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Top Four Cut Flowers Series: Ranunculus

Ranunculus. They have easily become one of my all-time favorites and I think many of you would agree. For many reasons, they are a flower grower’s dream!

So let’s start this out with a little game— it’s time to play two truths and a lie.

I’ll go first:

  1. Ranunculus come in nearly every color imaginable– from pastels to brights to dark and moody.

  2. They have AMAZING vase life– usually 10-14+ days (if you take care of them).

  3. They are (in the words of our girls) “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” to grow!

Any guesses on which one is the little (or gigantic) lie?

I hate to disappoint, but the third statement is definitely the lie… ranunculus DO come in a wide variety of colors, they DO have an amazing vase life . . . but they are not generally thought of as an “easy grow.”

However, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right? They are by no means impossible, and with some trial and error, you might just find a knack for it and have beautiful ranunculus every spring!

Ranunculus are grown from corms– each one looks like a mini octopus. Before planting, it is recommended to soak them in water for a few hours, then presprout them if you’d like to get them started inside before planting them out. The presprouting is not necessary, but can give you a jump on the season, especially if it’s been a late spring. See a presprouted ranunculus in the photo below.

The main thing to keep in mind when planting ranunculus is that they have very specific temperature needs. First of all, the corms cannot freeze. The foliage can take a light frost, but if the corms freeze in the ground, they will die. This is why in Wisconsin, ranunculus are typically planted in early spring (as opposed to in the fall). Now, I plant mine inside my greenhouse sometime in March, but I used to plant them outside in the field sometime in April and cover them with row cover. (Both scenarios worked, but I prefer the greenhouse situation, just because I then get a longer bloom window before their time is up.)

Oh– and the other thing. They also can’t take the heat… in fact, in the heat of summer, they will shut down for the season. Their ideal temperature range is about 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit, (this is quite the laughable request in Wisconsin, don’t you think??) although they might limp along through the 70s. Once temps are consistently in the 80s (and night temps are consistently warm), they will go dormant and their season will end soon.

So, in summary: no freezing temps please. Oh– and we really prefer nothing over 60 degrees. A polite smile follows.

Okay, SURE.

They’re kind of like those friends who are staying at your summer cabin this weekend. They only arrived an hour ago and they’ve already called three times asking where you keep the good toilet paper, if you have any higher thread-count bed sheets in the closet, and where in town could they buy certified organic, lactose-free milk?

Once you can get past the fact that they’re a little high-maintenance, and you give them a chance… you do realize how amazing they really are.

Each spring is different weather-wise, but ideally, ranunculus will bloom in May and June. This is their moment to shine– and they do! They can usually accompany the last of our tulips for my very favorite combinations. Because they are only a spring crop, and we can only enjoy them briefly each year, I’ve come to really appreciate them, and am not even bothered by all their crazy requests...

After they stop blooming, just let them sit for about a month. Over the next few weeks, the foliage will yellow and die back, indicating that the corm is now regenerated and ready to produce next season. Because the corms can never freeze, they need to be dug up before winter. I dig mine up as soon as the foliage has died back (usually late June/early July, because I want to use that space for another crop, but they could stay in the ground until fall if you wanted. When I dig, I rinse the dirt off, let them dry, and then store them in a paper bag at room temp/low humidity in my house until next time! Each season, the corms will increase in size– eventually you will be able to gently separate the larger corms into smaller ones, but try to do so without breaking the little octopus legs.

Another thing to keep in mind: voles aka field mice love to nibble on ranunculus corms underground. We use mouse traps in our greenhouse, along with solar stakes which emit a sound/vibration every minute or so, to ward them off. Our most effective treatment of voles has been acquiring our beloved cats. Callie– head of rodent control– and her crew are my heroes!

So… maybe not “easy peasy lemon-squeezy”... but definitely worth it! Ranunculus are simply breathtaking. If you’re up to the challenge, there is still time to order corms before next spring. And if you’re not up to growing your own, I know someone who could probably get you some blooms next spring!

Be well!



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