These fiery ranunculus are a great example of colour variation within the same variety
These fiery ranunculus are a great example of colour variation within the same variety
Ranunculus corms
Ranunculus corms
We plan to add hoops like this inside the polytunnel for next ranunculus season, so we can pull felt over for extra protection during colder months
We plan to add hoops like this inside the polytunnel for next ranunculus season, so we can pull felt over for extra protection during colder months

Flower Focus : Ranunculus

The ranunculus originates from central Asia and was given its rather strange name after arriving in Europe during the 16th century. The unusual name is derived from Latin, meaning “little frog” which is fairly fitting because in the wild, ranunculus grow in swampy, marshy areas – maybe that’s why it seems to like our clay soil. It’s part of the buttercup family and can sometimes be known as the Persian buttercup or the rose of spring.

It’s an incredibly popular cut flower and we can honestly say that we’ve only grown to love it more (pun intended) since growing it ourselves. It’s hard to beat in terms of colour variety – not only across different types of ranunculus but you’ll also see a huge variation of colours and markings within the same type of ranunculus and no one is quite the same. It also passes the vase life test with flying colours which is just as important for what we do. We’ve known some ranunculus last well over 2 weeks in a vase.

Their season is coming to an end now, with the last stems being cut from the field and their beds starting to be dug up and used to plant other, later blooming flowers. Our first ranunculus season has taught us some vital lessons for next year.

We now know that ranunculus are fussy little things when it comes to temperature – they hate the cold but then they also don’t like getting too hot around the roots. Our first sowing was in autumn, in October. We pre-sprouted them in the greenhouse, which involves soaking the alien-looking corms so they plump out, then covering them in damp soil. After a couple of weeks they start sprouting some shoots.

This first lot went straight in to the ground in the polytunnel as it was still far too cold outside in October. At first we added these to holes we’d burnt in landscape fabric, which suppresses the weeds around the plant, but then we found the soil was getting too hot and damp so we removed this and they were much happier. This sowing then did really well – as they are planted earlier they grow slower, the theory being that this leads to stronger, hardier plants with more flowers.

Our second sow was in January. We followed the same process, pre-sprouting 3 varieties in the greenhouse. 2 of these went straight in to the polytunnel like before but this time the mice had found us and so many of these got eaten. For the third variety we tried something different and once they had pre-sprouted, we put them in to cell trays and grew in to plugs first before planting outside. This means that the plants are bigger and greener before they go in the ground and therefore less delicious to mice. This variety is not too happy as we had some fairly late frosts this year which caught us – and them – by surprise.

The polytunnel starts getting warmer from January onward so our second sowing of ranunculus that went in to the polytunnel definitely weren’t as happy as the ones sown in autumn – the stems aren’t as strong so struggle to hold up their heavy heads, so it definitely would seem sowing earlier makes for hardier plants in this case.

The idea behind two sowings is to extend your season. Next year we’re going to sow more in autumn but with added hoops in the polytunnel so we can cover overnight for extra protection from the cold. We’ll try the second sowing again but next time we plan to try an irrigated bed outside and plant a little later to avoid any surprising late frosts.

There are a couple of varieties we won’t do next year – we prefer varieties that have colour variation, like nude ones that melt in to pink as opposed to just one block colour like our purple ones. These create far more exciting flower beds but we also think are more unusual and interesting for our customers too.

Keep an eye on our Field Flowers – you may just be able to catch the last of the ranunculus before their season comes to an end.

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Ranunculus corms
Ranunculus corms
We plan to add hoops like this inside the polytunnel for next ranunculus season, so we can pull felt over for extra protection during colder months
We plan to add hoops like this inside the polytunnel for next ranunculus season, so we can pull felt over for extra protection during colder months
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