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colourful ranunchulus flowers in pots outside
Ranunculus is a popular “bulb” that flowers in spring in a range of colours from pure white to deep purple. Mixed plantings are eye-catching, but for a more refined look, plant masses of single colours in blocks or borders.

What you need to know about ranunculus

Name: Turban buttercup, Persian crowsfoot, ranunculus (Ranunculus asiaticus and varieties).

Height: up to 60cm; flower stems may be taller.

Foliage: bright green, deeply divided, reasonably tough.

Climate: cold to temperate areas preferred; cold winter required to initiate growth from corms.

Soil: well-drained loam with added organic matter.

Position: full sun for best flowering.

Flowering: single and double round flowers, some with a dark eye, in colours from white to bright red, carried on tall stems.

Feeding: add a controlled-release fertiliser in late winter; add bulb food when flowers fade.

Watering: once corms have sprouted, keep moist but not wet.

Appearance and characteristics of ranunculus

Ranunculus is not a true bulb but a corm, and an unusual one at that. It develops bright green, deeply divided leaves from corms planted in mid-autumn. By late winter flower buds appear on tall stalks, opening as the weather warms to reveal brightly coloured flowers.  These may be picked for vases indoors or left on the plants. However, be aware that strong winds can completely shatter the blooms in a matter of hours.

pastel pink ranunchulus flowers in close up

How to plant and grow ranunculus

Ranunculus is very hardy and grows well over wide-ranging conditions, from the cold of Tasmania and southern Victoria right through to the sub-tropics of south-east Queensland. Soil should be kept moist (but not wet) from the time your ranunculus is planted until after flowering.

Always buy corms from a reputable source and avoid any that are very wrinkled, dry, damaged or diseased.

Ranunculus corms are unlike most others—they resemble claws. This makes it easy to remember how to plant them—the claws should always point downwards.

Ranunculus can be grown in the garden or in pots to brighten verandahs and outdoor living spaces.

Planting ranunculus in the garden

For best results, follow these tips when planting your ranunculus in the garden.

  • Choose an open area that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.
  • A loamy soil that doesn’t stay wet for long periods after rainfall or watering is best.
  • To hasten the shooting process after planting, soak corms in water for a couple of hours before planting.
  • Make holes or furrows so corms will be covered by at least twice their own depth of soil. For example, if corms are 3cm from top to claw tip, they will need 6cm of soil on top.
  • Add a bulb food to the base of the hole or furrow and then cover this with a couple of centimetres of soil so the corms are not in direct contact with it.
  • Space corms about 10cm apart, with the claws pointing down.
  • Backfill with soil and then water the soil to settle it in and around the corms.
  • Mark rows or groups with a stake so you won’t accidentally step on them before they shoot.
  • After the leaves have died down in summer, corms may be lifted, dried and stored until autumn, or you can mark where they are in the garden and leave them to grow again next year. 

Planting ranunculus in pots

For best results, follow these tips when planting your ranunculus in pots:

  • Choose pots or bowls that are at least 30cm deep and have reasonable drainage holes.
  • Use a premium-quality, specially formulated bulb potting mix and fill pots to about 10cm below the rim.
  • Position corms so they are at the right depth. The space between them can be reduced to 5cm for a spectacular display when they’re in flower.
  • Fill the pot to about 2cm below the rim, tap the base gently and then water to settle the mix around the corms.
  • Place the pot in a sunny spot, and water to keep the mix moist (but not wet).
  • After flowering, give the plants a liquid fertiliser boost.
  • When leaves die down, knock the contents from the pot, remove the corms and store them in a dry, airy spot for planting again in autumn.

Next season, buy fresh corms for the pots and transfer the old corms to the garden.

Caring for ranunculus

When the flowers die off, fertilise the plants with a bulb food, because this is when they will be producing the corms that will carry them over to next season.

Diseases and pests

When ranunculus shoots are starting to show through the soil, watch out for slugs and snails. Ranunculus plants can sometimes be susceptible to powdery mildew, a fungal disease that shows as a whitish bloom over the leaves. Use a general garden fungicide to control this.

Aphids can also be troublesome when flower buds are developing. Use a natural insecticide such as pyrethrum to kill them. 

If you like this then try

Jonquils: spring flowering bulbs similar to daffodils, with clusters of flowers from white to yellow.

Pansies: colourful flowering annuals ranging from white to deep purple; many have dark “face” markings.

Alstroemerias: a clump-forming Peruvian lily with tall stems of flowers in white, pink and apricot, and some bi-colours.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!


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