There aren’t many bouquets as beautiful as a vase full of ranunculus. Some of them upright, a few drooping gracefully, their petals are almost crammed together in large, tight blossoms. The flowers look just as good in the garden, with almost every color except blue; the pinks are particularly glorious.
Ranunculus tubers look like little claws. They should be planted about 2 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart--with the claws pointing down--in November (October in the desert), in a location with full sun and good drainage. Water them well after planting and then leave them alone, as the young tubers will rot if given too much moisture before putting down roots.
The mature 18-inch stalks look sturdy, but they cave in at the first sight of winter rain, leaving the flowers bedraggled and beaten.
Some ranunculus will return for two or three years, behaving like daffodils. Most of them will not. In order to save specific plants--say, those whose color is desirable--and to avoid the annual expense of replacement, dig up the plants after the flowers have faded and the leaves dry out. Cut off whatever tops remain and store the tubers in a cool, dry place until the next fall.
Ranunculus are sensitive to frost, and in cold areas they should be started in a greenhouse and planted outside in the spring.
Now is the time to order ranunculus from bulb catalogues; the Tecolote hybrids are particularly large and choice. Ranunculus tubers also are available at most nurseries early in the fall.