Ranunculus: Flower Power for Texas Winters
Ranunculus Asiaticus or Persian Buttercups can brighten a Texas winter like no other flower! That is because ranunculus produces prolific 3” to 4” ethereal blossoms borne on 12” to 18” stems in show-stopping pink, red, rose, orange, white, and yellow. They look too delicate and special to grow over the winter. But don’t let appearances fool you. These flowers are durable and flower repeatedly beginning in late January through March. They also grow well in containers and make great long-lasting cut flowers.
Choosing Ranunculus Tubers
Ranunculus tubers look like little brown bunches of bananas.Tubers can be bought in nurseries and home and garden stores in the fall for as little as $6.00 for 35 small tubers. They can also be grown from seed. When choosing tubers, make sure they are not too dried out (crunchy). The size of the tuber has much to do with the number of flowers each plant will produce. For example, a jumbo tuber can produce as many as 35 flowers, while a small tuber can produce 12 or so flowers. Small tubers measure 1-1/8 to 2 inches. Ranunculus plants can sometimes be found in the nurseries and home and garden stores in February, but they will cost between $6 and $7 each.
Planting Ranunculus Tubers
Plant tubers with the top of the banana bunch up (or claw-side down), in well-drained soil, in full sun in late September or October (before the first frost). Some people recommend pre-soaking the tubers in water before planting, but I do not think this is necessary as the tubers will become moist when they are watered after planting. Ranunculus tubers can also rot easily, so they should never be planted in a place where standing water has been observed.
Plant ranunculus tubers to a depth that is 3 times the width of the tuber and space them at least 8” apart. Water them after planting.
Tubers can be planted directly in the winter flower bed or in pots.
Planting them near the foundation of the house is a good idea because this location provides a degree of wind protection for blossoms.
If your flower bed is still occupied by summer/fall annuals, you can just pre-plant the ranunculus tubers as transplants in large flower pots or planter boxes. After the first frost kills the annuals (usually late October or early November), you can move the transplants into the now open flower bed. I also have ranunculus's that have been left in my flower beds for over 3 years now. They just begin to sprout in the fall from the tubers that went dormant in the late spring. So, as I am cleaning out the annuals that were just killed by the first frost, I am delighted to see the green parsley-like foliage of ranunculus sprouting in the flower bed.
When the ranunculus tubers have sprouted several leaves, they are large enough to transplant. Transplant them on a warmer day. A dinner fork makes an excellent transplanting tool. Place the fork 2” or more from the base of the sprouted ranunculus and sink it straight down into the soil and lift the transplant out of the ground. Plant the transplants to the same depth as they were planted in the planter box in well-drained soil in full sun at least 8” apart. Water after transplanting.
Your ranunculus plants should first begin to bloom at the end of January. Each plant will be loaded with buds and send out successive blooms well into March.
The blossoms remind me of poppies but with more petals. The blossoms are long-lasting and durable.
Ranunculus make great cut flowers as the stems are long and strong and the blooms can remain colorful and upright for as long as seven days.
Ranunculus blossoms are also highly prized for beautiful wedding bouquets.
Planting Ranunculus with other Winter Flowers
Ranunculus flowers look great planted with other winter flowers that grow well here in Texas. Here is a pic of one of my winter flower beds. Ranunculus are planted at the back of the flower bed since they are up to 18" tall. Next I plant dianthus since they grow to 12" tall and create a beautiful mound of hot pink, red and white flowers. Then I plant shorter pansies at the front of the bed. This creates a flower bed with colorful flowers at several levels
When the Ranunculus Stop Blooming
Most gardeners will just treat the ranunculus's as annuals and pull the plants up after they have finished blooming. Other gardeners will pull up the plant after it has dried up and cut the foliage from the tuber and save the tuber in a cool, dark place for planting again next fall. If you are lucky enough to have well-drained soil that can sustain the tubers throughout the year, then you can leave them in the soil as I do and enjoy them as perennials every year.