If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know I love gardening. I’ve designed our entire landscape and planted all of the shrubs and flowers myself. I take pride in a perfectly manicured lawn and trimmed hedges. Good thing, too, because this also allows me to burn calories while I do something I enjoy. I’ve dreamt of planting peonies but, unfortunately, they don’t grow this far south. If you live in USDA zones 8-10 or warmer, and want peony-like flowers in the Spring, let me teach you how to grow ranunculus, the beautiful alternative to peonies in the South.
Have you ever heard of the flowers called ranunculus? They’re also known as ranunculus flowers, ranunculus buttercups, ranunculus asiatica, or just plain buttercups. Admittedly, I prefer the name buttercups but ranunculus is the accurate name. They come in a wide range of colors and bloom for several weeks in the spring. They were flowers I fell in love with when I was planning our wedding eight years ago, and I was only reminded of them recently when I was searching for a way to grow peonies in Florida.
Ranunculus don’t grow from bulbs. They grow from tubers or corms. Ranunculus can look like miniature peonies AND they are something gardeners can grow in the challenging southeast climate. Last year I ordered 20 pink ranunculus tubers and 20 white ranunculus tubers. They are pretty inexpensive, about $10 for a dozen or so. When I opened their packaging I was not expecting bulbs, but I was a little shocked (and a little creeped out) when I saw tubers (corms) in real life.
They were described as miniature bunches of brown bananas, but to me they look like little baby octopuses or calamari. I find it fascinating that these creepy little husks will grow profuse amounts of majestic flowers come spring. Last year I planted 80+ daffodils and, sadly, only 13 germinated and none bloomed. Not one. I’ve learned my lesson–stick to what actually is guaranteed to grow in your zone and avoid the heartache.
I prefer to do my gardening in the early morning with my coffee by my side, as the afternoon Florida sun can be oppressive even in our “cold” season. We’ve had a couple of cold snaps lately that made me stay inside curled up with my pups. Not that I’m complaining. But lately we’re having warmer temperatures again, so I seized the opportunity and planted the ranunculus tubers with my morning coffee. FYI I have been loving the Caramel Coffee Cake flavored Dunkin’ Donuts® at Home Bakery Series® coffee lately.
So indulgent + satisfying: the aroma beckons you into the kitchen. My house smells like freshly baked coffee cake in the mornings! I like that you can have bakery-fresh taste in a variety of flavors such as Vanilla Cupcake, Blueberry Muffin, and Chocolate Glazed Donut. Blueberry muffins are my favorite breakfast guilty pleasure, and if brewing this version makes my kitchen smell as good as the Coffee Cake brew did, my local Publix better stock this Dunkin’ Donuts® at Home flavor soon! At less than $8 a bag at your local supermarket, it’s easy to bring all six flavors home and have ready for family and friends during the holidays.
How to Grow Ranunculus
Choosing the right location
Ranunculus prefer full sun, so be sure to choose a site that gets full sun but is also well-draining.
Be sure to pick a spot that does not get a lot of water overhead, such as near a downspout or directly under the eaves of your house. Too much water will rot these delicate tubers. Unfortunately, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.If you have a puddle of water sitting in a spot hours after rain, that would not be the place to plant these delicate tubers.
I chose my southern wall, where I planted my English roses, to plant my ranunculus tubers as this site receives 8 hours of sun every day. The roses will be dormant as the ranunculus start blooming, and the blooms will hide the bare canes. Win-win!
Some gardeners recommend pre-soaking the tubers for several hours before planting so that the delicate dry tubers don’t break in the planting process. Some say ranunculus grow well even if they’re planted dry. I’ve heard arguments against both approaches: that soaking causes the tubers to fall apart or that planting dry yields no growth. Because the site I’m planting them on gets very little moisture and lots of sun, I decided to soak them overnight to give them a head start.
Look at the difference! Don’t be afraid of soaking them overnight. The tubers were nice and plump, and not at all brittle. They did not split or break off on me. The way I see it, soaking them is setting them up for success.
Plant the tubers with the pointy tips facing down (see picture above), and with the eye (the flatter area) facing up, about 2″ deep and 4″ to 6″ apart.
After covering the tubers with soil, sprinkle a little bit of diluted fish emulsion over the bed to help nourish the soil around the tubers. This little boost will feed the tubers for their vigorous growth down the road.
After planting, water them in to settle the soil, but don’t water again until shoots appear. This is where soaking the tubers overnight comes into play. Soaking the tubers ensures that they have enough moisture to start sprouting shoots.
Typically, for fall planted tubers, roots and sprouts grow in the fall, taller growth appears over the mild winter, and flowers come in the spring. Fall planted tubers bloom in early spring and continue steadily for six to seven weeks. Late winter planted tubers will flower by mid-spring and continue for four to six weeks.
Since our winters are so short, I get antsy for flowers by February. Ranunculus normally start flowering about 90 days after planting so by planting them in mid-November, by mid-February I can expect to have blooms for my vases!
When spring comes I should have a glorious display of white and pink ranunculus. If there’s one lesson I can share with you, is “growth follows the knife.” Any time I prune a plant it encourages more growth. So by all means, cut as many flowers for your vases; you will keep getting more ranunculus!
End of Season
Once temperatures reach 80 degrees, ranunculus will stop blooming. They are, after all, cool season plants. Like other plants that have underground bulbs, tubers or corms, allow the foliage to brown before trimming.
If you live in zones 9 – 10 or warmer, I recommend taking the extra step and pulling the tubers before the wet summer season and storing them in a dark, cool and low-humidity area. Ranunculus do not like to be wet, and they can rot if the conditions are too moist.