Caring for grape hyacinths correctly

Garden Life
The end of the cold period is marked by the delicate fragrance of grape hyacinths in the air. With its strong, blue flower, this plant is a true delight to behold in your garden bed, and is the first source of nutrients for bees and other insects in spring. The grape hyacinth is considered a highly robust bulb plant which is easy to care for, and yet, with the right care, the grape hyacinth will shine out with a particularly rich harvest of flowers and beautiful leaves.

Sufficient water

The grape hyacinth prefers a sunny position, but it is still satisfied with a half-shade or alternate-shade location. And in its care, too, it is hardly demanding. Normal garden soil is sufficient for its growth. It is important that it is regularly supplied with sufficient water. To prevent waterlogging, the water should always be able to drain through the earth. Otherwise there is a risk of fouling and of mould attacking the bulb. The ground must therefore be worked over to a good depth before the bulbs are planted in autumn.

Do not fertilise too much

The grape hyacinth grows and thrives best if the soil is improved through moderate fertilisation. Compost is best for this purpose. If, at the end of flowering, the soil is enriched through approx. 2 litres of compost per square metre, the grape hyacinth receives important nutrients which are stored in the bulb, so that it can produce the uniquely-coloured flowers in large quantities the next spring. Should it not be possible to fertilise with compost, you can also use flowering plant fertiliser. This has a higher phosphorous content, which motivates the plant to form flowers. But be careful! Do not fertilise too much. It is sufficient if the flower fertiliser is added to the soil once, and this at the end of the flowering period.

Cutting dried leaves

When the grape hyacinth flowers begin to fade, their flower heads should be plucked off before they start to produce seeds. In this way, the bulb is given more strength to grow, or to propagate through offset bulbs. If grape hyacinths are intended to grow wild and seed, leave the flower heads on the plant. 

As soon as the leaves of the grape hyacinth become yellow and finally dry up, they no longer need watering. Once all the leaves of the plant are then brown and dry, it is time to cut back the grape hyacinths. Many garden owners are not aware that their grape hyacinths have to be cut back: Once the long and grass-like leaves have dried up and turned yellow, they are trimmed to approximately 2 cm above the earth. It is important that the leaves are not trimmed prior to them going yellow, as plants up to this point nutrients are still being recycled from these leaves for growth the next spring. 

Because when cutting the leaves, the old flower stems and seed capsules with their ripened seeds are cut off, we recommend that you work in two steps: first harvest the seed capsules and spread the seeds, and then remove the old leaves from the bulbs.

Warning, smut fungi!

Although the grape hyacinth is considered highly robust and resistant, it is not protected against all diseases. If the plant is growing in an unsuitable location, or if the individual bulbs are planted too densely, smut fungi may occur. This mainly affects the flower heads. If the flowers are attacked by such a fungi, it is advisable to remove the affected parts and to put them in the waste bin – not on the compost. In order to prevent smut fungi, the grape hyacinths can be treated with field horsetail brew to strengthen them.

Photo: © Digra987 -