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Ames, Iowa 50011-3630
(515) 294-9915


Linda Naeve, Reiman Gardens, (515) 294-8946,
Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033,

Reiman's Pick for the week of April 5, 2004

Ranunculus Is a Beautiful Challenge

By Linda Naeve
Extension Coordinator, Reiman Gardens

Whether you play sports, have a hobby or even fill crossword puzzles, your performance is based upon your skill level. Categories such as beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced and expert define skill levels, and knowledge, practice and experience improve and advance those skills.

Gardening is a hobby and occupation that involves various skill levels. To be successful, gardeners need to understand their climate, environment and the plants they intend to grow, plus there is quite a bit of trial and error in this learning curve. To avoid disappointment, beginning gardeners are encouraged to start with a small garden and plant easy-to-grow vegetables or flowers. Through experience and success, gardeners begin to welcome the challenges of trying new techniques and species. Growing this week's Reiman's Pick, Ranunculus, from dry, tuberous roots is a challenge for advanced to expert gardeners and is well worth the effort.

Persian buttercup, Ranunculus asiaticus, produces beautiful flowers in a wide range of reds, yellows, oranges, pinks and whites with petals that appear to be made of crepe paper. The flowers rise above the dainty foliage on long slender stems. They make beautiful cut flowers that last a long time if cut while still in a bud.

Ranunculus is a tender perennial that originated in southeast Europe and southwest Asia. Tender perennials, have perennial root systems or storage organs but are not able to survive our cold winters. In order for Ranunculus to bloom at the appropriate time in Iowa, the tuberous roots need to be planted in pots and "forced" to grow indoors for several weeks before planting outdoors. Unlike spring-flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, which are forced into bloom, Ranunculus does not require several weeks of cold treatment. However, it does require a cool environment.

Gardeners and greenhouse growers start Ranunculus from dry, almost woody, tuberous roots about 12 weeks before the average last frost date in the spring, which is early February in Iowa. Prior to planting, the tuberous roots should be soaked in warm water for a couple of hours to hasten water absorption. Plant two or three tubers, one-inch deep, in a six-inch pot containing fresh potting soil. Then position the plants where they will receive bright light and cool temperatures, no more than 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 45 to 50 degrees at night. The soil should be kept somewhat moist, but not soggy.

Ranunculus is a cool season plant that should be set out in containers or in the garden in a full sun location just after the average last frost date. Apply a guaranteed analysis soluble plant food once every two weeks and remove the spent blooms to encourage the plant to continue blooming through mid-summer.

Horticulturists at Reiman Gardens used their expertise to force Ranunculus and hundreds of other plants into bloom for the beautiful spring garden display in the Conservatory.


Editors: A color photo, suitable for publication, is available at right. Click on the thumbnail photo to go to the fullsized photo. The picture's fullsize photo is 248K.

Caption: ranunculus

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