Familiar yellow buttercups pop up in the spring and summer on lawns and along roadsides, streambanks, and meadows. Their scientific name is ranunculus, an ancient genus of about 600 species, thought to be over 5 million years old. The cousins of these humble wildflowers are the elegant, refined ranunculus we see today in gardens, arrangements, and wedding bouquets that look like blooms from a fairy tale.
They are hybrids of a species called Ranunculus asiaticus, or Persian buttercup, sometimes known as turban buttercup or rose of spring. The parent of these beauties is a little wildflower native to the eastern Mediterranean region, from the island of Cyprus through Turkey and east to Iran. It grows low to the ground, with five red or yellow petals and a black center.
Ranunculus flowers have been cultivated in Europe for millennia and were all the rage in Victorian times. Over the past hundred years, however, Italian, French, Israeli, and American breeders created hybrids of this species. They are prized for their wide array of colors, curly stems, and large, exquisite flowers that are reliable bloomers.
These lovely plants grow to be 1 to 2 feet in height, with one to several cupped blossoms on fuzzy stems atop a rosette of finely cut, dissected leaves. They have distinctive black anthers and come in a rainbow of bright and pastel colors: white, yellow, apricot, orange, pink, red, fuchsia, burgundy, and picotee (bicolor). Depending on the variety, the flowers are single, like poppies, or double, with paper-thin, overlapping petals that resemble peonies or roses. Some popular cultivars have an impressive 100 to 130 petals in each flower and can be 2 to 5 inches in diameter.
Popular varieties of ranunculus flowers
Here are six of the most beautiful varieties of ranunculus seen today.
Accolade – This compact variety grows 8 inches high, with creamy yellow double petals edged in light pink, similar to a peace rose.
Amandine – The ruffled petals of these double flowers, along with their higher heat tolerance, make this a standout variety. Amandine grows from 10 to 14 inches at maturity and comes in various colors.
Aviv – This impressive variety is excellent for cut flowers due to its tall, 12-to-14-inch stems and large double blooms that are 4 to 5 inches across. It comes in mixed colors, including picotee.
Cloni – The top-rated, Italian-bred Cloni series includes three groups of varieties: Cloni Success, Cloni Pon-pon, and Elegance. The flowers are larger than most other ranunculus varieties, and come in elegant blushing pink, cream, coral, red, and vivid orange. Cloni grows between 1 and 2 feet tall.
Telecote – The acclaimed Telecote series features peony-like double flowers with both pastel and bright colors. It is a prolific bloomer and excellent for cut flowers due to its 24-inch stems, with eight to 10 stems per plant.
Tomer – This little beauty is a dwarf ranunculus, growing only 10 inches high, making it perfect for pots and low borders. It is wind and rain tolerant, and comes in white, pink, red, yellow, orange, and purple.
Uses of ranunculus flowers
Ranunculus are beloved for their vibrant colors, whimsical stems, voluminous paper-thin petals, and sweet nature. Their big, bright blooms, with a vase life of eight days to two weeks, make them an excellent choice as cut flowers for arrangements, centerpieces, and wedding bouquets. The wide array of vibrant colors makes ranunculus arrangements versatile and appropriate for all occasions, including birthdays, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or just because.
In the home, a ranunculus arrangement can grace a dining table or desk, or serve as an accent anywhere a splash of color is needed. In the garden, ranunculus are beautiful in mass plantings as a spring border or in a pollinator garden. In containers, they are a cheerful addition to a porch, a patio, or an entryway, or around a pool.
Caring for cut ranunculus flowers
Your 20-stem box of multicolored ranunculus will arrive with the flowers in the bud stage. These should fully bloom within 24 to 36 hours. They may be droopy at first but will perk up when you put them in water.
First, remove the flowers from the box. The stems should be firm, but they will bruise easily, so you’ll need patience and a gentle hand when holding them. Snip half an inch off the bottom of each stem at an angle with clean scissors or a knife.
Next, fill a clean vase with water and pour in the flower food from one of the included packets. Arrange the flowers in the vase by first putting in the filler plants, such as ferns, to give it a structure to build from, and then add the flowers one at a time.
Keep the arrangement in a cool place out of the sun and away from any drafts. Replace the water in the vase every two or three days to keep algae from growing, mixing in half of the second flower food packet. If the bottoms of the stems become soft and begin to decay, cut them off at an angle again to keep the flowers as fresh as possible.
Occasionally, a stem will bend or collapse under the weight of a bloom. If this happens, cut the stem off just above the bend and put it in a bud vase or small container that will support the flower.
By keeping the ends of the stems freshly cut and providing clean water every few days, you can extend the vase time of ranunculus to two weeks.
(Interested in planting ranunculus in the ground but don’t know where to start? Our helpful guide will teach you everything you need to know about growing ranunculus in a garden.)
Meaning and symbolism of ranunculus
In floriography, the ancient language spoken through flowers, ranunculus blossoms symbolize charm and attractiveness. When you find yourself drawn to someone because of their beauty and allure, and want to show them how you feel, your gift of ranunculus flowers will tell the story.
8 fun facts about ranunculus
- The genus name Ranunculus means “little frog.” It comes from Rana, the Latin word for frog, and unculus, meaning “little.”
- Crowfoot is another name for ranunculus because of its claw-shaped tubers.
- Ranunculus flowers are lovely to look at, but they are not fragrant. In fact, most varieties have no scent at all!
- 1-800-Flowers.com gets its ranunculus flowers from Ecuador. The warm sunshine and cool nights of the Andes Mountains make this an ideal setting for the blossoms to thrive.
- Fossilized ranunculus seeds dating back 5 million years, from the Pliocene Era, have been found in the mountains of Germany and China.
- The shiny, yellow buttercup flower you held under your chin as a child doesn’t mean you like butter. The petals have special reflective cells that attract pollinators from far away.
- A Persian legend tells of a young prince who fell desperately in love with a beautiful nymph. She spurned his declarations of love time and again, so he died of a broken heart and turned into a ranunculus flower.
- As beautiful as these flowers are, all parts of them are toxic.