Aka Successfully Growing Ranunculus and Anemones Part I
In between jumping in mud puddles with my girls after the winter rain, I find myself attempting to stay in the present and enjoy this season. More often than not, I find myself looking forward to spring. Perhaps this is more common than I realize or perhaps this is the life of a flower farmer: constantly straddling two seasons. Taking care of the tasks today while planning and plotting the crops of the future.
After weeks of pouring over growing notes from last season, gathering my succession sow dates and well, just overall crop planning (and trying to squeeze in just one more variety of flower) it feels amazing to finally be putting all that planning to action. Graham got the greenhouse up, still the same humble one from before but now with better shelving- yay! Though, from the amount of trays of seeds already sitting in there, the greenhouse will be busting at the seams in a few weeks! We have outgrown this greenhouse long ago but typically that doesn’t become apparent until mid-spring.
Luckily, the flowers I’m chattering on about today won’t be needing the greenhouse: Ranunculus and anemones!
I get pretty giddy when it comes time to winter sow these beauties, it means that we are that much closer to spring. Ranunculus and anemones are some of my must fussy yet easy going flowers. They command quite a bit of upfront work to stack the odds in our favor of having a successful crop but once they get going they go nuts! Last year, we had a tiny twenty foot long by four foot wide row of ranunculus. We planted multiple successions to increase our harvest window and from that one row we were rewarded with loads of these ahhmazing blooms. The ranunculus were the fluffy goodness that landed in Reno Edible which have seemed to have linked ranunculus and Sierra Flower Farm as best friends for life (we love it!).
Honestly, the first time I attempted to grow ranunculus, it was on a whim. Snagged some corms (that’s where those off a clearance shelf) read a couple websites and just went with it! That year, I had a small success. The stems were short, flowers heads not as fluffy as I had hoped. Still, their beauty captivated me. I knew I had to try again... this time for reals!
I invested in some quality corms from a reputable distributor and got my order in early to snag the best chance at the varieties I wanted. Being a flower farmer sometimes feels like being in a race, who can be on top of life when it comes time to actually piece an order together in the throws of the flower growing season. Meaning: who cares how many other things are on your plate come late spring/early summer: get those orders in! I did that. It ended up being a game changer.
Investing in more expensive corms isn’t like a magic bean where they will just get tossed in some dirt and grow magnificently. What investing in more expensive corms did do for me: it upped the game, which translated into it was time to hustle. We weren’t playing with a bag of $10 corms anymore, this was serious all-star stuff and I was not about to fail them. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of successfully growing ranunculus and anemones. Trust me, their beauty and prolific output of stems is worth the trouble. To be honest, the trouble isn’t that bad. It’s a unique experience that you could even involve the kids in, well mine took a nap on the lawn and so... I let my husband help me out with them (more on this later).
When those utterly expensive corms arrive or heck even those clearance shelf ones they are ugly and alien looking. The ranunculus corms have the characteristic of dried up calamari and the anemones could easily be mistaken for some kind of shriveled up animal dropping. Yea... not super attractive. They need to be dry for storage purposes, it keeps them from rotting and also keeps them dormant (you choose when you want them to bloom plus it mimics their natural life cycle in the wild- everything needs some rest here and there!). We break this dormancy (wake them up) by pre soaking them in water (plump them up).
Let’s wake ‘em up by pumping ‘em up!
This step is seemingly simple but can make or break the success of this crop! Let’s go a little more into detail on this:
There is some basic equipment needed for pre soaking corms:
We chatted a little about this. Healthy, bigger corms will yield numerous healthy and bigger blooms.
You can even snag some from a craft store, I made mine because I was cheap. Using mesh bags that other spring bulbs arrive in (like tulips and daffodils) work too.
Plant tags, with variety and date written in PENCIL
Okay, pen wears off or rubs off. Pencil will stay for life, use a pencil or risk playing the guessing game later!
Make sure it’s clean, sanitized and large enough to hold corms when they double in size!
Before soaking the corms, make your labels and place you corms in mesh bags. I like to stay organized when I can, keeping individual varieties in their own bags.
Name of the Game:
We are playing a balancing act and the name of the game is to prevent mushy, rotting corms and instead promote healthy root growth. The balancing act is attempting to control the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi while promoting the friendly ones. Anaerobic bacteria and fungi are typically not our friends, they grow rapidly and cause havoc such as: root rot. Root rot is not great for any plant but ranunculus and anemones are highly susceptible to it making root rot one of the biggest challenges when growing them.
Now there are three major players at play in the process of this game: water, time and chosen method of pre-soaking.
Player 1: temperature of water
The water needs to be room temperature or a little cooler is fine too. Nothing warm to the touch or hot. Bacteria and fungi like to grow in warmth, not to mention we don’t need to be trying to cook up our little corm nuggets!
Player 2: time
The corms do not need long to rehydrate, therefore it is not necessary for them to be sitting in water for hours or days on end. Actually, letting them sit in the water for too long can be quite devastating and lead to more rot. Not letting them soak long enough may also not provide the benefit to them from the pre-soaking process that is required to wake them up. Three to four hours is optimal.
Player 3: Method of pre soaking
The thing about anaerobic bacteria and fungi is they thrive in environments lacking oxygen. Therefore, we need to make the environment inhospitable by adding additional oxygen to the environment that will suppress their growth and thus enhance healthy root growth! This is a very similar concept that we chatted about in our Nitty Gritty on Compost II post we did a while back.
Basically, throwing your quality corms in a clean bucket with room temperature water for 3-4 hours is still not enough. You can still see more rot than necessary! There are two ways that are commonly used to add additional oxygen to the soaking corms water:
Choose your own adventure!
Method 1: Running tap water.
You can have your corms soaking in a bucket that’s sitting under a spigot (kitchen, bathroom in an area in a comfy room temperature so maybe not outside on a winter eve) on a slight trickle. This method is slowly flushing out the older water and introducing fresh water thus fresh oxygen. I hear my family in California screaming at me at the thought of allowing water to run for 3-4 hours. Yes, I will say this is a little wasteful but hey, we’re talking methods you can pick your poison! The second disadvantage I would point out it that is does not oxygenate the water as much as our second method. With that said, we have used this method with great success!
Method 2: Pump oxygen into the water
Please, put down your straw and back away: you do not to blow air into the water for hours. Rather, invest in a cheap aquarium pump. We paid like $15 and snagged one off of amazon because well, who really wants to trudge through the snow to the store? Not me! With a five gallon bucket on hand and lid, graham took the basic concept and did his Graham thing to it (which you can learn how to make here).
While the corms are soaking, go to the movies, have a picnic or go sanitize some seedling trays- do what you got to do! Hopefully just not laundry because that’s boring.
After those few hours, when you pull out your corms from the water they should be nice, plump and doubled in size!
From here you have another choose your own adventure game: you can plant the corms directly into prepared beds or you can pre-sprout.
What the heck is “pre-sprouting”?! That is something we will explain and show you how we do on our next video and blog post! Hint: it’s amazing, a game changer and you should take the extra step to ensure having a successful ranunculus and anemone crop!
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our video on YouTube to see how we do all this in action! Also in this video, Graham shows how we make our pre-soaking system, it’s pretty snazzy!
Until next time, thank you and we are looking forward to handing you blooms (um, especially ranunculus and anemones) soon!