How to Collect & Save Ranunculus Seeds
Most days in my garden I often think ‘I have no idea what I’m doing.’ The funny thing is, it’s from that very thought that the most enjoyable projects and experiments in my garden start. Having read next to nothing about growing ranunculus from seed, I decided to just try and teach myself how to collect and save ranunculus seeds. Here’s what I learned!
Growing Ranunculus From Saved Seed
You won’t find much information online about how to collect and save ranunculus seeds. This is most likely because the majority of ranunculus are grown from corms (much like dahlias are often grown from tubers), and growing from seed can produce unreliable results. Furthermore, the information I did find online did not match what I experienced personally while collecting, saving, and growing my own ranunculus from seeds. In conclusion, the best I can tell you is that you must be ready for an adventure and be open to learning along the way!
This past season I grew about a dozen ranunculus from my collected and saved seeds, and ended up with a handful of pretty strong plants and only a couple interesting flowers. If you’ve read my article on growing dahlias from seed, it’s kind of the same idea—ranunculus grown from seed do not grow true the parent flowers.
Will ranunculus grown from seed form corms that can be saved for the next year? From my experience growing dahlias from seed, I suspected that my ranunculus seedlings would form corms, much like dahlias form tubers. After this experience, I can confirm that this is true! If growing ranunculus flowers from seed seems too tedious, don’t forget that you can buy corms and plant them in Fall here in Southern California. In fact, you can read how to do this in Fall Planted Anemones, Ranunculus, and Daffodils.
When to collect ranunculus seeds
The first step to collect and save ranunculus seeds is to let the flowers bloom, shrivel and dry. You will notice the center of the flower becomes more like a cone-shape with tiny, flaky ridges. Personally, I let these cone-shaped flower heads dry completely before moving on to the next step.
Once you have dried seeds heads, simply run your fingers over the dried seed heads to loosen the seeds. Do this over a paper bag so that all those little flakes fall into the bag and not all over the place.
You might be surprised to learn that these flakes are not ranunculus seeds! I certainly was. Sadly, I learned this the hard way, when I tried to germinate some of the flakes and got nothing!
Finding the actual ranunculus seeds to save
Once you have all your dried flakes from the ranunculus seed heads, there’s an additional step you have to take before you can save your ranunculus seeds. The ranunculus seeds are actually tiny brown seeds encased in the tan, dried flakes (see the photo below). Additionally, I observed that not every flake contained a seed. I don’t know if this had something to do with pollination or if there was another reason.
To save ranunculus seeds, simply set aside any flake that has a tiny dark spec in it; no need to remove it from the casing at all before germinating.
Store Saved Ranunculus Seeds Safely
I personally like saving my seeds in plain, brown paper seed packets like these. Over the years I’ve accumulated so many of my “self collected” homegrown seed packets that I purchased a photo storage box to house them all. If you haven’t seen these boxes before, they are often on sale at Michael’s Arts and Crafts and are a wonderful way to organize and safely keep your seed packets (PS: always use a coupon at Michael’s). Finally, all seeds are kept in our guest bedroom closet to avoid large temperature swings or anything that might harm the future viability of the seeds.
How to germinate ranunculus seeds
Today I really wanted to focus on the process of how to collect and save ranunculus seeds rather than talk much about growing them. Besides, I’m definitely a beginner here too! Nonetheless, I’m happy to share how I germinated the ranunculus seeds I saved.
Have you heard of the paper towel method of starting seeds? I’ve used this method (but with coffee filters) to start finicky seeds in the past. It also allows me to test the viability of seeds in my collection without wasting a lot of seed cells, pots, and seed starting mix. Therefore, I decided to use the paper towel/coffee filter method to start about a dozen of my ranunculus flower seeds. It worked out well! After germinating the seeds in coffee filters, I simply transferred them to cells that had DIY Seed Start Mix.
What flowers did my ranunculus seeds produce?
In all honesty, this isn’t a project you want to embark on if you aren’t willing to sacrifice some garden space to something that might not flower or grow well. Firstly, of the dozen I grew, only about five actually grew into healthy, verdant plants. You could tell right away which plants were vigorous because, the minute they were transplanted, they put off lots of foliage and pushed forth round buds. Second, the healthiest plants bloomed into flowers (that were pretty of course), but only a couple flowers truly caught my eye. I really liked the white ranunculus pictured below and the fiery red and yellow one. You can’t really tell from the photo, but the white ranunculus is creamy, ruffly, and very large. I think this whole journey of learning to how to collect and save ranunculus seeds was worth it. What do you think?
Obsessed with growing flowers from seed
It’s official, I’m enthralled with the beauty and surprise that comes with growing flowers from seeds (especially ones I’ve collected myself). I often dream of the new varieties that will bloom in my garden, and being able to introduce them to the world. As you can see, it’s a slow, patient process; full of unpredictability, yet the thrill is enough to whisk us off into this abyss. If you’d like to know about some other flowers that are fun to grow and easy to save and collect seeds from, check out these other articles: