Ranunculus produce rose-clustered, bright flower heads. A bed of Ranunculus will give you a long, rich profusion of densely packed colour. The flower heads can appear to float on their own as the stems are thin and long. Ranunculus flowers are also a favourite for cutting and arranging indoors. We’ve put together this handy guide to growing these beautiful flowers.
Ranunculus can be planted out as bulbs or as plug plants in the autumn. The name derives from range, which is the Latin for ‘frog’ – possibly because Ranunculus grow in cool and moist conditions, companions for frogs. The foliage is also delicate and abundant.
When and where to plant
Moist, fairly friable soil in a cool shady border is ideal for planting bulbs or plug plants – plants can also be grown on in a pot kept in a cold frame over the winter. Bulbs and plants grown from seed need to be grown in a location where the soil won’t freeze. The soil pH is not a crucial factor. A concentrated ranunculus bed can look spectacular – or in a mixed bed, they will complement other coloured perennials and also bog garden plants. Plug plants should be planted out between mid-September and early October. Bulbs should be planted out in late October.
How to plant
For plug plants, dig an individual hole for each plant: the hole should be deep enough to cover the roots but not any of the exposed stem. Gently firm into the ground, and water in. Keep watering throughout the season and feed weekly for best results. For container planting, fill the container up to three-quarters full with multipurpose compost. Carefully remove the plant from its tray or pot and place in position. Fill the container back in with soil and gently firm down. Water in generously. Plant out with a space of 18 to 20 cm between plants. To plant out bulbs, dig holes 6 cm deep and place each bulb in with the pointed ‘spider-like’ side facing down. Sprouts will form in the autumn, and then the plant will lie dormant over the winter and begin to grow again in the spring.
The flowers are prized as florists’ flowers for their intense colours, display longevity and beautiful, pure shapes. Cut flowers when they have fully formed but have not yet opened. After they have flowered and the petals have fallen, the seed head will mature and dry out. You can harvest the seeds by shaking or rubbing the pod. Sow the seeds in trays in the autumn.
When the plants have finished flowering, don’t cut back the foliage as this will provide nourishment as the plant closes down into dormancy. Cut the foliage when the plant enters into its dormant stage and the leaves have yellowed and shrivelled. Protect young plants from the birds with netting as the buds and sprouts can end up eaten. Wash off any aphids which appear with a carefully aimed jet of water. If an infestation of aphids does occur, use an insecticidal soap to treat the problem.
Did you know
The tuberous roots can be lifted and divided after flowering – lift gently out with a fork. Pieces of the root can be kept in pots of soil-based compost. Keep these in a cold frame and plant out in the spring.