Native to the Mediterranean and southwestern Asia. Clumps of grassy, fleshy leaves appear in fall and live through cold and snow. Spikes of small, typically urn-shaped blue or white flowers (fragrant, in some species) bloom in early spring. Deer and rodent resistant.
M. armeniacum. ARMENIAN GRAPE HYACINTH. Bright blue, slightly fragrant flowers on 8-in. stems rise above a clump of floppy foliage. 'Blue Spike' has double blue flowers in a tight cluster at top of spike. 'Early Giant' blooms somewhat earlier than the species, has darker blue flowers edged in white. 'Cantab', with light blue blossoms, grows lower than the species and has neater foliage and a later bloom time. 'Christmas Pearl' is also earlier and is easy to force without much chilling. 'Valerie Finnis' has lightly fragrant, powder-blue flowers tightly packed onto 6- to 8-in.-tall stems in a roughly spiral pattern. Spreads more slowly than other types.
M. aucheri. Stems to 8 in. tall. Flowers on lower part of spike are bright blue; those on upper part are paler blue.
M. azureum. Blossom spikes are between those of hyacinth and grape hyacinth in appearance. Stalks to 8 in. high bear tight clusters of fragrant, sky-blue flowers that have a bell shape (rather than the usual urn shape).
M. botryoides. An old-time favorite. Medium blue, lightly scented flowers on stems to 1 ft. tall. 'Album' has white flowers.
M. comosum. FRINGE HYACINTH, TASSEL HYACINTH. Bears loose clusters of unusual, tattered-looking flowers on 1- to 1 12-ft. stems. Blossoms are greenish brown on lower part of spike, bluish purple on upper part. 'Plumosum', feathered or plume hyacinth, produces violet-blue to reddish purple flowers that look like shredded coconut.
M. latifolium. Possibly the showiest of the grape hyacinths. Each bulb produces just one leaf and a flowering stem to 6 in. tall. Flowers on lower part of spike are deepest violet, those on upper part vivid indigo blue.
M. neglectum. STARCH HYACINTH. Stems about 6 in. tall. Lower part of bloom spike holds tightly crowded, very dark blue blossoms edged in white, while upper part is set with pale blue blooms. Flowers are said to smell like laundry starch.
Plant in early fall, setting bulbs about 2 in. deep and 3 in. apart in well-drained soil. Plant in masses or drifts under flowering trees or shrubs; use in edgings and rock gardens; grow in containers. Very long lived. Dig and divide when clumps become crowded. Plants self-sow under favorable conditions. Naturalized grape hyacinths are often seen blooming in old cemeteries.