How to grow ranunculus

Val Bourne / 07 October 2020

Ranunculus, also known as Persian buttercups, are a popular flower for cut flower gardens. Find out how to grow these frilly buttercups for a beautiful spring display.



Ranunculus are frilly members of the buttercup family and have become a huge hit with cut-flower growers, because their petal-packed flowers are perfect for a spring vase. They’re easy to grow and their raisin-like tubers flower roughly 90 days after planting. They’re versatile too: you can either put them in pots in September, for earlier blooms, or put them into the ground in late October for March flowers. You can let them fade away, whether in the garden or in pots, and then restart them again in autumn.

They’re commonly called Persian buttercups and they’re plants with a Mediterranean provenance, so most need winter protection and good drainage. Hardiness does vary and mostly it’s wet winters that see them off.

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Ranunculus Aviv rose
Ranunculus Aviv Rose

Different types of ranunculus

The Aviv series

These fully double Israeli selections of Ranunculus asiaticus come in Aviv Orange, Aviv Red, Aviv Rose and Aviv White. They’ve been especially bred for the cut flower market, so they have larger peony-shaped flowers held on strong stems. Good in cool greenhouses and pots and they keep going if watered. Give them a warm, sunny site if growing them outdoors. 65—75cm

From Rose Cottage Plants (www.rosecottageplants.co.uk) and Peter Nyssen (www.peternyssen.com)

The Picotee series

Frilly edged ranunculus with darker edges to paler petals, give this Picotee Series its name. The pink frilly flowers of Picotee Pink look rose-pink in bud, but open to bridal white so this is very popular with cut flower ladies. There’s also a hot-orange with yellow overtones. From Riverside Bulbs (www.riversidebulbs.co.uk)

The Rococo series

Rococo ranunculus are British-bred hybrid series of ranuculus have long branching stems topped with more-open flowers. These vigorous hybrids are very hardy, surviving temperatures a slow as -12C, and the flowers last for 10-14 days in water. So far, there’s a strong pink, an orange and a peach with more to come. 65—75cm from Gardening Direct - www.gardeningdirect.co.uk 

Sarah Raven’s Ranunculus Collection

This deep-purple collection contains 'Friandine White Picotee', a purple-rimmed white, and ‘Pauline Violet’.

Sold as ‘claws’ - or sprouting tubers - in autumn. From Sarah Raven www.sarahraven.com

Ranunculus Butterfly 'Ariadne'

Perfect for May picking, this ephemeral looking blush-white ranunculus has waxy petals like a butterfly and these surround a pink middle. Sarah Raven describes this Japanese-bred variety as a miniature magnolia. Sold as sprouting tubers, but pricey, although the flowers are very long-lasting in water. Each stem can have up to 15 flowers. Up to 90cm and ideal for growing in cool greenhouses. From Sarah Raven www.sarahraven.com

Ranunculus asiaticus 'Friandine Rose Picotee'

A mixture of warm-apricot and primrose-yellow, edged in burgundy, make this a florists’ favourite. Only from Sarah Raven. www.sarahraven.com

Ranunculus asiaticus Tomer Series

This summer-flowering ranunculus produces vivid flowers from June until August. Don’t confuse them with the Dwarf Tomers though, which will be no use as a cut flower. There’s a deep-purple, yellow, red and a white and all have a touch of green in the middle. J.Parker Dutch Bulbs. www.jparkers.co.uk

Ranunculus Rococo pink
Ranunculus Rococo Pink.

How to grow ranunculus

Always soak the tubers for one to three hours before planting.

Plant 8 cm deep and 6-10 cm apart, ‘eyes’ up and claws facing down.

Good drainage is very important for ranunculus as they can struggle to survive the winter in cold, wet soil. If planting in pots, put grit in the bottom of the pots and fill with a quality multipurpose compost and add some extra grit to ensure good drainage.

Growing ranunculus in pots

If you’re growing ranunculus for cut flower arrangements it may be better to grow them in pots placed in a tunnel, cold frame or greenhouse. They need good ventilation, to prevent mildew, and regular watering.

You can bring the pots outside in spring.

If the weather’s cold they may need a fleece cover, although they tolerate slight frosts.

Find out about creating a cutting garden.

When to plant ranunculus tubers

Plant ranunculus bulbs (technically tubers) in October and November, for March and April flowers, in a sheltered, well-drained and sunny position. If it’s very cold, cover fleece or cloche them for overnight protection.

Ranunculus care

Water ranunculus plants well during dry periods and feed with a high potash fertilizer once they start flowering.

Deadheading ranunculus

Dead head regularly to encourage more flowers. The more you cut, the more they flower.

After flowering

Do not cut the ranunculus foliage down until the plants are fully dormant, when the leaves have started to shrivel. This is because the tuber needs the nourishment from the leaves. Ranunculus are perennials but can suffer in colder areas, especially if drainage is not good.

Ranunculus pests

Snails can be a problem. Find out how to get rid of snails in the garden.

Conditioning cut ranunculus flowers

Try to stand cut ranunculus in deep water for 4 - 6 hours, or overnight.

Cut the bottom 1/2 inch off of each ranunculus stem at a 45 degree angle.

Remove any lower leaves so that it’s only the ranunculus stems in the water.

Place the stems in lukewarm water, so that the flowers absorb any nutrients quickly.

Place the vase out of direct sunlight and away from draughts or radiators.

Change the water and trim the stems every 2 – 3 days.

Add flower food to the water.

Read more about helping cut flowers last longer.

Anemone coronaria: a hardy alternative to ranunculus

These are hardier than Persian buttercups or ranunculus, in most cases, and can flower as early as February if grown in pots, and May when planted in the ground. The Elizabethans called them rose parsley.

Growing Anemone coronaria in pots

You can get pot-grown anemones into flower by February, if you sow them in September, by planting them in pots and bringing them into warmth once they’re in growth.

The tubers should be soaked, overnight if possible, to speed up germination. Use deep pots, water the compost well and then plant them just two inches deep (5 cm)

Keep them somewhere cold and light, in an unheated greenhouse, because chilling helps to produce flower. Do not overwater.

Pick regularly to get more flower. Put a drop of bleach in the water, to extend their life to two weeks.

The stems grow in water, so recut the ends.

Growing Anemone coronaria in the ground

You can naturalise these in sandy, well-drained soil in full sun. They will not tolerate wet winter soil however.

Pre-soak the tubers and then plant 10 cm deep (3 inches) in autumn.

Anemone coronaria is perfectly hardy and, grown outside, they will normally flower in May.

Varieties of Anemone coronaria

De Caen ‘Mr Fokker’
Violet-blue flowers and an inky black middle, above parsley-like foliage. Readily available.

De Caen ‘Sylphide’
Violet rose bowl shaped flowers, highlighted by black middles, with soft rosettes of ferny foliage. Readily available.

De Caen ‘The Bride’
A flower arranger favourite because this white anemoine has a gold and green middle.

Anemone coronaria ‘St Brigid’
Semi-double flowers in variety of anemone colours. They also make good cut flowers. Readily available, including www.thompson-morgan.com

Anemone coronaria 'Bordeaux'
Velvety petals in deep wine-red. From Sarah Raven www.sarahraven.com

Anemone coronaria 'Jerusalem Blue'
Deep cobalt blue flowers, with sumptuous black centres. Tender. From Sarah Raven www.sarahraven.com

Anemone coronaria 'Jerusalem Pink'
Vivid-pink flowers with black centres. Tender. From Sarah Raven www.sarahraven.com

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.