Muscari armeniacum, Grape Hyacinth
Muscari armeniacum is a species of flowering plant in the squill subfamily Scilloideae of the asparagus family Asparagaceae (formerly the lilies, Liliaceae). It is a bulbousperennial with basal, simple leaves and short flowering stems. It is one of a number of species and genera known as grape hyacinth, in this case Armenian grape hyacinth or garden grape-hyacinth. The flowers are purple, blue (with a white fringe), white (cv. ‘Album’) or pale pink (cv. ‘Pink Sunrise’) and the plants are usually 15 centimetres (6 in) tall. M. armeniacum blooms in mid-Spring (April or May in the Northern Hemisphere) for 3–4 weeks. Some selections are fragrant. Established bulbs leaf in the autumn. M. armeniacum is widespread in the woods and meadows of the Eastern Mediterranean, from Greece and Turkey to the Caucasus, including Armenia which gives it its name.
Common Name: grape hyacinth
Native Range: Southeastern Europe to Caucasus
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Spread: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Royal blue with a thin white rim on each bell
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Flower: Showy, Fragrant, Good Cut
Tolerate: Deer, Clay Soil, Black Walnut
2018, 2019 collected seeds
Diseases and Problems
No serious insect or disease problems.
- Grow Outside: Usually grown from bulbs.
Seeds: Cover. Summer from fresh seed. Germination time: 6 to 8 weeks. Seeds should first be sown into flats. Next sink the flat into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering until sprouting has occurred. Keep an eye on the flats to ensure that the soil remains moist and to check if seedlings have emerged. After one year of growth, transplant the bulbs to their final location in the autumn with a spacing 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm).
Sowing from seed
Sow seeds at any time covering them with compost or grit 5mm deep, keeping the seed pot in a cool, well-lit spot outdoors. Artificial heat is not needed and can prevent germination so be very patient as many species will only germinate in the spring after chilling or freezing in the moist seed tray in the winter. Grow on individual seedlings in small pots until of sufficient size to be potted on or planted out into the open ground
Plant the bulbs in the fall, placing bulbs 3 (8 cm) 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.
Forcing grape hyacinths in containers
All grape hyacinths force reasonably well indoors, some being easier and others more challenging. For example ‘Christmas Pearl’ (M. armeniacum‘Christmas Pearl’) doesn’t require a cold period, as others do, but ‘Blue Spike’ is more difficult and takes longer to perform. Here’s how to do it: Pot up plenty of bulbs (they’re small) in autumn. After 12 to 16 weeks rooting time in a cool (around 40°F), dark environment, move the pots to indirect sunlight at about 60°F to trigger leaf and flower growth. When the shoots are 4 to 6 inches tall, move the pots to a sunny window to stimulate blooming. A temperature of about 68°F is ideal at this stage. Most bulbs require three to four weeks from the time they are removed from cold storage before they bloom. When buds take on color, return them to indirect sunlight to make the blossoms last. Don’t allow the soil to dry out. To retard blooming, move the pots out of direct sunlight to a cooler spot until you want growth resumed. After flowering, hardy bulbs should be planted outdoors where they may rebloom within a year or two.
Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Plant bulbs about 3” deep and 3” apart in fall. Flowers emerge in early spring. Keep ground moist during the spring growing season, but reduce watering after foliage begins to die back. Plants are dormant from late spring to autumn when leaves again appear. Plants will naturalize by bulb offsets, but not aggressively.
Muscari armeniacum is one of the most commonly cultivated species of Muscari, is robust and naturalises easily. It appeared in European gardens in 1871. The following have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit:
- M. armeniacum
- M. armeniacum ‘Christmas Pearl’
- M. armeniacum ‘Jenny Robinson’
- M. armeniacum ‘Saffier’
Cultivars listed by Mathew include ‘Blue Spike’ and ‘Cantab’. Others include ‘Argaei Album’ and ‘Album’ (white), ‘Côte d’Azur’, ‘Dark Eyes, ‘Early Giant’, ‘Fantasy Creation’, ‘Peppermint’, ‘Saffier’, ‘Valerie Finnis’ (pale blue), and ‘Pink Sunrise’ (pale pink). The commonly available form is often referred to as M. armeniacum ‘Blue’
‘Blue Spike’ is a double flowered variety, with double florets on the flower stalk. ‘Cantab’ is pale blue. ‘Fantasy Creation’ is a sport (a naturally occurring genetic mutation) of ‘Blue Spike’. ‘Atlantic’ is light blue, introduced by Jan van Bentem in 2002, by hybridisation in 1990 from M. armeniacum and an unknown parent.