11 Tips for Growing Beautiful Ranunculus in Pots

Ranunculus are stunning members of the buttercup family. They are best known for their use as cut flowers due to their long, slender stems and colorful blooms. In this article, join gardening expert Melissa Strauss as she shares 11 tips for growing ranunculus flowers in pots!

Close-up of a flowering Ranunculus plant in a small black pot on a wooden table, against a gray wall. The Ranunculus plant, commonly known as buttercup, presents a charming appearance with its vibrant, bowl-shaped flowers with gradient petals from soft pale pink to deep pink at the edges. The plant's foliage is deeply lobed and glossy green.

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These plants can be particular about their growing environment. However, they are sturdy plants and produce an abundance of colorful blooms when grown under the right conditions. 

These tender perennials are sensitive not only to cold weather but to heat as well. They prefer the cool and mild temperatures of spring. Once the thermometer consistently rises over 70°F (21°C), they will stop blooming and go dormant

Prolonging the growth and flowering of these plants involves giving them some shelter from heat. Some gardeners use shade cloth as the weather warms to keep their ranunculus plants cool. 

Another great option is to grow your plants in containers that you can move. While these plants prefer full sun, they will continue to grow and bloom longer with some shade. By growing your ranunculus in containers, you can adjust their location and sun exposure according to the weather. 

Growing these plants in containers is no more difficult than growing them in the garden. There are some tricks of the trade. If you keep these tips in mind, you should have beautiful blooms in just a few short months.

Choose Your Varieties

Close-up of many potted Ranunculus plants in wooden boxes, in a sunny garden. The plant boasts strikingly lush foliage comprised of deeply lobed, glossy green leaves that form an elegant backdrop to its vibrant, bowl-shaped flowers. These flowers, resembling delicate rosettes, come in an array of hues including pink and white, with petals densely packed and ruffled at the edges.
Explore the diverse beauty of Ranunculus flowers for your garden.

There are a multitude of different varieties of ranunculus out there. They come in a wide range of colors and a few different flower forms. The tightly packed and neatly arranged petals make these flowers popular among florists. They are particularly popular flowers for wedding design. 

The first time I ordered corms I was a bit daunted by the sheer volume of varieties available. It was difficult to narrow my choices to just one or two types. You can purchase corms individually or in groups. You are likely to get a better deal purchasing a greater number of one variety. 

I love a variety of colors, so I opted for just a few corms, each of several varieties. This is entirely a matter of personal preference. One variety is not more tricky to grow than another. 

Plant at the Right Time

Close-up of a woman replanting a flowering Ranunculus asiaticus plant into a white ceramic pot on a wooden table in the garden. Its blossom, resembling intricate, multi-layered rosettes, come in a rich yellow color. On the table are several black pots with red Ranunculus plants, a yellow trowel, an old rake and scattered soil.
Planting Ranunculus corms should be based on your climate for optimal growth.

The time of year you should plant your ranunculus corms depends on your climate. These plants are perennials in Zones 8-11, and with some protection, in Zone 7. In Zone 7, treat those growing in containers like annuals, as they are less frost-tolerant without the insulation they have in the ground.

Plants in containers are more susceptible to cold than those in the ground. Where your corms will withstand some freezing weather if planted in the ground, they will be less resilient in pots. The reason for this is that there is less soil to protect them in containers. Soil acts as an insulator for plants during cold weather. 

In warmer climates, you can start your ranunculus corms in the fall. They will grow over the winter months and have a significantly longer blooming time in the spring. These plants prefer cool weather, so you want to give them as long as possible to bloom before the summer heat sets in. 

In cooler climates, wait until spring to place your ranunculus in containers outdoors. These plants are somewhat frost-resistant once they’ve sprouted. But it’s a good idea to wait until the threat of frost passes in your zone.

Choose the Right Pot

Close-up of a male gardener holding a small terracotta pot over a table with fresh loose soil in a sunny garden. The gardener is wearing light blue jeans, a blue plaid shirt and green gardening gloves. There are also several flowering potted plants on the table.
Optimal container size and drainage ensure healthy Ranunculus growth.

When it comes to container size for ranunculus, width is more important than depth. These plants do not have deep root systems, but they prefer to have a bit of room to stretch out. As a general guideline, you can plant one corm in an eight-inch pot, two in a 12-inch pot, and three in an 18-inch pot. You can go as large as you want. Just try sticking to this ratio for the best results. 

Drainage is important for these plants, so make sure you choose a container that has adequate drainage holes. If your corms or roots get water-logged, you could end up with root rot. Terracotta pots are great for growing ranunculus. These containers wick water from the soil, which helps to prevent fungus in the soil.

Use the Right Soil

Close-up of a gardener filling a terracotta flower pot with soil in a sunny garden. The gardener is wearing light blue jeans, a blue and orange checkered shirt and green rubber gloves. The soil is loose, dark brown in color.
Ensure well-draining, nutrient-rich soil for thriving Ranunculus plants.

There are two main factors to consider when choosing a soil mixture for your ranunculus plants. As I mentioned, these plants have roots that are sensitive to fungus and overwatering. If your potting mix is too dense and doesn’t drain properly, you could run into problems. 

Equally important is the nutrient density of your soil. These plants like loamy, organically rich soil. Most standard potting soil is appropriate for this plant. If you want to give your plants an extra boost you can mix some compost in with the soil. This will help to feed your ranunculus plants and give them a healthy start. 

Soak Your Corms

Close-up of soaked ranunculus corms in a small glass bowl on a starter tray with fresh soil and a few freshly planted corms. Ranunculus corms resemble small, knobby bulbs with a rounded shape. They are brownish in color, with papery outer layers, and small exhibit roots or root buds protruding from the bottom. Overall, they have a compact and somewhat irregular appearance.
Revitalize ranunculus corms with a brief, room-temperature soak.

When preparing to store ranunculus corms, they are first cured. Curing involves allowing the corms to dry so that you can store them without struggling with mold and fungus. Soaking your corms in clean water before planting will help to speed the sprouting process

Your corms don’t need to soak overnight as some seeds do. Soaking them for too long will cause them to soften and begin to break down. This can ultimately cause them to rot. You want to soak them just long enough to revive or reconstitute them. 

Soak your corms in room-temperature water. There is no need to use hot water as you aren’t trying to break down an outer casing. Your corms should plump up in about four hours. As an added protection against fungal diseases, you can add a fungicide to your soaking water. For the last 45 minutes to an hour, add a biological fungicide to the water.

Pre-Sprout Your Corms

Sprouting ranunculus corms in a seed tray. The starting tray consists of cells filled with soil and planted ranunculus corms. Small sprouts of ranunculus sprouted in two cells. They are thin, short, green shoots.
Kickstart your ranunculus growth indoors for extended blooming periods.

This step is optional when growing your ranunculus plants in containers. When planting them in the ground, it is a good idea to pre-sprout them indoors, as you would start any seed to transplant. The benefit of pre-sprouting is that you can get your corms started earlier in cooler climates. You can get ahead of the curve by starting these flowers early to extend your bloom time. 

If you have the space indoors, you can plant your corms directly in the pots. Do this several weeks ahead of your last predicted frost. If this takes up too much space, it’s just as easy to sprout your corms in a shallow seed tray. These plants don’t have any issues with transplanting, especially when you move them while they are still young plants. 

To pre-sprout your corms, fill a seed tray with a few inches of moist potting material. You don’t want your potting medium overly wet, just lightly moistened. Place the corms in your trays with the finger-like structures facing down. Cover them with an inch of soil. 

Place your seed starting trays in a cool, dark space. A basement or garage is an ideal spot for this. Any place with a temperature between 40°-50°F (4°-10°C) is perfect. Avoid any space where your corms could freeze. If you have space in a refrigerator, that is a good spot, as well. 

You want to keep the corms in the dark, as the focus during this time is developing a strong root system. The objective is not for the plants to grow foliage at this time. Water only when the soil is dry, and do so sparingly. In a few weeks, you should see a small sprout pop up. When the weather permits, you can transplant your sprouted corms and place them outdoors. 

Space Your Plants Properly

Close-up of seedlings of Ranunculus asiaticus in peat pots in a bright room. Ranunculus asiaticus stems are erect, slender, and branching. The leaves are deeply lobed, palmately divided into multiple segments, and arranged on the tops of short stems.
Optimize spacing for vibrant ranunculus blooms in pots or garden.

When planted in the ground, the general guideline is to plant your corms nine inches apart. However, when planting ranunculus in pots, you can plant them closer, using six inches as a proper space. An eight-inch pot should only have one corm, but a 12-inch pot can support two

As with your pre-sprouting, plant corms with the finger-like structures pointing downward. Place your corms in holes of two to three inches deep and cover with soil. Moisten the soil after planting, but don’t overwater. Until your ranunculus has some foliage to support it, it won’t require much water. 

Water Sparingly

Close-up of Ranunculus seedlings with water drops in a decorative blue ceramic pot. Ranunculus seedlings have slightly thick stems with deeply lobed green leaves.
Prevent root issues by watering young ranunculus plants sparingly.

At the risk of sounding redundant, it is important to avoid overwatering your young plants. The corms are vulnerable to fungus and root rot. Until there is foliage to support your young plants, they won’t absorb much water, so they should be watered sparingly. 

Watering frequency depends on a few factors. The climate plays a role in how often your plants need water. In warmer weather, you will need to water them more often. The container size is another contributing factor. A larger pot will not dry out as quickly as a smaller one. 

The best guideline to follow is to feel the soil routinely. When the surface of the soil is dry, water your ranunculus. As long as the foliage is green and there are blooms present, the soil should remain moist but not soggy. 

Give Them the Right Light and Temperature

Close-up of blooming Ranunculus Aviv in black pots on a light windowsill. Ranunculus Aviv plants are distinguished by their lush, dark green foliage, containing deeply lobed leaves with serrated edges that form a dense, bushy growth habit. Rising above this foliage are sturdy stems bearing striking, large flowers in vibrant shades of red and yellow. The blooms feature multiple layers of delicate, papery petals, creating a lush and voluminous appearance reminiscent of rose blossoms.
Control sun exposure to maximize ranunculus blooming in containers.

Growing ranunculus in pots is an advantage in warmer climates. Specifically, it allows you to control the amount and timing of sun exposure. The longer you can protect your plants from the heat of the summer sun, the longer they will bloom. 

These are cool-weather bloomers, so once the weather heats up, they will stop blooming. In cool weather, place your potted plants in full sun, giving them as many hours as possible. This will help them to produce the maximum number of blooms. 

As temperatures rise, prolong the life of your plants by shifting them to a spot with partial shade. If possible, give your ranunculus plenty of sunlight in the morning. The afternoon sun is hotter and harsher. Giving your plants shade in the afternoon will help to keep them cool and extend their season. 

Temperature and sun exposure go hand in hand. Expect your plants to thrive and perform their best while the weather is cool and mild. The ideal temperatures for ranunculus are between 35°-50°F (2°-10°C) at night and 60°-75°F (16°-24°C) during the day. 

In the event of an unexpected drop in temperature, it is best to bring your plants indoors. This isn’t always possible, so if you’re unable to bring them in, cover them. A frost cloth will help to protect the foliage. Although, in my experience, the foliage of these plants will survive a light freeze. Anything lower than 25°F (-4°C) will kill your plants. 

We talked about limiting sun exposure to the morning sun as the summer months draw near. Another way to keep your ranunculus plants cool is by using shade cloth. Just make sure they get four to six hours of sun in the morning.

Fertilize

Close-up of blooming Ranunculus asiaticus in gray ceramic pots on a wooden surface. Ranunculus asiaticus plants are characterized by their dense clusters of lush, deeply lobed foliage, forming mounds of vibrant greenery. Rising above the foliage are erect stems that bear stunning, multi-layered flowers in an array of colors including soft pink, white, purple pink, red and yellow.
Boost its growth with organic compost for strong, healthy plants.

Mixing some organic compost or manure in with your potting soil is a great idea. This will help to give your ranunculus the nutrients they need to get a strong start. In terms of additional fertilizer, hold off until your plants are established. Fertilizing your ranunculus before they have developed appropriate foliage can burn the roots and young plants. 

You won’t need to fertilize these plants often. Once per month is plenty. Kelp and fish emulsion are popular fertilizing agents for ranunculus plants. Once the plants begin to bloom, you can hold back on fertilizing unless they seem like they need extra nutrients. Potted plants often require more frequent fertilizing than those in the ground.

Cut or Deadhead Regularly

Close-up of a gardener pruning a faded Ranunculus flower in a black plastic pot, on a wooden surface, in the garden. A gardener trims a wilted flower with metal scissors.
Encourage abundant blooms by regular cutting and deadheading.

Most plants respond to cutting or deadheading with an increase in flower production. Ranunculus is no exception to this rule. The more you cut your flowers, the more your plant will bloom. Fortunately, these plants produce excellent cut flowers. They have long, slender stems and an outstanding vase life

If you cut your flowers while they are still in the bud, the vase life is up to 10 days, and sometimes longer. You can wait until the blooms open to cut them. Expect the flowers to last for about a week in this case. The flowers tend to be delicate once open and more difficult to transport. 

If you miss out on cutting for a while or choose to leave flowers intact, you will end up with spent flowers. In this event, simply deadhead. Snip off the entire flower stem once the bloom is spent. Your plant will redirect energy into forming new flowers. 

Final Thoughts

Ranunculus are simply stunning, whether in the garden, grown in containers, or in cut floral arrangements. You will love watching their beautiful flowers unfurl. Their shallow roots and cool weather nature make them great for growing in moveable pots. Follow these tips for healthy, robust plants with a long blooming season. 

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