I’m so happy you’ve landed on this page because it means you’ve discovered and want to know more about my absolute favorite flower- ranunculus! You may recognize their ruffled blooms from wedding florals, or perhaps it was that unforgettable sheen of the Butterfly Ranunculus that caught your eye. One way or another, you found yourself drawn to ask about the beautiful flowers, and I can’t wait to tell you all about ranunculus so you can grow them yourself or just appreciate their beauty even more!
Table of contents
Background Info on Ranunculus
Like most cut flowers, ranunculus were selectively bred over many years to create the beautiful varieties we know today. All ranunculus flowers belong to the ranunculacae (or buttercup) family. That means all of the colors and ruffles of modern day ranunculus originated from this this flower right here, a simple little buttercup flower. Plant breeding is so cool, isn’t it? Their name translates from it’s latin roots to mean little frog- because they love water and have been know to grow alongside streams. The variety you often see used as a cut flower today is also known as a “Persian Buttercup” or a “rose of spring” for their resemblance to roses.
These flowers are native to Southwest Asia and were first brought to Europe. A fun fact about ranunculus is that some varieties within the genus have actually been used throughout history in folk medicine to treat a number of afflictions (source). However, please note that I am not suggesting in any way that you test out your ranunculus or any other garden flower as medicine. Like many medicinal plants, flowers in the ranunculus family can also be quite toxic. And that brings me to my next point…
Toxicity of Ranunculus
All plants within the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family are toxic to some extent. The plant material if crushed and applied to skin can cause irritation, sores, and blisters. If ingested, they can cause a whole host of digestive issues. Not fun. So please, make sure and children, pets, or other garden visitors admire their beauty without using them during play time or having a taste. This article over at “Eat the Weeds” goes much more in depth if you want to learn more about ranunculus’ toxicity.
Ranunculus Varieties and Colors
These “persian buttercups” are some of the most diverse flowers in color. They come in many shades yellow, orange, white, deep red, purple, coral, and just about every pink you can imagine. Some varieties have multiple colors within their petals, creating a beautiful element of depth and texture. I’ve grouped them into categories to help show the true breadth of variety this fun flower offers.
We’re starting with my favorite. Butterfly Ranunculus are some of the most whimsical, beautiful flowers in my opinion. They have around 7-12 flowers per stem that will bloom in succession- perfect for long-lasting bouquets. Their petals have the most beautiful pearlescent quality about them. While I think it is something you have to see in person to truly appreciate, I think my phone did a decent job picking up on it in the photo below.
Most Butterfly Ranunculus varieties have a bit of an ombre effect, with a fade from darker to lighter shades within each petal. Shown below is a yellow/orange variety sold by Breck’s that shows that same ombre effect seen on my blush pink “Ariadne” Butterfly Ranunculus blooms from my garden. Butterfly Ranunculus also vary from other ranunculus varieties in their growth habit- the plants tend to grow a bit fuller and wider with more flowers per stem.
What makes Cloni varieties unique is that they tend to be a good bit larger than other varieties. They come in a variety of color and possess the trademark layers and ruffles of most well-known ranunculus varieties. The photo below is a ranunculus “Cloni Success Hanoi”, a very popular variety. Check out this article for a full appreciation of these ranunculus.
Any ranunculus with the word “Picotee” in the name can be expected to have petals rimmed in a different color than the rest of the flower. This creates a lovely textured effect in bouquets that can help break up blocks of color. My first experience with this flower was when it accidentally ended up in a mix of ranunculus corms I purchased from an online source. It was a happy accident, because it’s now one of my favorites! You can see it in some of my photos throughout the post, but let’s appreciate this big bunch of them from Eden Brother’s site.
Pon Pon Ranunculus
“Cloni Pon Pon” Ranunculus take the ruffles to a whole new level. Their blooms are large and fluffy, with big, fringed petals and a green heart. These always make a big impact and provide lots of texture and variety to bouquets.
How to grow Ranunculus
Where to plant
Providing ideal growing conditions is important for these picky plants. They grow best in full sun, and should be planted in cool, dry soil. You may have problems with the corms rotting if they are in soggy soil for too long. I grow mine in a raised bed garden so I can better manage their water and frost protection needs.
When to Plant
Ranunculus can be planted either in the fall or late winter/early spring depending on where you live. In zone 8-10 ranunculus can be planted out in the fall for early spring blooms. In zone 7 you have a couple options. You can plant your ranunculus corms as early as fall along with your other fall-planted bulbs provided you put in the effort to set up frost protection. Even with frost cloth, temperatures below 25 degrees or multiple days below freezing can end up damaging your plants. Below is a photo of my ranunculus Butterfly plants after a night where temps reached 17°. They were sheltered by my frost cloth tunnel, but still got pretty damaged.
Anything below zone 7 can be a bit risky. If the ground freezes, the corms will get damaged and won’t grow. I think you’re best off waiting until late winter or early spring when the ground thaws and you know you’re unlikely to get another hard freeze.
How to plant
I just planted my ranunculus, so I can walk you through all the steps I took. I’m no pro, but I’ve grown ranunculus successfully for the past few seasons, so I know these steps work! Before anything, make sure you set yourself up for success during your fall garden cleanup, or make up for it in spring by cleaning up and caring for your garden.
1. Prep your flower beds:
It’s always tempting to jump ahead and just get plants in the ground, but prepping the soil is important! Top up your flower beds if they need more soil (mine did), and add some compost. I use both mushroom compost and cow manure in mine. You can buy these at Lowe’s or Home Depot, but check with local sources like farms and mushroom growers if you have any in your area.
2. Protect your plantings
Caring for ranunculus during cold snaps is very important. If you know your plants will need to withstand some cold temperatures, prepare to protect your plants. I do this by putting a frost tunnel over my raised beds. It’s actually super easy to set up. I’ll write a post on how I do mine soon.
3. Soak your corms
Ranunculus corms do best with a little hydration boost. Place your corms in a bowl and fill it with water. Turn your sink on low so that a trickle of water streams into the bowl while the corms soak. The trickle of water will oxygenate the water and keep it from becoming stagnant. This is a simple but important detail, as soaking your corms in stagnant water can contribute to rot.
4. (Optional) Pre-sprout
You can bring the corms straight out to your planting location, or pre-sprout them. Pre-sprouting your corms will simply help them to get a jump start on growth. It’s really up to you. I pre-sprouted a batch of corms I dug up last year only because I wanted to make sure they were still good after their time in storage. This will allow me to properly space the ones that I know for sure will grow.
To pre-sprout, you’ll need a tray and some seed starting soil. I used these baskets lined with landscape fabric because I’m all about just using what I have on hand. Add a layer of seed starting soil, then spread the corms evenly on top of the soil. Add more soil until the corms are covered, then leave the tray in a cool location for about 2 weeks.
Floret Flower has a great guide on growing ranunculus, and this photo from the post is a great visualization of how the corms will change over the course of their pre-sprouting.
5. Plant in ground, pointy side down
Dig a little hole about 2” deep (a hori hori knife is perfect for this) and add a tablespoon or two of fertilizer. I use bone meal and a generic flower fertilizer. Place the corm into the hole, with the pointy ends down. Roots will grow out of the ends, and the plant will sprout from the top.
6. Fertilize again when blooms begin to appear
Once you see blooms appear, fertilize your ranunculus to give them a nutrition boost. They need the extra energy to create all those beautiful blooms for you! By the time your ranunculus are blooming, weeds are also probably beginning to sprout, so keep an eye out and manage them accordingly.
7. Cut, cut, cut
Here’s my favorite part- enjoy your beautiful ranunculus blooms in bouquets for weeks. Ranunculus will bloom more if you deadhead often as new blooms appear, so be prepared to hand out bouquets to friends. I keep old jars and use them to hand out bouquets whenever there’s a chance. Ranunculus have an excellent vase life, so you’re sure to have plenty of blooms to share!
7. Let them die back
Once the weather warms, your ranunculus plants will begin to slow down in their bloom production. The foliage should slowly yellow until the entire plant has died off. Leave the plant in-ground through this process (you can still cut unsightly dead stems to prevent rotting) until there is no green left.
8. (optional) Dig, divide, and store the corms
Once the plants have completely died, you can choose to either dig up the corms, or leave them in ground. If you dig them up, be prepared to put a bit of time into the process. First, you’ll need to let them sit out a few days to a week to let them dry out.
After drying, the corms will be much less plump. This makes it a lot easier to pull them apart. You can see the difference by looking at the corms above, freshly soaked, versus the ones below. I store mine for the next season in a plastic storage box filled with vermiculite, then sift them out with a spider strainer when it’s time to plant. I’ve heard some say to mist the corms occasionally to prevent them from getting overly dry, but I have not done that in the past. I’ll update the post with my success rate after the corms are done pre-sprouting!
Tips and Tricks for Success
- Frost protection is key. If it is going to frost in your area, cover your plants for the night. I set up a frost cloth tunnel over my raised garden beds and leave it in place until past our last frost date for zone 7. This way, I never worry about forgetting to cover them or a last minute frost coming through. I’ll make a post on how I do this soon.
- Ranunculus can be grown in containers! If covering your plants sounds like too much of a hassle, plant your corms in planters that are small and light enough to move indoors in case of cold weather.
- Wait until the foliage is completely dead before you dig up your plants to store the corms. All the stems and leaves should be completely yellow/brown, with no green left in sight. If there is still green on the plant, then it is still storing energy for next year in the corm.
- Ranunculus are prone to powdery mildew. Prevent mildew by watering your plants at their base. Drip irrigation is the best way to do this.
Ranunculus as a Cut Flower
Some people may opt to grow ranunculus in their flower beds alongside other landscaping plants. I think they make a beautiful addition anywhere, but I opt to keep them in my vegetable garden where I can cover them with frost cloth without creating an eyesore in the yard. For that reason, I think they are much better suited to being grown as a cut flower.
Ranunculus’ vase life is one of the reasons they are so popular. When cared for properly, their vase life is usually well over a week or even up to two weeks. For the best vase life, flowers should be cut at the “cracking bud” stage. This is when the bud of the flower is fully colored and exposed, but not quite open yet. Erin at Floret Flower describes it best by saying when you pinch the bud, it should feel soft and squishy, like a marshmallow! If the flower bud is firm, it’s too soon to cut. The flowers below are just a bit past this stage.
When your ranunculus will bloom depends, of course, on your location and when you plant them. Fall planted ranunculus will bloom in early spring, and late winter/early spring planted corms will bloom in mid spring or about 90 days after planting. They don’t like hot weather and will start to die off once temperatures get too warm, so late-planted ranunculus may have their blooming stage cut short.
- Are ranunculus perennial flowers or annual?
This depends on your zone and how much work you are willing to put in to caring for your plants. Ranunculus should be hardy in zone 8-10 as long as there aren’t any dramatic cold fronts. I live in zone 7 Each of them sprouted again, but in early winter. This was a problem because we were still sure to get some freezing days and nights in the rest of our winter. And, they’d end up blooming super early. I opted to relocate them into a little planter.
All that’s to say that in any zone cooler than zone 8, you should basically consider them an annual. That is, of course, unless you are willing to cover and protect your plants throughout the winter.
- How Long will Ranunculus Plants Bloom?
Ranunculus will bloom for 6-8 weeks. The exception to this is if the weather warms too quickly. Ranunculus do not like the heat, and once temps regularly stay above a low of 70 degrees you will likely begin to see some changes. Their blooms will slow down, and the leaves will gradually begin to turn yellow. This is when you know your ranunculus season is coming to a close.
- How Long will it take for ranunculus to bloom?
As a rule of thumb, you can expect to see blooms on your ranunculus plants about 90 days after your corms sprout.
- Can Ranunculus grow in containers?
Yep! Ranunculus should grow quite well in containers! I have yet to test this out, though. As I mentioned above, I moved some outdoor ranunculus into containers this past year… but the story did not end happily. I moved them indoors during a freezing cold week, and some aphids from a delivered floral arrangement took over the ranunculus, devouring the plants quickly. I’ll try again sometime and let you know the results!
Where to get ranunculus bulbs (corms)
These are some sources from which I have previously ordered ranunculus and some notes on them.
- Eden Brothers: wide variety, beautiful mixes, my go-to, but no butterfly varieties available
- Plant Gem: Less variety, but it’s very curated- where I ordered my ranunculus butterfly
- Easy to Grow Bulbs: wide variety, but also no butterfly varieties sold
- The Flower Hat: Small grower, beautiful curated collection of ranunculus varieties available for fall planting
- Local flower farms: research local farms in your area and you may be surprised by the quality available just around the corner from you!
I thoroughly enjoyed digging through the internet to learn more about my favorite flower, and I hope you enjoy the information I’ve put together. Please let me know if you know any fun facts or tips and tricks I should add!