Annuals · Bulbs

Growing Ranunculus

Mother Nature pulled out all the stops when she fashioned the ranunculus. Their magnificent flowers are made up of layers upon layers of silky petals so exquisite, they seem artificial. These cool-season flowers are perfect for spring containers, mingling with snapdragons, stock, pansies and alyssum.

Plants can be purchased at local garden centers, but they can also be grown from tubers. Begin with the largest tubers you can find and afford. They grow better plants with more flowers.

Soak the tubers for a short time before planting them, roots pointing downward, a couple inches deep in pots filled with soilless potting mix. Water thoroughly and place pots under lights or in a sunny window in a cool room (around 55 degrees is best).

Before planting them outdoors, introduce them gradually to weather conditions. When nighttime temperatures are reliably above 35 degrees, plant them in a location with well-drained soil and lots of sunshine. Ranunculus cannot tolerate soggy soil. Or plant them in a pot with light potting mix.

Most gardeners treat ranunculus like annuals and purchase fresh tubers every year, but they can be saved for the following year. After plants have stopped blooming, let their foliage yellow and die back. Then tubers can be dug and put in a cool, dry place until they are completely dry. Store them in a cool, dark spot until it is time to plant them again.

As much as I love the flowers of ranunculus, I am not interested in planting them from tubers or saving tubers from year to year. I am more than happy to put this effort into dahlias or cannas, but these beauties reward me with months of blooms.

Ranunculus and I have a brief affair – just six weeks or so in spring – so I am pleased to fork over the cash for already-blooming plants. Available in a wide range of colors from bright shades of yellow, orange, red and white to pastel tones of salmon, lavender and pink, there are varieties from eight to eighteen inches tall – offering just the right one for my whims of the season.

Other cool-season annuals combine beautifully with ranunculus. The contrasting flower shapes of snapdragons and stock are nice options. Pansies, violas and alyssum are lovely nestled up against the celery-like leaves of ranunculus. The silvery gray foliage of dusty miller or the fresh green or red leaves of lettuce are nice foliage partners. In the garden, ranunculus plants are beautiful teaming up with larkspur and poppies.

Whether they are grown in the garden or containers, deadhead spent flowers to encourage plants to produce more flowers instead of setting seed.

Cut some flowers when they are just beginning to show color to enjoy inside in bouquets. They last up to a week.

If you haven’t yet grown ranunculus, fall in love with them this spring. Garden with me!

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