By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Reminiscent of clustered upside-down grapes and extremely fragrant, grape hyacinths (Muscari) have long since been admired. These old-time favorites emerge in fall with grass-like foliage and by late winter/early spring, they explode into bloom with clusters of tiny cobalt blue, bell-shaped flowers. But who has time to wait? It’s easy to force grape hyacinth into early bloom, growing grape hyacinth indoors throughout winter and adding color and fragrance to your home.
Forcing Grape Hyacinth Indoors
To force grape hyacinth indoors, you’ll need to dig up existing bulbs or purchase them in late summer/early fall. To enjoy blooms from January through March, pot the bulbs for chilling in September or October. Grape hyacinth bulbs require a cold period (35º- 48º F. for at least 10 weeks. Plant the bulbs, anywhere from 12-15, in a bulb pan or other suitable container at least six inches around and 6-8 inches deep. Moist potting soil is preferable, filling the pot to within a couple inches of its rim and placing the bulbs about an inch apart with their tips pointing upward.
Move the pot to a cool, dark area (for about 10 weeks). Depending on your location, this might be an unheated basement or cellar, cold frame, well-ventilated crawlspace, or even an unused refrigerator (keeping away from any fruits/vegetables).
Growing Grape Hyacinth Indoors
Check the bulbs occasionally during the chilling period, watering weekly. Water just enough to keep the soil moist not wet. Once the roots begin spilling out from the bottom of the pot, bring the grape hyacinth indoors. Choose a bright, slightly cool (not cold) area of your home to sit them in order to stimulate flowering. Continue to keep the soil moist.
Once grape hyacinth blooms appear, you can prolong their flowering by keeping them located in cooler areas of the home. Likewise, you can plant several pots at various intervals and bring them inside in stages to enjoy longer flowering displays.
Forcing grape hyacinth and growing grape hyacinth indoors is an easy and fun way to enjoy their beautiful, fragrant grape-like blooms early in the season.