Some may think – How can such a gorgeous flower be blooming when it’s not even spring yet? Is it a kind of hybrid herbaceous rose? Is it a type of poppy?
This eye-catching flower is a buttercup, a strain of Ranunculus asiaticus called Tecolote ranunculus, or often enough simply ‘ranunculus’. It delights our eyes in late winter to early spring as they prefer the cool temperatures. Admired for their beautifully layered, tissue-like petals, ranunculus is a must-have for gardeners who love a long-lasting, elegant flower.
Ranunculus grows from corms, aka tubers, typically planted in fall for late winter, early spring blooms. They are also available at the end of winter in containers, blooming and ready to be planted into the garden or to liven up early season planter pots.
Here are a few tips to be successful with growing this gorgeous early season bloomer:
Sun: Grow ranunculus in full sun. The temperatures during this time of year are ideal for ranunculus so planting it in the sunniest spot will make it happy now. When temperatures start to rise, move the container to a spot where it’ll receive morning sun and afternoon shade. If growing in ground, plant ranunculus in a spot that will receive some shade during the summer, keeping the soil temperatures low.
Soil: Ranunculus want well-draining, light soil to grow in so consider mixing succulent and cacti mix with a high-quality potting soil. Often times these bloomers perform better planted in a container as water can move through the pot more easily, versus the heavier soils of the in-ground garden. If growing in-ground, mix some cacti mix in the hole and mound up the planting spot 3 to 4 inches to encourage better drainage.
Water & Fertilize: While in bloom, ensure that the soil never completely dries out, keeping soil consistently moist but not water-logged. Once flowers and foliage have died back, stop watering.
Growing: Flowers bloom continuously for about 6 to 7 weeks. Do not remove the foliage as it begins to fade; let the plant gather as much sunlight as it can to store the energy it needs for next season’s growth. Remove the spent foliage and flowers once it is completely died back, typically in summer time.
Plant companions: As ranunculus is found in an array of deep and vibrant colors, they make it fun to create color combinations with other cool season bloomers. Make a colorful combination planter using candytuft (Iberis), sweet pea, forget-me-not, Iceland poppy, primrose and pansies.
Over-wintering: Ranunculus tubers are hardy to zone 8 to 10, growing very well in coastal areas, generally in regions with mild winters and long, cool springs. However, ranunculus are commonly treated as annuals. You can experiment and leave the plant as is, or you can dig up the tubers, cutting off the spent foliage, and store them in a cool and dry place until fall planting. Bulbs typically bloom 90 days after planting.