The Q&A Archives: Did I plant my Ranunculus plant at the wrong time?

Question: I started gardening two years ago. The first flower I planted was ranunculus. I did not know anything about bulbs, so when it did not grow in a few weeks I planted something else over it and some of the seeds where dug up or destroyed while planting the other plant. Last week, the week of August 12th, I was in the store and I saw bulbs for ranunculus flowers. Because I love the plant I bought 35 bulbs and planted it the next day. Now I am reading your ?Ask the Expert? column and it says it should be planted in the spring. Did I waste my bulbs again? The box said it will grow in 21 days and I have been counting the days.

Answer: I don't think you wasted your time. Ranunculus tubers are widely available in retail nurseries and mail-order catalogs in the fall (usually during September and October). Purchase the largest tubers available, since the larger the tuber the more blooms per plant. Smaller ones are useful for mass plantings.

Since you've already planted your tubers and are counting the days, I hope they begin growing for you now. But, expect the tops to die down when the weather gets cold; they will grow new foliage again next spring. Be sure to mark where you've planted them so you won't accidentally plant something right on top!

The tubers, shaped like miniature bunches of bananas, are dry and hard when purchased but soften and plump up after absorbing moisture. Plant tubers in October and November with the fingers pointing downward 1-2 inches deep, less in heavy soil. Space the largest tubers at least one per square foot, the smallest about 4 inches apart. The plants will emerge in the spring.

If you've had problems planting ranunculus directly in the ground, soaking tubers for an hour and planting them in flats affords better moisture control and protection from birds. Transplant them when a few leaves have opened.

If using ranunculus as container plants, plant only one or two jumbo-size tubers per 10-inch pot. If the tubers were not soaked prior to planting, water thoroughly and apply a light mulch (bark, pecan shells, or straw) and don't water again until sprouts appear in 15-20 days. Tubers will rot if over watered before roots form. If the tubers are soaked prior to planting and the soil is slightly moist, water only if the soil becomes dry.

Hope this information helps you grow fantastic Ranunculus this coming season!

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