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How to Grow: Grape Hyacinth
common grape hyacinth
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
spring in colors of blue, yellow and white
Mature Height x Spread
6 to 10 inches x 4 to 6 inches
attracts beneficials, drought tolerant, deer resistant
Grape hyacinths are truly a misnomer. They aren’t related to hyacinths and, even though their small flowers are shaped like tiny grapes, they aren’t edible. But, this spring flowering bulb, is a hardy mainstay in any flower garden. It’s a tough little plant that only grows 6 to 10 inches tall with beautiful blue, white or yellow fragrant flowers in spring. The flower stalks stand above the grass-like leaves. The whole show is over in spring and the foliage dies back in summer. They are equally at home in a formal garden as a woodland setting. Bees particularly enjoy the early blooming flowers and they make good plantings under fruit trees to help with pollination.
Where, When and How to Plant
Grape hyacinths are hardy throughout our region. Purchase bags of these small bulbs from garden centers in fall. Plant when you would other spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils. Plant grape hyacinths in groups of about 25 bulbs or more spread throughout a wide hole. Space the bulbs 3 inches apart and plant about 4 inches deep. Mix in a bulb fertilizer in the hole and cover with native soil.
Grape hyacinths need little care other than watering the first year and leaving the grass-like leaves uncut until after they start to yellow. To prevent their spread, remove the green seedpods. If you want them to self-sow, let the seedpod mature and drop its seeds. The foliage reappears in fall. Mark where the bulbs are planted so don’t mistakenly weed they out in autumn.
Regional Advice and Care
Squirrels and chipmunks sometimes will dig up grape hyacinth bulbs after planting. To prevent their theft, sprinkle cayenne pepper, crushed oyster shells or crushed seashells in the planting holes. You can also cover the area with a fine mesh netting to thwart them. After the first year, the little critters should forget about the bulbs. Deer tend to leave grape hyacinths alone.
Companion Planting and Design
Plant grape hyacinths with other spring flowering bulbs, such as glory-of-the-snow, crocus, species tulips, and small daffodils. They also look great in the front of the perennial flower border, in rock gardens, and naturalized in lawns and woodlands. Consider planting swaths of grape hyacinths throughout a deciduous woodland in curving patterns and specialty designs.
‘Dark Eyes’ has a light blue flower with an attractive white edging around the flower rim. ‘Sky Blue’ has a soft, azure blue color. ‘Album’ is, of course, white flowered. ‘Snow Queen’, also known as ‘Venus’, also has white flowers, but they turn blue with age. ‘Yellow Fragrance’ has distinct golden flowers that have a fragrant smell.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.