etc. after blooming and anticipating where they will come up the following year.

  18. Irresistible blue flowers, and I love how they can surprise by appearing nearly anywhere in the lawn or garden.

  19. Love the blue spring color.
    Is it possible to have more information on native spring flowers to Wisconsin?

  20. Timely and very informative article; gives me so many ideas(which I never thought of) for both my MG project gardens and my own large Country style gardens with many small trees and spring bare areas. I have just the spots for these early blooming bulbs. I use a lot of ground covers but need that early spring foliage and blooms. I also have an old barn rock formation left behind by farmer that I have sedum, prickly pear cactus and low evergreens growing; now I will plant Grape hyacinth there as well. Keep those great articles coming…one can never learn too much in the area of Horticulture. I enjoy reading the information and add those articles to my program folder to share with the public gardeners I interact with. Gardening keeps one in shape both physical and mental.

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