Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ranunculus Flowers

My order from Garden Express arrived today. I purchased 1250 ranunculi  corms (bulbs) for $193.

I love raunculus flowers. Absolutely love them. They come in a rainbow spectrum of colors and shades and because they are relatively cheap- you can plant them en masse.

The effect is stunning to behold.

The problem is that if I plant them straight into the ground now (in January to March) here in my Melbourne garden, most of them will only spring up after Winter - in September, October and flower in November- which in effect means that they will only get one month before they start wilting in our hot Spring sun.

The raunculies need a cold start - 4 to 8 weeks of cold weather - to shake them out of their slumber. That's why they will only spring up after  June.

But there is way to trick them.

What you have to do is to place them in the fridge (not freezer) for 4 to 8 weeks before planting them in mid-February. The NZ website advises 4 weeks. The US site recommends 6 - 8 weeks.

If I can recall correctly, we left our batch in the fridge for one month
The plants will be fooled into thinking that winter has come and gone and that Spring is now in season. They will start growing and in 10 - 12 weeks-  flower in May, June.

The ranunculus being a Mediterranean spring flowering plants will tolerate our Winters easily - so long as they don't get frost. They tend to die back in our warm Spring when the weather gets hot and will not tolerate temperatures of 26C+.

I'm going to try and jump the gun and start planting them in mid-Feb so that I can have a longer flowering period. I have done this before successfully - but iirc I planted them in March.

Place them in an area which receives full sun and has good drainage - like a slope or a raised garden bed. Like most bulbs, they do not tolerate soggy ground.

They require to be planted about 4cm into the ground about a thumb length size down.

Fertilized them to help them flower. Add all purpose fertilizer when you plant and supplement it with half strength fertilizer every two weeks thereafter. I like to use a spray on liquid seaweed fertilizer. Its easier.

The reward is that while everyone else's garden is gloomy and grey, my garden will be bursting with color. How fantastic would that be???!!!

You should also cut the flowers for display indoors. Apparently they seem to like it and will produce more flowers.

If you don't wish to place them in the fridge you can still plant them in March to May - the problem is that the plants will start flowering in late Spring, early Summer October/Nov. And the plant will start wilting in November when the Australian weather starts warming up (if not earlier).

This is a photo taken back in 2002. The ranunculus flowers make an exceptional mass display.
If you intend to keep the ranunculus bulbs, stop watering them in mid-Summer. For best results, pull them out of the ground and store them in a dry and cool place.

They can be delicate to grow outside: a wet, windy spring will damage flowers badly, while hot, dry conditions will cause foliage to yellow prematurely and restrict flowering.

You might like to read through some of the literature regarding ranunculi but you have to remember that their tips are more applicable for people in America and England.

You can also save the seeds of the ranunculus for planting. I did that once but unfortunately I made the mistake of covering them with a top layer of topsoil. Apparently its best to place them on top of the sawdust mulch and water them in.

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