(Species: Muscari spp - Family: Liliaceae)
Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) and its origins
The Muscari plant or grape hyacinth as it is also known, takes its name from the grape-like clusters of deep blue and purple flowers. It is a very hardy perennial, making it easy to grow.
Muscari originates from Europe and was widely available in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region. It was first cultivated in the late 16th century and there are now over 40 different species in existence. It forms part of the Liliaceae or Lily family and its name is derived from the ancient Greek word for Musk, a reference to the plants distinctive scent.
Not all Muscari species bear the deep blue flowers, for e.g. the Muscari Botryoides, indigenous to Italy, flowers with a natural white bloom.
Seasonality: Muscari in flower
Most Muscari species flower between February and April, although some species flower in the autumn. They are typically short plants with dense clusters of small flowers that are usually deep blue but in some cases can be so deep in colour that they almost appear black. In some species, the upper flowers may differ in colour and shape to those further down the flower cluster.
Muscari are incredibly popular rock-garden plants, as they grow to approximately 20cm in height.
There are normally 12-20 flowers, growing in a tightly packed cluster on each stem with dark green foliage at the base. As the plant matures, the flowers often become less tightly spaced.
How to Plant: Muscari / Grape Hyacinth
Muscari or grape hyacinths thrive in a rich fertile soil that is packed with humus but it can easily adapt to other soil conditions. Plant in an area of the garden that offers direct sunlight, it will also grow in partial shade but struggle to flower in an area of full shade. The soil should have excellent drainage and will need to be kept moist during spring and if possible, dry during the cold winter months.
Each Muscari bulb is approximately 2cm in diameter and should be planted 10-12cm deep and at least 5-7cm apart for best results. When buds first appear they should be watered frequently, taking care to keep water off the blooms when they start to appear and the Muscari flower can rot quickly.
Propagation of Muscari
Propagate Muscari by seed in autumn or by division in late summer. Divide offsets from the main bulb in its dormant season. The main bulb can be replanted immediately, while the offsets should be placed in a pot, which they will grow in for the first year, before placing them in their permanent position the following season.
Muscari seeds should be planted in the late autumn or can still be planted in winter in order to enjoy spring flowers; they will need to be planted in pots for the first year as a minimum.