Sign up for our newsletter
Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Pronounced: mus-KAH-ree bot-ree-OI-deez
Sunset zones: All.
USDA zones: 2-8.
Heat zones: 8-1.
Height: 6-8 inches (15-20 cm).
Dense racemes of urn-shaped, bright blue flowers with a white rim; var. botryoides' raceme has a looser form.
Two to 4 long, narrow, stiff, green leaves per bulb.
Full sun to partial shade.
Moist, well-drained soil.
Sow seeds in pots and place in cold frame to over winter. | Divide in summer or early fall.
Rainy Side Notes
It's hard to imagine a spring garden without a swath of grape hyacinths running through it. Cultivated for more than 400 years, Muscari botryoides originated in France and Italy. The flowers are phenomenal, especially when planted in large groups or drifts; the small bulb delivers a bright, clear, sky-blue flower, a hue that is rare in the spring garden. Interplanting with bright yellow or red flowers of tulips, daffodils or other spring flowers, is even more dramatic.
The plants are easy to force for early flowers. Dig up a clump in late summer, divide and select the largest bulbs. Plant the bulbs in a container and give them a cold treatment between 35 to 48°F (2-9°C) for 15 to 16 weeks. Even if you don't force the bulbs to flower early, grape hyacinths adapt well to container culture.
These hyacinth cousins naturalize easily. The leaves last a long time after the flowers are gone, so carefully choose their position in the garden. Once the bulbs are established, it is hard to completely eradicate them from the garden, but not impossible. Fortunately, they don't migrate to other areas of the garden. Plant amongst perennials such as Jacob's ladder (Polemonium reptans), whose foliage will hide the leaves of the grape hyacinths later in the season.
The name Muscari comes from the Latin, muscus, so named for the scent of some of the species, and botryoides, because the inflorescence resembles a miniature cluster of grapes.
Photographed in author's garden.