ranunculus flower close up

How to Grow and Care for Ranunculus

ranunculus flower close up

Though it may not be commonly seen in home gardens, the ranunculus is one of the most eye-catching plants you can grow in your garden and command a lot of attention thanks to their striking beauty.

These majestic looking blossoms are usually only seen in the more posh flower shops or as part of a bride’s stunning wedding bouquet.

Just imagine having ranunculus in your garden. You will definitely command attention for having grown and raised such a beautiful plant.

Many people think that growing ranunculus is only for the most expert of gardeners. But that’s not necessarily so.

If you arm yourself with our knowledge and tips from other expert gardeners you’ll also be able to raise them yourself. This comprehensive guide will show you how to grow and care for ranunculus so read on.

What is Ranunculus?

Ranunculus, despite popular belief, is not the name of a flower but a genus that consists of almost 500 different species.

The most common flower that people associate with the name “ranunculus” is the buttercup, which, in and of itself, has many different species as well. Other kinds of ranunculus are the spearworts and water crowfoots.

A majority of ranunculus are classified as perennials, but some species fall under herbaceous, biennial or terrestrial. Surprisingly, some are even considered aquatic.

The leaves of ranunculus are characterized by stems that are veined and possess fine little leaves.

Most flowers possess five petals – usually in colors like green, yellow, red, pink, or white. Every petal contains a nectary gland at its base.

The flowers can bear fruits that range from being hairs to smooth and from winged to ones with spines.

Why should you grow ranunculus?

There are many reasons why you should grow and care for ranunculus and add them to the beauty of your home garden:

  • Easy to care for – Ranunculus is not a finicky plant, anyone – from the novice to the expert – can grow these plants and be successful in making them thrive.
  • Beautiful addition to your garden – probably the main reason why many hobbyists love to take care of ranunculus is its beauty. The flowers give an added oomph to any garden because of their pretty flowers.
  • Many choices – With over 500 species, it’s so much fun to choose the kinds plants you want to grow and the amazing array of colors you can get from the flowers.
  • Easy to find – While there are some species that may be a bit difficult to source, ranunculus in general are easy to find. You can get bulbs or established plants from various garden centers.
  • Affordable – The ranunculus bulbs cost much less than other rare plants. It won’t break the bank to just get various types or get many bulbs to start your ranunculus patch.

Important information about growing Ranunculus

  • Thrives in zones 8 to 11 but can still be grown with much success in colder climates like zone 7 or lower if treated as an annual.
  • Blooms between early spring and summer but this is dependent on the climate on which it is grown.

Varieties of Ranunculus

As mentioned, there are more than 500 species of ranunculus. Some of the most common are:

  • Buttercup – the most common and most recognizable representative of the ranunculus genus. The buttercup is characterized by crepe petals. The flowers can come in all sorts of colors. Some horticulturists have managed to create designer patterns and shades for it.
  • Ranunculus asiaticus – The flower it produces are multi-colored and feature tubers with gnarled claws.
  • Ranunculus ficaria – Commonly appears in North America’s wilds. You can find them in areas like woodlands, alongside streams, and meadows.
  • Ranunculus hanoi  – The flowers are colored a light shade of pink with the shape that is reminiscent of a rosebud.
  • Ranunculus tango – the flowers have been compared to how roses look.
  • Ranunculus acontifolius – Most ranunculus thrive in dry conditions with lots of sun. But the ranunculus acontifolius is different in that it prefers conditions that is opposite – moist with dappled shade. This species is grown best during spring and would usually lie dormant when the summer season arrives.
  • Purple picotee – The flowers possess petals that are lilac white and crimped edges colored purple. These prefer more moisture and good drainage.
  • Amandine rose – A subspecies of the aforementioned asiaticus. The Amandine Rose is one of Holland’s most popular exports mainly because its flowers are so beautiful – what with its ruffled petals that appear in layers. The flowers are bright pink.
  • Ranunculus venere – The flowers come in an uncommon color that can be best described as halfway between pink and coral.
  • Ranunculus lyallii – This flower is originally found in New Zealand. This is one of the tallest species, able to grow up to three feet in height. The flowers are described as having a yellow center and surrounded by white petals. It thrives in soil that rocky and loves a lot of sunlight.
  • Cloni dark orange – This species’ bulbs are propagated very strictly in labs in Italy. The flowers are shaped similarly to the English Rose. The petals have a bright orange color.
  • Rhone pink – This is a designer species developed by the Japanese. The flowers are characterized by layered pink petals, akin to a rose.
  • Snow buttercup – this flower, with the species name of ranunculus nivalis, is found in the arctics and Alaska. This is a small flower that would almost look like it suddenly blooms in the summer when the snow melts. These pretty flowers have gold petals and a green center.
  • Ranunculus alpestris – This species is another one that thrives in cold weather. It has small, white flowers.
  • Ranunculus cortusifolius – A species endemic in the Canary Islands. This species has small white flowers and blooms around spring.
  • Ranunculus acris – known among the horticulture community as the easiest to grow among the different ranunculus varieties. It often grows in boggy areas but is hardy enough that it will thrive in almost all types of soil.
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Planting Ranunculus

There are certain things you need to consider first before you begin planting ranunculus.

It’s important to choose a good quality plant

Ranunculus begin as corms – which look like small octopus or tiny claws. Remember that the larger the size of the corm, the bigger the stored food inside – which means that the plants that come out of these corms will be stronger and hardier. It will also produe more flowers.

Choose the right spot in your garden

Choose a good location for your ranunculus garden patch. Remember that most species have a preference for cool weather and grow the most on a place that has full sun exposure to dappled shade (for other species).

Take a look at your drainage

Make sure that the beds you use for planting have adequate soil drainage. A good gauge of drainage capabilities is to check the area after it rains. If you see that water is still puddling about 5 to 6 hours after it rained, then you should look for another location.

A solution to drainage problems if you have limited space is to add an additional two to three inches of an organic material, which will help in draining water. These organic matter can be something like compost, ground bark, decomposed manure or moss.

Consider container planting

One way to eliminate the issue of drainage is to use a container for planting your ranunculus. Choose the right size container that will fit the amount of bulbs you wish to plant and make sure the container has enough holes in the bottom for water to exit.

Fill your container with a high quality potting mix that provides adequate nutrients and also allows water to drain completely to prevent rot.

The advantage of container planting is that you can move it to an area that will get the right amount of sunlight – something you can’t do if you plant on a flower bed. Container planting is also advantageous if you live in very cold climate because you can move the plants if the weather outdoors get too cold.

Pick the right time to plant

Finally, make sure that you’re timing your planting in the right season/climate. Ideally, you should begin planting the bulbs around fall. If you plant outdoors, you don’t need to worry about protection from the weather if your area’s temperatures don’t drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

But if you live in a place where temperatures can drop below freezing for long periods of time then it will be best to wait to begin planting around the tail end of winter or even when spring starts. Another option would be to plant them indoors first. You can use a pot for this and time it so that it is about 12 weeks before any frost was recorded.

When the plant begins to sprout it will be hardy enough to withstand light frost. Expect your plants to begin flowering approximately 90 days after you’ve planted them. If the temperature dips enough that frost happens you can protect your plants by covering them with a frost cloth.

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Don’t forget to prepare the growing bed for your ranunculus. Use a good amount of compost and balanced organic fertilizer and mix it completely in the soil.

Tips when using different starters

Since you can ranunculus using different types of starters, here are tips you should remember for each type:

Tubers or Corms

Before you plant the corms, you need to prepare them first. Soak them in room temperature water for about a few hours, about 4 will do.

A good tip is to leave the water running for a time as it provides them with a little more oxygen in the water. While it is soaking, the corms will begin to swell, usually up to twice its original size. After the pre-soak is done you are ready to start planting.

Remember to plant it with the claws/spines pointing down.  Provide even spacing for each corm of about 6 to 8 inches and then cover it with about an inch deep of soil.

Alternatively you can just bore a small hole about two to three inches in depth and drop the bulb inside (remember, claws down for the bulb) and then cover the hole. Just remember not to tightly pack in the soil. A gentle pat to put the soil in place will be more than enough.

You need adequate space in between the corms because the plants develop a large root ball. After this, water the soil completely.

One other method you can use after pre-soaking the corms is to allow it to pre-sprout. Many enthusiasts prefer this method because presprouted corms will be slightly stronger and will also mean that it flowers a few weeks earlier compared to corms that were not presprouted.

To pre-sprout, get a flat-bottom seed try and fill it with some pre-moistened potting soil. Sprinkle the pre-soaked coarms and then cover it with soil. Put the tray in a cool area (making sure that it is rodent-free) and leave it for up to two weeks.

Do check in on the tray every couple of days to ensure that the soil is moist but not wet. Remove any corms that have rotted or have mold.

The corms will grow to twice its size and will begin sprouting little roots. When the roots are approximately an eighth to half an inch in length you can now plant them on the ground.

Seeds

When using seeds, sow them indoors around the last weeks of winter in a bed that consists of seed starting mix. These seeds will develop the most in a mix that also has peat. The idea here is to germinate the seeds and they will be more likely to do this in temperatures that hover between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the seedlings begin to peek out of the mix provide some moisture and making sure that they are not in direct sunlight until you’ve already planted them outside. Ranunculus grown from seeds will usually flower in about 3 to 4 months after you’ve planted them.

 Regardless of the starter you used, remember to avoid watering the seedlings until after leaves have started to sprout. The leaves usually appear around springtime but of course will vary depending on when you began planting and where you planted them.

Caring for ranunculus

While ranunculus are relatively hard plants you should still remember to follow these tips to ensure that they will grow success.

Make sure that your ranunculus is always kept moist. Water them regularly but make sure that I’s not completely wet. Just provide enough moisture to keep the soil damp.

Remember that too much water (overwatering them) and subpar drainage of water can result in your bulbs/corms/seeds rotting. A good rule of thumb is to only water your ranunculus when its hot and dry for an extended period of time.

Fertilizer is minimally needed if you are planning to grow your ranunculus as an annual. But if not, a good organic fertilizer added to the soil every few weeks will give your plants adequate nutrients.

One of the problems associated with growing ranunculus plants are various pests or plant diseases. Some of the most common problems associated with this plant are mollusks, aphids, and fungi. But these are relatively normal problems that can be remedied quickly.

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You can just go to a garden supply store and look for the appropriate fixes for these problems. You can also use homegrown solutions to these problems.

For example, to remove aphids from your ranunculus plants, you can prepare a water and liquid soap mixture and then spraying the solution on to the infected parts of the plants. The mixture actually dissolves the protective outer layer of these pests, which then kills them.

The good thing about this solution is that it’s not only natural, it won’t hurt your plants or even other animals or insects that are considered friends to your plants like ladybugs, bees or lacewings.

Ranunculus after blooming

Once your ranunculus have started blooming, sit back and enjoy the fruits of all of your hard work. You can now begin preparing and getting those lovely flowers in your home’s flower arrangements.

You can cut the stems when the buds have colored and it feels like a marshmallow when you lightly squeeze it. Cut them when they are not yet fully open. The reason for this is that if you cut the flowers when they are fully bloomed, they will still last a few weeks but the flowers are going to be more delicate and fragile.

Remember to “deadhead” the plants when needed. Remove all the dead flower heads from your ranunculus plants to keep their appearance neat and to also encourage them to flower.

You should also remember to always remove or trim excess foliage to keep them looking neat and tidy. When the plants are beginning to yellow and die, stop watering them as they won’t need the water anymore. This is the sign that the blooming season has ended.

The bulbs of the ranunculus are relatively affordable so many gardeners consider planting them as annuals. If you’re going to do the same, you can compost the plants after they bloom and the foliage has died.

If you want to save some money, you can save the tubers and replant them next winter or spring. Just dig the tubers out, remove any dead matter and foliage, dry them completely and then store them in a cool, dry place. This way you won’t need to buy new tubers next planting season, unless you want to try other varieties and colors.

You should also remember to collect the seeds from the flowers as an additional resource for planting for the next planting season. When the petals of the flower have fallen off, the seed head will mature and then dry out.

You can harvest the seeds by either shaking the pod or rubbing it between your palms. The seeds can also be used a great gift to your fellow ranunculus enthusiasts. They’ll surely appreciate seeds.

Tried and tested tips from gardeners 

Gardening and flower forums are full of practical tips from fellow gardeners and enthusiasts who have great success in making their ranunculus flower patches thrive.

1. Invest in good potting soil

To ensure that your plants grow healthy, you should fortify the soil with a good potting mix to ensure they get the nutrients they need.

2. Plan out your landscaping 

While it is tempting to get different colors of ranunculus and growing them at the same time, hobbyists actually recommend that you should just get one color. and then pair it with other complimentary blooming spring plants.  It will make for a more visually appealing garden with unique color combinations. 

You can try:

  • pansies
  • primroses 
  • violas
  • oriental poppies
  • daffodils
  • peonies
  • snapdragons

3. Let sprouts grow undisturbed

If you plant during fall then leave them alone. In areas that are warmer than what these plants prefer, they will actually form these small roots and sprouts that hate being disturbed.

4. How to prolong a ranculus bouquet’s beauty  

When your cut flowers have started to sag, you can still prolong their beauty by removing the lower leaves and cutting the stems so they’ll stand up straighter. Do remember to change the water every other day.

The stems of the ranunculus are hollow and quite fragile, and actually easily rots. When in a vase, keep the water level low.

A great way to display ranunculus is to put it in a round vase with the leaves removed. This creates a compact, round bouquet.

Another great way to display ranunculus flowers is to place them in fruit cans and place colorful labels that will either complement or contrast with the ranunculus’ colors.