If you're looking for hardy, no-care, "Plant and Forget" spring flowering bulbs, look no further - load up on Muscari. These bulbs are so winter hardy and easy to grow that no garden should be without them.

There are about 30 different species of Muscari, but only 4 or 5 are widely available. Best known are the Muscari armeniacum or, as they are more commonly known, Grape Hyacinths. They are so named because their clusters of small, bell-shaped, cobalt-blue flowers look like clusters of upside-down grapes.

There is a famous planting of them at the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland which is known as the Blue River. This is a dense planting of Muscari armeniacum that winds through the Gardens, past trees, shrubs, and other spring flowers. Year after year, this is one of the most photographed scenes in this park. Try planting a large drift of Muscari armeniacum in your garden for a similar effect.

An additional benefit is that all Muscari have a lovely fragrance. The more you plant, the more fragrance you get.

Other, cultivated varieties of Muscari armeniacum come in different shades of blue, and one variety comes in white. Different species of Muscari provide additional variety in terms of colour and form: Muscari azureum has a somewhat more open and less "grapey" look, Muscari latifolium is two-toned: light and dark blue, and Muscari plumosum is feathery and mauve in colour.

In terms of their care:

All species will naturalize extremely easily (i.e. come back year after year and gradually multiply); that is, unless you plant them in completely sunless or swamplike conditions!

Muscari are all-round flowers: they are excellent as cut flowers, when planted in rockgardens, beds, borders, under shrubs, and trees, and can be used for indoor forcing. The following chart shows some of the species and varieties available from nurseries, and from mail order and on-line catalogs. To indicate that they are fragranced, I have put an asterisk (*) after the name of each variety.

Species name Colours and form Flowering time Height Notes Example varieties
Muscari armeniacum shades of blue or white
may have green highlights
mid spring 4 - 8" (10 - 20 cm) this is the customarily referred to as the Grape Hyacinth M. armeniacum* (deep cobalt blue),
M. a. album* (white),
Blue Spike* (double florets, flax blue),
Cantab* (sky blue, slightly later blooming),
Fantasy Creation* (double flowers, blue, gaining green overtones with maturity)
Muscari azureum bright blue or white very early spring 4 - 6" (10 - 15 cm) the bell shaped flowers open more widely than traditional Muscari varieties, giving it a somewhat fluffier look M. azureum* (bright blue),
M. azureum alba* (white)
Muscari botryoides purple, blue or white early spring 5 - 6" (12 - 15 cm) this Muscari is hardy in zones 2 and 3 as well M. botryoides* (purple),
M. b. alba* (white),
Superstar* (light blue at top, dark blue in middle, light blue at bottom)
Muscari comosum shades of purple late spring 8 - 12" (20 - 30 cm) somewhat rarer than other Muscari M. comosum* = Tassel Hyacinth (brownish purple),
M. c. plumosum* = Muscari plumosum* = Feather Hyacinth (feathery plume, mauve)
Muscari latifolium florets are light violet-blue on top and a dark blue-black on bottom early spring 6" (15 cm) prefers the cooler zones 2 - 5 M. latifolium* (light blue and blue-black)

M. armeniacum M. botryoides album M. armeniacum
Fantasy Creation

M. azureum M. azureum alba

M. latifolium M. plumosum M. armeniacum
Blue Spike

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Muscari armeniacum | Muscari azureum | Muscari botryoides | Muscari comosum | Muscari latifolium

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Last modified: October 13, 2008