Grape hyacinth (Muscari) is a bulbous perennial flower that blooms in spring with beautiful clusters of tiny, bell-shaped flowers. This popular garden plant has edible and medicinal uses, and the bulbs can be used for crafts or propagation. Read on to learn all the ways you can use grape hyacinth in your home and garden.
While not all parts of grape hyacinth are edible, both the flowers and bulbs can be eaten. Here are some of the edible uses for this plant:
- Eat the flowers raw – Grape hyacinth flowers have a sweet, mild flavor. They can be used as a garnish on salads, desserts, drinks, etc.
- Cook the flowers – The flowers can be cooked and used in dishes like stir fries. They tend to lose some of their color when cooked.
- Eat the bulbs – The bulbs are starchy and can be cooked and eaten like a potato. They have a nutty, onion-like flavor. Be sure to cook them thoroughly.
- Pickle the bulbs – Pickling helps mellow the onion-like bite of grape hyacinth bulbs. Use a recipe for pickling pearl onions.
- Infuse in vodka – The flowers can be used to infuse vodka or other clear spirits, adding floral notes.
While grape hyacinth parts are edible, they should always be consumed in moderation. Only eat the flowers and bulbs from plants you know have not been treated with pesticides or other chemicals.
In folk medicine, parts of the grape hyacinth plant have been used to treat a variety of ailments. Some potential medicinal uses include:
- Bulbs for coughs – Grape hyacinth bulbs have expectorant properties and have been used to relieve coughs and other respiratory issues.
- Diuretic effects – An herbal tea made from the flowers may have a mild diuretic effect to promote urine production.
- Antimicrobial – Compounds in grape hyacinth may have antimicrobial properties against certain bacteria and fungi.
- Astringent – The bulbs have an astringent effect and have been used as a skin treatment.
Keep in mind these traditional medicinal uses have not been widely scientifically studied. Consult your doctor before consuming grape hyacinth for any health benefits.
The round, marble-like bulbs of grape hyacinth make them perfect for certain craft projects. Here are some ideas:
- Make jewelry – Pierce the bulbs and string them on wire to make necklaces, bracelets, or other jewelry.
- Use in floral arrangements – Group the bulbs together for unique spring flower arrangements.
- Attach to cards – Glue bulbs onto greeting cards or scrapbook pages.
- Fill containers – Place bulbs in glass bowls, vases, or jars as decor.
- Create art – Paint or decorate bulbs to make grape hyacinth art.
The clustered, bell-like flowers can also be used in crafts. Try floating them in resin or pressing them to make bookmarks, cards, and more.
Grape hyacinth spreads easily through bulblets (small bulbs that form around the parent bulb). Here’s how to use the bulbs for propagation:
- Save bulblets – When grape hyacinth dies back in summer, dig up bulbs and save the bulblets that form around each bulb.
- Replant bulblets – Replant the bulblets in fall about 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Keep well watered.
- Divide bulbs – Mature grape hyacinth bulbs can be divided every few years once the plant is done blooming. Replant divided sections immediately.
Saving and replanting the bulblets and dividing mature bulbs allows you to easily propagate new grape hyacinth plants for free.
Grape hyacinth makes a good companion plant for a number of garden vegetables and flowers. Here are some tips:
- Plant with fruit trees – Grape hyacinth can help improve pollination for fruit trees when planted nearby.
- Repel pests – These bulbs may help repel aphids, mites, and other pests from the garden.
- Grow with roses – Grape hyacinth looks pretty planted around rose bushes and helps improve the soil.
- Pair with spring bulbs – Mix grape hyacinth with daffodils, tulips, crocuses for a colorful spring display.
Grape hyacinth grows well with a variety of plants. Try combining it with other bulbs, perennials, roses, fruit trees, and vegetables in your garden.
Benefits for Gardens
Beyond companion planting, grape hyacinth provides other benefits for gardens:
- Early spring interest – These bulbs bloom very early, bringing color to the garden in late winter/early spring.
- Naturalizes easily – Grape hyacinth will spread over time, naturalizing to create patches of flowers.
- Tolerates shade – It grows well even in shaded garden areas.
- Doesn’t need dividing – The bulbs multiply readily and don’t require frequent dividing.
- Deer resistant – Grape hyacinth is ignored by deer and other wildlife that eat other bulbs.
- Easy care – Grape hyacinth is easy to grow, with no special care required.
For an early-blooming bulb that naturalizes with minimal care, it’s hard to beat grape hyacinth. Add some to your garden this spring.
Growing Grape Hyacinth
Grape hyacinth is simple to grow. Here’s a quick overview of its growing requirements:
- Sun: Full sun to part shade
- Soil: Well-draining soil, average fertility
- Zone: 3-9
- Planting: Plant bulbs in fall 2-4 inches deep, 4-6 inches apart
- Care: Water during dry spells, remove spent flowers
- Fertilizer: None needed
Grape hyacinth tolerates cold well and goes dormant through summer heat. Provide well-drained soil and plant the bulbs in fall. Water occasionally during bloom time. Then let the plants die back naturally after flowering.
Where to Buy Grape Hyacinth Bulbs
You can easily purchase grape hyacinth bulbs from multiple sources, both online and in-person. Here are some options:
- Online bulb retailers – Order bulbs in bundles from large online stores like DutchBulbs.com or Breck’s.
- Local garden centers – Many garden stores sell grape hyacinth bulbs in their bulb sections in early fall.
- Nurseries – Some plant nurseries offer grape hyacinth bulbs alongside potted plants.
- Home stores – Retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s get shipments of flower bulbs for fall planting.
- Hardware stores – Stores like Ace Hardware or True Value may stock flower bulbs seasonally.
- Catalogs – Check plant catalogs from Jung Seed, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, etc. for grape hyacinth offerings.
Shop around both in-person and online to compare bulb prices and availability. Buying in bulk can offer cost savings on these popular spring-blooming bulbs.
Overwintering Grape Hyacinth
Grape hyacinth bulbs are extremely winter hardy and don’t require any special care to overwinter them. Here are a few tips:
- Leave foliage until it dies naturally – Don’t cut back foliage until it completely dies back in early summer.
- Store bulbs in ground – There’s no need to dig up bulbs in fall. Leave them planted where they are.
- Mulch for cold protection – Apply a 2-4 inch layer of mulch over bulb beds once ground freezes.
- Avoid soggy soils – Drainage is more important than insulation. Don’t mulch too heavily.
Grape hyacinth naturally goes dormant through cold winters and hot summers. As long as the bulbs aren’t sitting in wet soil, they will easily overwinter in the ground.
Troubleshooting Grape Hyacinth
Grape hyacinth is relatively trouble-free, but may encounter a few potential problems. Here’s how to troubleshoot common issues:
|Not blooming||Planted too deep, overcrowding, insufficient sunlight||Replant at proper depth, divide overcrowded bulbs, move to sunnier spot|
|Foliage yellowing||Overwatering, poor drainage||Allow soil to dry out between waterings, amend soil with compost to improve drainage|
|Holes in leaves||Insect pests like thrips||Manually remove pests, prune affected leaves, apply insecticidal soap spray|
|Bulbs rotting||Excess moisture||Improve drainage, space bulbs properly, reduce watering if soil is soggy|
With proper planting, watering, and sunlight, you’re unlikely to run into many problems. Always grow grape hyacinth in well-draining soil and an area that gets sun for much of the day.
Uses for Other Spring Bulbs
Grape hyacinth isn’t the only spring bulb you can use beyond just planting in the garden. Many bulbs can be used for food, medicine, and crafts. Here are some ideas for putting other common spring bulbs to use:
- Saffron can be harvested from the stigmas of certain crocus varieties.
- Pick and dry flowers for use in potpourri or pressed flower crafts.
- Plant in lawns or under trees where grass won’t grow.
- Large tulip flowers work well for floral arrangements.
- Cook and eat the petals in certain dishes.
- Press and dry flowers for greeting cards or scrapbooking.
- Make a soothing lotion from crushed daffodil petals to treat dry skin.
- Force bulbs indoors for cheer during winter.
- Plant bulbs around veggie gardens to confuse pests.
Get creative with all types of spring flowering bulbs beyond just planting them in the landscape. They offer abundant possibilities for use as food, medicine, and ornamentation.
Grape hyacinth is a versatile spring bulb with edible, medicinal, and craft uses galore. You can eat the flowers and bulbs, use the plant for natural remedies, or incorporate the bulbs into jewelry and decor. Grape hyacinth also makes a great companion plant for gardens and naturalizes readily. With proper planting and care, you can enjoy this early spring bloomer year after year. Look beyond traditional uses and get creative with ways to put grape hyacinth bulbs to work in your home and garden.