I am a researcher by nature, always wanting to figure out how other people do things and seeking out the best way to approach something new. But I'm not one of those people who just researches endlessly and never takes action. I'm all about getting my hands dirty (obviously!) and a big believer in the "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" philosophy. I've spent countless hours researching the myriad of ways to grow ranunculus and anemone. As they are some of the earliest spring blooming flowers, I am determined each year to have an amazing crop. After a few years of trial and error, I finally believe that we've arrived at a great system.
Growing Conditions + Where to Plant
The soil on my farm has a very high clay content and tends to hold moisture for a long time. This can be good in dry seasons or super challenging any other time. We also have widely varying winter weather here in Western North Carolina (zone 6a/7b). It can be in the upper 60s during the daytime one day and then reach a low of 25 the following night. So I only plant ranunculus and anemone in hoop houses to have a little more control over the environment.
In years past, I have closed up the hoop houses sometime around early December and left the sides down and end walls open for the duration of the winter. When it gets below 20 degrees (which is not too often and usually in January), I close the end walls and also cover the rows with a layer of remay. This year however, I intend to leave the sidewalls rolled up as much as possible. Even though we're still early into the winter, the plants already look remarkably happier and healthier. With the sides up, I cover with remay fabric when it drops below 30 and then uncover in the morning as soon as it starts to warm up.
The soil on the farm is pretty well balanced, so my field prep consists of adding some organic compost and fertilizer. I strongly recommend having regular soil tests done on your farm too so you know what you're working with. Hoop house space is limited and in high demand here so as soon as last fall crop is done blooming, I flip the beds. I start by ripping out the old plants, pulling up landscape fabric and removing the drip lines. Once the soil is dry enough, I go through with the walk behind tiller - starting with a shallow till first, then do a deeper pass and finish with a light till to smooth the bed.
The hoop houses are 12' wide so I can fit 3 rows in each, leaving 2 very narrow pathways of about 18" each. I would rather have narrow pathways and maximize the amount of growing space, so I settle for feeling slightly awkward in the paths. After tilling, I lay down landscape fabric in the pathways so that there is no weeding or maintenance required.
After tilling and laying fabric in the pathways, I spread organic compost and fertilizer in each bed. I use a 7 - 5 - 10 organic fertilizer and mix them into the soil with a rake.
About 10-14 days before I'm ready to plant, I soak and presprout the corms. I'll usually prep the beds after I've started this process. There are many different ways to presprout your corms and I have had great success by keeping it simple. This year I lost no corms to mold - horray! Because I know that my soil tends to be too wet, and thus lead to bacterial issues, I soak my anemone and ranunculus corms in an Actinovate solution. Actinovate is a concentrated beneficial microorganism that establishes itself on the plants' roots. I also use it to drench all lisianthus plugs before planting and have eliminated fungal issues. Even though I shy away from using any chemicals, this product is approved for certified organic production and helps protect my large investment in the corms.
I soak ranunculus corms for about 12 hours and anemone for 4 hours, until they start to plump up and double in size. After soaking, fill large seed starting trays (the bottom trays without holes) with a blend of ProMix and vermiculite. This is the same mix that I use for all seed starting. I "plant" each corm into the tray so that the legs or "bananas" are facing down and the corms are touching, but not overlapping. Cover with a light dusting of the mix.
My basement is the perfect spot for presprouting as its about 60 degrees with medium humidity and minimal light. I check the corms every few days to make sure the soil is slightly moist, but not damp. Err on the side of too dry rather than too wet. After about 10 days, the corms grow little white rootlets and they're ready to go. Oftentimes I am so busy during this time that by the time I get around to planting, they have 1/2" sprouts growing. No need to worry - they continue growing in the soil just fine.
Although I grow almost everything at the farm in landscape fabric, I do not plant ranunculus or anemone into fabric. I've found that the leaves and blooms of anemone get stuck under the fabric and that the ranunculus do not appreciate the extra heat and moisture retention caused by the fabric. Also, I have more time in the winter and early spring for a few rounds of weeding before the plants mature. I aim to have the plants in the ground around October 31st.
I typically plant 4 rows per bed of ranunculus and 5 of anemone with 6" spacing. I made a super high tech planting spacer out of a conduit pole and flagging tape. One person uses the spacer to lay the sprouted corms along the rows and another person follows behind planting them about 1-2" deep. My favorite planting tool is also super fancy - a butter knife from Goodwill. Its amazing how quickly you can plant a few thousand plants using this method!
Depending on how damp the soil already is, I may give it a light spray after planting. Again, our soil stays so wet that this year I'm not even laying drip lines for these crops. They usually don't need water again until spring anyhow, so I'll run drip or water overhead if need be later.
They really do grow so quickly and don't require much maintenance throughout the winter except occasional weeding and protection from those super chilly nights.
I'd love to hear if you have any tried and true tips for growing ranunculus and anemone! I am by no means an expert, but love sharing what I've learned and love learning new, more efficient ways to grow healthy plants!