Ranunculus Planting Guide

Talk about generosity . . . few blooms pack in as many petals as ranunculus. Fully double, with silky, almost translucent petals, these flowers are gorgeous florist favorites for obvious reasons. Now you can grow you own and enjoy a spring filled with made-for-cutting blooms.

Choosing a Growing Site

Temperature is a consideration for successfully growing ranunculus. These flowers prefer long cool springs, like the kind found in coastal CA and much of the Northwest. Ranunculus are unhappy with hot weather and high humidity. Sadly, ranunculus do not grow well in the weather found in the South.

These plants also grow well in cool greenhouses.

Choose a site with full sun. Ranunculus appreciate good light and develop weak stems when grown in shade.

Soil Prep for Ranunculus

Look for a site where the soil drains well. Ranunculus grow well in average garden soil, and as with most bulbs, good drainage is important to help avoid bulb rot. Note: we do not recommend amending the soil with bone meal as it encourages pets and pests to dig up the bulbs you just planted.

When to Plant Ranunculus

Ranunculus can be planted in the fall in areas where the ground doesn’t freeze (zones 8-11) and in the spring in any suitable region. Fall planting offers the advantage of blooms a few weeks earlier than bulbs are planted in the spring because the fall bulbs have settled in, grown roots and are ready to leaf out sooner. Spring planted ranunculus can be planted outside after danger of frost has passed.

How to Plant Ranunculus Bulbs

Soaking: Start by soaking your bulbs for about 3 hours to soften the tough outer skins and rehydrate the bulbs. Put some room temperature water in a bowl in the sink, add the bulbs and let the faucet run just a little bit to add oxygen to the water. This increases the sprouting ratio dramatically. 

Pre-Sprouting:  Although not required, pre-sprouting is recommended as it improves the "take rate" significantly. To presprout, plant soaked (see above) bulbs in a seed tray that has 1.5" of very slightly damp seed starting soil in place. Tuck the bulbs into the soil about an inch apart. Cover with another inch of lightly damp soil. Place the tray in a cool spot; 50 to 60 degrees is perfect. No light is needed as the bulbs are under the soil at this stage. Give the bulbs 10 days to wake up and sprout roots. Then plant outdoors where they will grow for the season.

Loosen the soil to 4” deep and add a handful or two of compost to the soil you removed. Place a bit of the amended soil back into the holes and plant your ranunculus bulbs about 2” below the soil line. These funny looking bulbs resemble a bunch of bananas. Plant with the points facing downwards. Refill the hole with soil, pat to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the bulb.

For spacing, place the bulbs 6 to 8 inches apart.

During the Growing Season

Ranunculus plants need about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two.

At Season’s End

After flowering, your ranunculus foliage will photosynthesize and create food for next year’s show. Don’t snip it off; let it do its work. As spring transitions into summer, the bulbs will go dormant and the foliage will yellow. At this point, feel free to remove the spent leaves. Ranunculus don’t need, nor benefit from, any extra moisture during the summer. In the fall, as soil temperatures cool, the bulbs will develop new roots, and wait for spring rains and warmth to prompt the next cycle of growth and blooms.

Insider Tips

  1. Plant 6 to 8 inches apart.
  2. In spring, cutting blooms encourages the plants to keep producing flowers for 4 to 8 weeks.
  3. Cut flowers hold very well, often for up to 10 days in a vase. Snip stems when buds have some color and are squishy like a marshmallow, for longest cut flower life.
  4. Ranunculs plants love long, cool springs. If spring arrives gently and gradually to your part of the county, you may have a perfect garden for growing ranunculus.
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Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun outdoors

Soil: Average soil

Depth: Plant 2-3” deep, pointy ends facing down

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Garden beds and cutting gardens

Tip: Ranunculus need cool spring weather, without frosts, to flower well

GUIDE: Ranunculus Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This: