Buckle yourself in, because this blog post is going to be an exciting one. Well, I think it is. If you live in one of those awesome areas where the temperatures are relatively mild and ranunculus grow and overwinter outside without protection, this post probably won’t serve as much help. However, if like me, you are a persian buttercup obsessed gardener in zone 6 (almost 7), then this post is dedicated to you!
If you aren’t acquainted with my dear friend Mr. Ranunculus, I suggest you pause and make a quick Google search in a new tab. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I know, right. They’re totally swoonworthy, aren’t they?
Let’s get down to business, ranunculus are hardy to zone 8, at least according to most of the packages that I’ve read. Research suggests that these bad boys can handle some pretty low temperatures. As a new gardener, the idea that any plant can survive the frost and freeze makes me nervous of impending failure – alas don’t fear!
If you aren’t familiar with my climate, it’s unpredictable. The winters are cold with temperatures dipping into single digits and sometimes into the negative. The springs are extremely short, and the summer heat comes on strong.
The first year that I grew a small cutting patch, I knew that ranunculus had to be a part of the garden. Taking heed of everything I had read, I started my corms indoors and planted them out as soon as my soil could be worked. By June, my tiny plants were blooming. However, not only was it HOT, the plants also didn’t have sufficient growth time. This resulted in teeny tiny blooms that were only about an inch across. It was a success, but also a total bummer.
It wasn’t until the next fall that I built my first hoophouse. Being that one of the places that I grow is my backyard, it had to be small and easy to construct, as well as cheap. Be on the lookout for a post about that very soon! Anyhow, I decided to try tucking away my tiny plants undercover, just as I had done with many of my favorite veggies, previously. This was the ultimate solution that I was looking for, and something I wish I had known when tackling ranunculus the season before! As it turns out, Love’n Fresh Flowers even has a really great post about the process, which I definitely suggest as a nice read! Oh Google, how could you have failed me!? It’s okay, I forgive you.
So, as always, I was tardy to the party when it came to ordering my corms. In fact, they’re scheduled to be delivered tomorrow. As soon as I get my corms, I soak them for around 4 hours in water. I’ve seen sites suggest 24 hours, but honestly, I think that may be only for folks who like to live dangerously. I read in a forum long ago somewhere, that aerating the water whilst soaking will help “wake up” your corms. I really don’t know if this is true or not, but since I have my compost tea bubbler laying around, I always do it. Soaking for too long will result in a rotten mushy mess, so I always make sure not to forget about them! When re-hydrated, they’re ready for the dirt. I pop each of the little “octopus” corms into their own cubbie hole in my plant trays, water them lightly, and then put them outside. Mostly likely, I could plant directly into the ground, but I do like the amount of control that the trays give me. Corms seem to sprout best when the day time temperature is between 60-70F and the night time temperatures are around 40-50F. For me, that happens around the first week of October. As long as trays aren’t too wet, I usually don’t run into much of an issue with rot.
Once the corms have sprouted, I don’t leave them in the tray for long. As you can imagine of something that tolerates freezing cold soil, the roots of this plant are extremely robust. The plants are put into weed barrier fabric in the hoophouse and continue growing until the really cold weather hits. It isn’t until the temperatures drop into the 20s or so, that I close the hoophouse and break out the frost blankets. Even on cold days, the hoophouse can warm substantially, and you may or may not occasionally find me just sitting in there in a chair soaking up some much needed sunshine.
We had quite a bad winter last year, and the ranunculus did take a beating. At one point, yellow and dying leaves had almost convinced me that I had failed – you wouldn’t have believed my relief when I finally saw the buds beginning to form! When the weather begins to warm a little, growth starts kicking in again. My first bud appeared in early March, and by April there were flowers everywhere. You’ve definitely got to stay on top of the weeds though, because seeing these flowers disappear under a sea of grass is so heartbreaking! When the weather gets into the 90s, they finally stop producing and gradually fade away into brown nothingness. I usually plant something new before this happens though, because quite frankly, I need the space and I’m so sad to see them go! Some folks who live in an ideal world can probably save the corms for next year, but around here they’d surely rot, so I’ve never given it a try.
The growing process really is something that you learn from experience, and will vary from one location to another. While I wouldn’t suggest going crazy and diving right in the first time you give this a try – I think it’s definitely worth the extra attention that growing this beauty requires. I can’t help but rejoice when plants are able to withstand and endure my sloppy and haphazard gardening record! That’s when I know I’ve truly got a winner! Like many flowers, ranunculus are toxic, so proceed at your own will.
Have you grown ranunculus before? What are your thoughts? What should I grow next? Don’t forget to comment and subscribe! Hope you have a great day, much love!