Grape Hyacinth Control: How To Get Rid Of Grape Hyacinth Weeds
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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Grape hyacinths rise in early spring with sweet little clusters of purple and sometimes white flowers. They are prolific bloomers which naturalize easily and arrive year after year. Fear not. There is a method and a plan for removing grape hyacinths.
Grape Hyacinth Weeds
Grape hyacinth produces numerous seeds once the blooms are spent and bulbets are formed off the parent bulbs for future flowers. This allows grape hyacinth plants to spread rapidly and sometimes out of control. Grape hyacinth weeds infest untilled fields and garden beds alike and may rely upon sequential grape hyacinth control for complete removal.
Most grape hyacinth bulbs are planted on purpose with the intention of brightening up the front path or spring flower bed, but the ease with which this plant reproduces can make it a real nuisance in some instances and its invasive abilities are a threat to crop land.
Grape hyacinth control will necessitate the removal of seed heads before they produce viable seed and extraction of as many bulbs as possible. Since the plants are able to make many tiny bulbs off the main one, it can be almost impossible to find them all in a season. Complete elimination may take years.
Grape Hyacinth Control
The first step to get rid of grape hyacinth is to remove seed scapes after the flower petals have fallen. Although it takes at least four years for the little seedlings to form flowers, the seeds will eventually restart the hyacinth take over.
Pull the leaves as well, as these are giving solar energy to turn to starch, which is then stored for the next year’s growth in the bulbs and bulbets. Normally, leaving the foliage until it has died back is recommended, but in this case, it is just adding fuel to the fire. You can also use a propane weed torch and burn off the greens. This method will require several years for complete success but eventually the plants will die.
Getting Rid of Grape Hyacinth Bulbs Manually
Removing grape hyacinths manually is a bit of a chore but works better than herbicide use. This is because the bulbs and bulbets have a waxy coating which helps protect them in winter, but also erects an effective barrier against chemicals. Dig at least 6 inches (15 cm.) down and pull out as many of the bulbs as possible.
Removing grape hyacinths completely is a challenge because it is hard to spot every single bulb. If you want to be meticulous, allow the foliage to grow in spring and then follow each and every leaf to its bulb or bulbet source. That is a bit intense for most gardeners so some follow up is usually necessary the next season and possibly even the one after too.
Chemical Warfare to Get Rid of Grape Hyacinth
A 20 percent horticultural vinegar applied to the leaves will kill the foliage, leaving the bulbs weak.
Another way to get rid of grape hyacinth is with weed killers. Spray at the rate recommended on the bottle on a windless, mild day. Be careful because this method of grape hyacinth control is non-specific and can kill other plants if the chemical spray gets on their leaves.
Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are more environmentally friendly.
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Dig the blue hyacinths bulbs out of the ground with a hand trowel. Remove as much of the plant matter as possible by digging an area about 6 inches wider than the hyacinths bulb bed. This can be done before or after the plants have sprouted.
Place the unwanted bulbs in a garbage bag. Refrain from disposing the plant or its bulbs on the ground or in a compost pile as this may lead to contamination and regrowth of the hyacinths.
Examine the location regularly for signs of new growth. Missed plant matter can sprout weeks after the initial removal. Use the hand trowel to dig up any new growth and dispose of the plant matter in a garbage bag.
How to Make Grape Hyacinth Lemonade
Now you can do whatever you want with your grape hyacinth simple syrup! You can add it tea, alcoholic mixed drinks, the sky is the limit! I’d be willing to bet it’s even pretty delicious added during the second fermentation for kombucha!
I decided to follow Lauren’s lemonade recipe, and was not disappointed! I added more lemon than she did, but it was more or less the same recipe.
Combine ingredients, add some ice, and enjoy! It’s sweet, earthy, and refreshing!
Other Things to do with Grape Hyacinth
- Pickle the buds and blossoms
- Add them to a garden salad
- Use the buds as seasoning
I want to try cooking them, then dehydrating and grinding them up for a pretty purple seasoning.
- Use as a natural dye
I haven’t tried this yet, but surely they make a wonderful natural dye. My hands were purple for about 2 days after harvesting them!
Have you made anything with edible grape hyacinth flowers? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear.
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Q. grape hyacinth elimination
Please - how to get rid of all those tiny bulbs. They love it here in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Invasive is a small word for how they crowd out wonderful plants, like roses. Already I've spent hours removing bulbs and I'm tired. They came in the beds voluntarily - probably by a vole or some such? Thanks for any help.
Really, the only way is to be diligent about digging them up. Remove any flowers that the remaining ones produce to keep seeds from spreading and when you dig them up, make sure you have gotten all of the bulblets that were attached to the mother bulb.
You can spot treat with Round-Up or boiling water but be aware that both herbicides will kill any plant material it touches, such as surrounding grass or plants that it splashes on.
How can I get rid of Grape hyacinth that has taken over my garden, I dug loads of the bulbs out last year but now there are more than before
Beds, United Kingdom
We have the same problem. Dig, dig dig and dead head to stop them seeding. Also use weedkiller. Slow job though!
how about some membrane to cut out the sun if its possible
Dig them up and give them away to friends and family - everyone loves free plants.
they sound interesting ill have some if you dont mind sending them.
No NP, you do not want them. they are the bulbous equivalent of ground elder or bindweed!
I love Grape Hyacinth, Owdboggy. If I lived in the UK I'd take some off your hands Stanley. Just keep digging and deadheading like Owdboggy says. You'll get them eventually.
ow well im gonna take a look at some now.i hate being told know.you mite be right but you dont know wear i mite want to put them.a weed is a plant in the wrong place after all.no disrespect boggy take care bye for now.
I like Grape Hyacinth - it's the spanish bluebells in my garden that are a curse!
realy they sound interesting to lol
If you do a search on GoY, Leigh, it comes up with lots of photos. Its also called Muscari.
ow its lovley will it grow in shade do ya know boggy id love some
elleme these plants look nice to they also seam very similer to Grape Hyacinth.i like them bothe.i wouldnt mind if they popped up all over my front garden.it seams there breeding with our native blue bell and mongralising them.i do like them.you cant say its an ugly or unpretty plant.if its very invasive as it seams then most gardens it wouldnt suite i guess fair play
Np - next door has them right through their beds and borders - OK, they look like a sea of blue while they are in flower, but they are choking the other plants, so they are really invasive now. She is always heaving up handfuls! But it doesn't seem to make any difference.
Yes, the bluebells are lovely in when flower but they do hybridise easily with the native, even more pretty bluebell. I think some people want them to be banned in case we lose the original native form. I'm kind of on the fence about that one, but Spritzhenry is right about them really choking out the other plants. I didn't plant either, save a more attractive type of grape hyacinth in my front garden (Muscari latifolium) so you never know, they may turn up of their own accord.
(Stanley, sorry for hijacking your thread with bluebells!) The usual grape hyacinth at least have thin leaves, though I doubt that makes much of a difference if you've got so many of them that you don't want them. They do seem to start coming up a bit earlier than some other bulbs so if you're digging them out now, also check next autumn.
How to Protect Your Bulbs
Luckily, there are several things you can do to keep your bulbs in the ground where they belong. From physical barriers meant to keep critters at bay to handy ingredient swaps that will deter attention from your garden, the following methods can help keep squirrels and chipmunks from scavenging your prized bulbs.
Cover Your Bulbs
One of the most foolproof ways to protect your bulbs from ravenous squirrels and chipmunks is to cover the planting area with either chicken wire or hardware cloth (hardware cloth is a metal mesh much like chicken wire except that it has a smaller grid pattern).
There are two ways to use chicken wire or hardware cloth to protect your bulbs. You can cut a section of the material that's large enough to cover the overall size of the planting area. Lay it on top of the soil after you have planted the bulbs and secure it in place with stakes or by weighing it down with rocks or bricks. Cover the material with a mulch of shredded leaves or bark to hide the wire. Bulb stems will grow through the holes in the chicken wire or hardware cloth, but the bulbs themselves will be protected from digging critters. This technique works best in open areas where you won't have to work around perennials or other plants.
Alternately, you can use chicken wire or hardware cloth to make simple cages, placing the bulbs inside the cage and then placing the structure in the planting hole. These enclosures are especially effective against tunneling animals, such as voles, that also feed on bulbs.
Avoid Smelly Fertilizers
Bone meal, fish emulsion, blood meal, and some other natural fertilizers have a pungent aroma that might attract squirrels and chipmunks—not to mention digging dogs, cats, and other animals. Avoid these natural fertilizers in favor of synthetic fertilizers that have no odor if your garden has a history of issues with critters that dig.
Plant Your Bulbs Among Other Plants
When you plant spring bulbs among established groundcovers or other perennials, like creeping vinca or pachysandra, squirrels have a harder time finding the bulbs and digging them up. Another advantage to this strategy is that your spring bulbs will supply early color to colorless areas before the summer perennials begin to fill in.
Use Natural Repellents
Several organic repellents are on the market that might work wonders when it comes to keeping critters out of your garden. There is no need to limit your purchases to just squirrel and rodent repellents--organic deer repellents can also be effective. Another natural repellent method that's effective against squirrels is red pepper flakes—a liberal sprinkle over planted bulbs can do an excellent job of discouraging hungry squirrels from digging.
Add Sharp Gravel
If you're planting bulbs in an established garden bed, consider adding sharp gravel to the surrounding soil. When squirrels encounter jagged material, they'll often leave to find a new place to scavenge. You can find sharp gravel in home improvement centers or landscape supply yards (it's typically used to provide drainage under paved surfaces). Crushed oyster shells, which have an unpleasant gritty texture, might also stop squirrels from digging.
Provide Alternate Food Sources
The theory behind setting up a squirrel feeding station near your garden is that if the squirrels have easily-accessible grains and nuts, they won't bother trying to dig up your bulbs. This method is controversial— some experts believe that the food merely attracts more squirrels to your yard, and they will dig up your bulbs anyway. Keep in mind, however, in areas where squirrel infestations are unusually heavy, you might be violating local ordinances if you feed squirrels and other wild animals.
Clean Up Your Planting Areas
When you're finished planting your bulbs, remove any outer papery layers that might have dislodged from the bulbs, damaged bulbs you decided not to plant, or other plant debris. Such materials can signal the attention of squirrels, who will start digging to see what other goodies you've left lying around for them.
Plant Bulbs That Squirrels Don't Prefer
Squirrels are very fond of some bulbs, such as tulips and crocus, but other spring-blooming bulbs are not on their preferred menu. If you have a significant critter issue, you can replace your tulips and crocus with bulbs that are less-desirable to squirrels, or simply mix them in among your existing bulbs as a deterrent (a few bites of something bitter might keep the squirrels away from your yard). Bulbs that are not preferred by squirrels include daffodils, alliums (also onions and garlic), scilla, hyacinth, muscari (grape hyacinth), fritillaria, and snowdrops.
Delay Planting Time
The squirrel and chipmunk feeding frenzy typically peaks in early fall and begins to quiet down by late October when the rodents have already stored away most of their winter food supply. If possible, plant your spring-blooming bulbs somewhat later in the season, when squirrels are no longer desperately filling their stores for winter.