Ranunculus is my most sought after flower for everything from weddings, to farmstand bouquets, to birthday arrangements. Many home gardeners are perplexed as to how to grow these long-lasting blooms, but I’m here to tell you that it’s in fact fairly easy. As with all things in life, it’s all about timing!
When To Plant
Here in zone 9B where I grow, our winters are warm enough that spring crops like ranunculus, anemones, sweet peas, and larkspur are best planted in the fall. They sprout and grow most happily in cool weather and short days, and relish the winter months when they can put on lots of root growth below ground. They hate warm weather and will start to shut down once it’s consistently in the high 70’s, so winter and early spring are right in their comfort zone. You can plant ranunculus and anemones anytime from September through December for best results.
To give your bulbs a headstart, it’s best to pre-sprout them if you can. First, start out by soaking your ranunculus and anemone bulbs (also known as ‘corms’) for 6 – 8 hrs in a bucket of room temperature water. They say it’s best to keep a small trickle of water pouring into the bucket to keep it circulating during the whole soak, but quite honestly, I never do this!
When they’re done soaking, I typically line a bulb crate or carrying tray with newspaper, sprinkle a thin layer of potting mix, and then pour the corms on top, separating them out a bit so they’re not crowded. I then cover them with moist soil mix and leave in a cool place for about ten days until they sprout, when I then plant them in the ground. Throughout this process, make sure to maintain the moisture level of a damp sponge, as the bulbs can easily rot before they sprout.
This year I’m opting instead to pot them up into 50-cell trays (you could also use 6-packs), and then grow them in the greenhouse for more like 3-4 weeks, planting in the ground when they’ve filled out their cells and turn into healthy little transplants.
Time To Plant
Next, plant in a sunny part of the garden with good drainage (either as pre-sprouted corms with new little root hairs and shoots, or as young transplants). You can also grow in big pots or raised beds. Plant about 6” apart. I grow mine in hoophouses in order to get them to bloom in early March, but you can also plant outside for slightly later flowers. They are tolerant of some frost, but it’s always good to have frost cloth on hand to cover from any deep freezes.
E voila! I water my plants every few days during the winter, fertilize weekly with fish emulsion, and am picking flowers all through March.
Here’s to a beautiful spring!