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All About Fragrant Spring Bulbs

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Customer photo from Brenda in Hanover, PA: Fragrant muscari (grape hyacinths) look especially nice when planted in large groups.

Add Fragrance and Color with Scented Blooms

While spring-flowering bulbs are grown primarily for their wonderful colors, many of them are also delightfully fragrant. Hyacinths produce colorful cones of waxy flowers with a heady fragrance, muscari (grape hyacinths) offer a sweet scent like grape juice, while some tulip and daffodil varieties have the fragrance of gardenias or orange blossoms. Here's a look at some fragrant spring bulbs and how to grow them.

Hyacinths

Originally from the Middle East, hyacinths made their way to Europe in the 1500s. Since that time, breeders have been hybridizing to produce bigger flowers and a wider range of colors. Fortunately, breeding efforts have not compromised the hyacinth's fantastic floral perfume.

Hyacinths look best planted by themselves or with delicate early spring perennials, such as forget-me-nots or pulmonaria.

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City of Haarlem Hyacinth

Growing Hyacinths: Most varieties are 8 to 12 inches tall and come in colors such as white, yellow, pink, red, blue, and purple. Plant hyacinths in late fall in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Choose a spot that gets plenty of sun. Add a small amount of bulb fertilizer in the planting hole. Plant bulbs about 8 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart in beds. As hyacinths emerge in spring some varieties, such as the doubles, may need staking to prevent them from flopping over in heavy rain. After flowering, remove the spent bloom and let the foliage turn yellow and die to ensure a repeat performance the following year.

Hyacinths are quite easy to force for indoor bloom as long as they receive the correct amount of pre-cooling. Buy pre-chilled bulbs or chill your own for 12 weeks in the refrigerator. Then plant the bulb flat-side down in a shallow pot, keeping the top of the bulb just below the soil surface. Water well and place the pot in a cool, dark location until shoots appear. Once you see shoots, move the pot to a bright sunny spot with temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees F. For more on the topic, read Forcing Bulbs for Indoor Bloom.

Muscari

Muscari means musky in Latin, and this beautiful bulb's sweet fragrance adds to its appeal. Muscari (also called grape hyacinths) feature, small, bell-shaped, blue or white flowers that look like an upside-down cluster of grapes. Plants are rarely taller than 12 inches. Naturalized in the yard or planted in garden beds, they will usually multiply readily, providing dependable color each spring with little care. Plant bulbs 3 inches deep in groups of 10 or more. The soil should be moist and well-drained in a part to full sun location. Let the foliage naturally die back after flowering.

Fragrant Daffodils and Tulips

Many daffodils and tulips provide fragrance as well as bright colors. When planting daffodils or tulips for cutting, or viewing close up, try mixing in some of these scented varieties.

Fragrant Daffodils:

  • 'Geranium': This multiflowered variety has pure-white petals with a small orange cup on 12- to 14-inch-tall plants.
  • 'Thalia': This multiflowered variety features fragrant, pure-white flowers on 12- to 15-inch-tall plants.
  • 'Replete': A double daffodil, this variety grows 14 to 18 inches tall with pink-and-white flowers.

Fragrant Tulips:

  • 'Apricot Beauty': A classic single, early-blooming, apricot-colored tulip with a sweet scent.
  • 'Angelique': This double, peony-flowered, pink tulip has multiple blooms per stem on 16 to 18 inch tall plants.
  • 'Peach Melba': Among the most fragrant of all tulips. Gorgeous, peony-like blooms.