Grape Hyacinths

Botanical Name: Muscari spp. 

Grape hyacinths are in the same family as hyacinths (Liliaceae), however, they belong to the Muscari genus.

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Each hyacinth bulb produces a thick, upright flower stem, which carries a cluster of rounded flowers that resembles a bunch of grapes.

Grape hyacinth flowers are lightly fragrant and available in beautiful shades of lavender-blue to purple, plus pink and white varieties, too.

Surrounding the flower stems are narrow, arching leaves.

Naturally spring-flowering, grape hyacinths are easy to force into bloom mid-winter. The process is called forcing because the bulbs are tricked into behaving as if they've gone through a cold winter, then brought into warmth and sunshine as if it's spring. Flowers last about a month when forced indoors and kept at a cool temperature.

Grape hyacinth bulbs need a cold treatment for 10 weeks to bloom. You can begin the cold process anytime in fall. October is a good time to start for mid-winter blooms. If you have a lot of bulbs, you can plant just a few at a time, keeping the bulbs cold until you're ready to force them. This way, you'll have pots (or vases) in bloom throughout the winter and early spring.

Forcing Grape Hyacinth Bulbs - Step by Step

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  1. Choose a pot (at least 3 in/7 cm deep) with drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the pot loosely with potting mix. Set bulbs side by side -- close but not touching -- pointed end up. Set bulbs so that their tips are even with pot rim. Do not press the bulbs into the mix. It should be loose so the roots can grow through it easily. Cover with additional potting mix, leaving the tips exposed.
  2. Water thoroughly and discard drainage.
  3. Move pot to a dark, cool, but not freezing, (40°F/4°C) location such as a basement, unheated garage or refrigerator. Avoid storing bulbs near ripening fruit or vegetables which give off ethylene gas which can damage the bulbs. Keep them in cold storage for about 10 weeks. Keep the medium barely moist.
  4. When shoots reach about 2 in (5 cm) tall, bring the pot out of cold storage and place it in a slightly warmer (50°F/10°C) location with low light intensity. Increase watering, keeping the soil evenly moist. Over the next few days, gradually move it toward a sunny window. Turn the pot every day for even growth. When in full bloom, keep your grape hyacinth plant in a bright location out of direct sun to prolong the bloom.

Buying Grape Hyacinth Bulbs

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You'll find hyacinth bulbs for sale in fall at garden centers and online flower bulb nurseries.

Muscari armeniacum 'Blue Spike' grape hyacinth is ideal for forcing indoors. 

Deep-blue 'Dark Eyes', double-flowered 'Fantasy Creation' and snowy white 'Album' are also good choices.

Can't decide? You can buy an assortment of mixed colors.

Grape Hyacinths Care Tips

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Origin: Western Asia

Height: 4-8 in (10-20 cm)

Light: Keep bulbs in a dark location during cold treatment. Cover pot with a box, pot or black garbage bag if necessary. After shoots appear, move to bright light as directed above.

Water: Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy which can cause the bulbs to rot. Allow the surface of the potting mix to dry before watering.

Humidity: Average room (around 40% relative humidity)

Temperature: Cool 40-65°F/4-18°C . Make your flowers last longer by keeping the plant in a slightly cooler location. Blooms will last for about a month if kept at a maximum of 65°F/18°C.

Soil: All-purpose good-quality potting mix. Hyacinths can also be grown in a bulb vase with its roots in water.

Fertilizer: Not necessary 

Propagation: Grape hyacinths that are forced into bloom indoors will not bloom a second time. They do produce offsets, which can be planted outdoors. If you want to keep the bulbs, allow the foliage to die back naturally, then cut it off. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place for the summer, then plant them in your flower garden in the fall.

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