When it comes to spring-blooming flowers, two popular choices in many gardens are grape hyacinths (Muscari) and true hyacinths. Though they share a common name and both bloom in mid-spring, these plants belong to different families, with grape hyacinths being part of the Asparagaceae family and true hyacinths belonging to the Liliaceae family (The Spruce). The key differences between them include their flower and foliage characteristics, making each a unique addition to any garden.
Muscari and Hyacinth: General Characteristics
Grape hyacinths, also known as Muscari, are small spring-blooming bulbs that produce clusters of fragrant, bell-shaped flowers. They typically showcase blue-colored flowers, but other colors such as white, pink, or yellow are available depending on the species or variety (North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox). These plants have grass-like foliage and were previously classified in the Liliaceae family, but are now part of the Asparagaceae or asparagus family (The Spruce).
True hyacinths are spring-blooming bulbs that produce a single flower stalk usually standing 8 to 10 inches tall (Almanac.com). They feature loose-to-dense racemes of strongly fragrant flowers that can be closely-packed single or double blossoms. Although grape hyacinths (Muscari) share some characteristics with true hyacinths, they are not directly related and have different care requirements (Almanac.com).
Muscari, also known as grape hyacinths, have a slender appearance with a more cylindrical shape and clustering flower stems, while true hyacinths possess a bulkier and more cone-like structure (Coalition Brewing). Furthermore, Muscari’s flowers are typically smaller, with bell-shaped blossoms arranged in tight clusters resembling grapes, while hyacinth flowers appear in larger, dense spikes.
Both Muscari and hyacinth come in a range of colors. Most Muscari species bear bluish or purplish flowers, with other colors like white, pink, or yellow available in different varieties (North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox). In contrast, hyacinth flowers exhibit a more extensive color palette, including shades of blue, pink, white, yellow, red, and purple. This diverse range of hues makes hyacinth suitable for a variety of garden designs.
Although both plants emit fragrances, their scents differ significantly. Muscari’s aroma is more subtle and delicate, originating from the Greek word for musk (Wisconsin Horticulture). On the other hand, hyacinths produce stronger and sweeter scents, which makes them a popular choice for perfumes and other fragrant products.
Growing Conditions and Care
Soil and Sunlight Requirements
Grape hyacinths (Muscari) and hyacinths thrive in well-drained soil with a pH range between 6 and 7. Plant them in an area with full sun to partial shade for best results.
Watering and Fertilizing
Both plants require moderate watering during their growing season. Fertilize with a balanced all-purpose solution after blooming to promote healthy foliage and strong root growth.
Optimal Blooming Period
For optimal blooming, grape hyacinths and hyacinths need cold temperatures of 40° to 45°F (4° to 7°C) for at least 12 to 14 weeks. If you live in a warmer area, pre-chill the bulbs in a refrigerator before planting outdoors.
Garden Design and Combinations
Arranging Muscari and Hyacinth
When designing your garden with Muscari (grape hyacinth) and Hyacinth, it’s crucial to plant them in large quantities for an impressive visual impact. For instance, a small garden can benefit from a grouping of at least 25, while an average-sized suburban garden might require drifts of 100 or more in the flower garden or scattered beneath trees and shrubs [source].
Complementary Plant Pairings
Pairing rosy-pink Hyacinths with sky-blue Muscari creates a charming and wonderfully fragrant combination that offers a beautiful, eye-catching contrast in your garden, and is often ignored by deer or rabbits [source]. When happy, Muscari can spread (naturalize) to form dense carpets of spring color alongside other spring bloomers, such as tulips and daffodils [source]. It’s essential to consider the colors and growth habits of various plants when planning your garden design in order to enhance visual interest and harmonize with surrounding flora.
Common Pests and Diseases
While grape hyacinths (Muscari) generally have few pests and diseases, they may sometimes experience issues with aphids and spider mites. These infestations are rare, and when they occur, can be managed by removing the insect pests with a strong spray of water from the garden hose(source). Additionally, the yellow mosaic virus can affect Muscari, although it is not a predominant problem(source).
On the other hand, common hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) are fragrant flowering plants that bloom in various colors during early to mid-spring (source). While information regarding specific pests and diseases affecting common hyacinths is limited, it is crucial to ensure proper care and optimal growing conditions to maintain the overall well-being of the plant.
Propagation and Storage
Methods and Techniques
Propagation of Muscari and Hyacinths can be achieved through different methods, such as seeds or bulb division. For Muscari grape hyacinth, seed propagation is convenient as the plant drops its seeds after blooming, and they can develop into new plants by the following spring (source). On the other hand, propagation by division is quicker and more effective. To do this, simply dig up a congested clump during their dormant period in the summer, divide it into smaller clusters, and replant them (source).
As for Hyacinths, they are typically propagated by planting bulbs. For a stunning visual impact, plant these bulbs in groupings of five to nine,-spacing them 5 to 6 inches apart (source). Grape hyacinths, however, can be spaced 2 inches apart due to their smaller size.
When storing grape hyacinth bulbs, it is essential to provide a chilling period of approximately 10 weeks with temperatures at least as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This prepares the bulbs for blooming. The refrigeration method is a suitable option for storing the bulbs, ensuring they are timed appropriately to bloom within 22 to 24 weeks (source).
My name is Daniel Elrod, and I have been houseplant love ever since I was 17. I love how much joy they bring to any room in the home. I’ve always been amazed at how a few pots of flowing leaves can turn a drab and sterile office into an inviting place where people love to work at.