Oh, ranunculus, you are ridiculously good-looking with your fluffy blooms comprised of seemingly endless petals akin to the ruffled petticoats of long ago. I may have only started growing you for the first time this season, but I feel we will have a lasting relationship. You may be a bit finicky and challenge me as a gardener, but that makes me love you even more, especially when you bloom for me. Yes, beautiful ranunculus, you have succeeded in capturing my heart.
As I mentioned, my relationship with ranunculus is brand new. I wasn’t even aware that they existed until last year. I discovered them while researching cut flower varieties and was in awe of the photos from flower farmers. I almost didn’t believe they were real, as they looked like flowers out of a fairy tale. But, after growing them, I assure you that not only are they real, but they are just as beautiful in person as in the photos.
Ranunculus, just as anemones, grow from corms. The corms look like miniature squid or octopuses and must rehydrate before planting. To do this, I placed them in a mesh bag and soaked them in room temperature water for three to four hours. I used an aquarium bubbler to oxygenate the water while soaking to help prevent rotting. After soaking, the corms should plump up, almost doubling in size.
In warmer climates (USDA Zones 7 and above), corms can be planted out in the fall and successfully overwintered with protection from a tunnel or row cover. In my Zone 5b garden, I waited to plant them in early spring. I presprouted the corms in early February by planting the rehydrated corms in a shallow tray with moist seed starting mix and placing them in my unheated basement for several weeks. Then, I planted the rooted corms in individual pots to bulk up before moving them to the garden. In early March, I transplanted the seedlings into a prepared bed in the garden and covered them with low hoops and heavy plastic. Remarkably, these cool-weather-loving flowers made it through many a snowstorm unscathed.
I decided to grow three varieties this season: Chamallow, Salmon, and an Aviv mix, and by mid-April, they were producing their first buds. By mid-May, I had blooms. I had to pinch myself to believe that I had made it to this point, that all of the efforts had paid off. I had tediously cared for these plants for months, and it was rewarding to see them finally bloom. They were slow to start, and there were numerous times that I thought I had lost them, but here they were blooming in all their fluffy-petaled glory.
Dozens of pastel pink, salmon, orange, white, yellow, and rose papery-petaled flowers rose from the garden bed and danced in the breeze. I cut handfuls for bouquets and reveled in their long vase life as I enjoyed them inside our home. I couldn’t help but feel proud of this growing accomplishment; it went a long way in helping me gain confidence as a gardener and a future cut-flower business owner.
Sadly, because I do not have a hoop house or high tunnel, my ranunculus had a relatively short bloom period, lasting about four weeks. Undoubtedly, our cooler than usual spring temperatures this season lengthened the bloom time. I also extended the harvest window by watering deeply and covering my ranunculus plants with shade cloth on those few sporadic 90-degree days. However, as we roll into June with its increasingly warm temperatures, I’ve noticed that the cool-weather-loving ranunculus is now entering dormancy. Flower production has dropped drastically, and, just as with daffodil or tulip bulbs, the plants have turned towards storing energy for the next season.
I plan on trying my hand at saving the corms for replanting next spring. To do this, I read that you must wait until the foliage has died back before lifting them. The corms then must be allowed to dry completely before storing them in a mesh bag. So, I’m willing to try it, and just as with my first year of storing dahlia tubers, it will be an experiment and learning experience. If I succeed, next spring will again be abloom with ranunculus in the garden. Also, confession time, I couldn’t help myself and ordered two new varieties to try next season: Buttercream and White. I am also intrigued by the bicolor picotee varieties and wouldn’t be surprised if some corms made their way into my online shopping cart before winter. Yes, I will admit that, just as with dahlia tubers, ranunculus corm buying can be addictive. But, how can I resist the chance to grow these beautiful flowers again and try the many colors they come in?
I will miss your papery petals and fluffy blooms, ranunculus. You have brought me much joy and confidence, and it has been an honor to grow with you. I hope to see you in the garden again soon. Until then, please don’t rot in my basement.