Ranunculus and peonies


I recently moved to a new home and area (Brampton, Ontario).  We haven’t finished planning the backyard yet so I will be starting my ranunculus and peonies (bush type) bulbs in containers.  It is a full sun area.  I believe it is average in wetness as there is a ravine nearby but not connecting.  I’m not sure about the type of soil but the yard is quite large and spacious.

My questions are:

When I do plant them in ground?

Would ranunculus and peonies be fine to plant beside each other, alternating types?

Would the roots or plant be fight for territory?



Peonies are one of the best-known and most dearly loved perennials.  This is hardly surprising considering their beauty, fragrance, trouble-free nature and longevity.  There are 3 main varieties of peonies – herbaceous, tree peonies and intersectional Hybrids (cross between a herbaceous and a tree peony referred to as Itoh peonies).

Both herbaceous and Itoh peonies are smaller and grow to be about 4 feet tall, while tree peonies easily reach 6 feet in height.

If a peony is well situated and happy, it may bloom for 100 years or more with little or no attention.  This means it’s worth spending some time up front, choosing the right planting location and preparing the soil.

When you refer to bush peonies I am assuming that you are referring to the herbaceous type of peony.

When choosing a container for your peony make sure to choose a large pot with several drainage holes on the bottom since these perennials have a very large root systems, especially the herbaceous varieties, and need much deeper pots than other container plants.  Fill the container with a very-well-draining potting soil mix.  Peonies are very susceptible to root rot and should never be planted in standard potting soil, which does not provide adequate drainage.

Place the container in an area where it receives about 4-6 hours of sunlight each day.  An area of dappled shade is the perfect spot for potted peonies.  Water peonies at least once a week.  Peonies are drought-tolerant and usually require little water, but container plants need more water than those planted in the ground.

Fertilize peonies in the very early spring when the leaves are starting to unfurl.  Peonies should be fed with a low-nitrogen formula such as 5-10-10.  Fertilize again when the plant has finished blooming for the season.

Fall is the best time to plant your potted peony into the garden.  The problem with planting potted peonies in the spring is that there are no eyes visible, just the growing stems.  The eyes may or may not be at the right depth in the pot.  Without seeing the eyes you won’t know where they are when you put your potted peony into the garden. When planting in the garden it is important to remember that the “eyes”, or growth nodes, located near the base of the old stem, end up no more than 2″ below the soil surface.

Peonies prefer a sunny location at least (6 hours) in well-drained, organic rich soil.  Top dress your peonies each fall with compost to improve soil structure and remember not to place compost directly on crown of plant.

Good air circulation around the plant is also important. These growing conditions help peonies avoid their only serious disease problem such as botrytis.  Like other fungal diseases, botrytis is present in most soils.  It usually only becomes a problem if the plant is weak, the weather is unusually cool and wet, or if there are other infected plants nearby.  Signs of botrytis are blackened buds and stems, and sometimes rotting at the base of the plant.  Cut off and dispose of any affected areas (put this material in the trash, not in your compost pile).  The best strategy for botrytis problems is prevention, and that goes back to proper planting.

Remember to never cut down foliage right after flowering. This will remove the plants ability to make and store food reserves for next year’s growth and flowering.  Foliage should remain on plant until touched by frost.  In late fall cut herbaceous foliage to an inch (2.5cm) above ground.

Here is an excellent article on How and when to plant peonies

On to the next part of your question:

Ranunculus is a genus of approximately 600 species of plants.  Not knowing which species of ranunculus you are referring to, it is difficult for me to give you an accurate answer as to the number of pants that will be able to fit into a 10” pot or if the species is winter hardy.

If you are referring to Ranunculus asiaticus (Persian buttercup) these plants are cool season flowers that grow best in spring-like temperatures of about 55°F. In warm climates (zones 8-10), ranunculus can be planted in beds and borders.  Unfortunately, in our climate, which is a zone 5-6, ranunculus is not winter hardy so you must treat them as an annual.  If you wish to place these bulbs in your garden bed for the summer then make sure to dig them out before the first frost.  If you chose to plant then next to the peony make sure to leave plenty of room around the peony for good air circulation as mentioned above.

If you decide to plant the ranunculus in a container plant the bulbs 2” deep and 4”-6” apart.  Fill your containers with good quality, well-drained potting soil. Make sure there are adequate drainage holes – ranunculus bulbs must never sit in waterlogged soil or they will rot.  Place your ranunculus where they will receive full sun. Water as needed during active growth periods.

After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place – don’t cut it off.  The leaves will gather sunlight and provide nourishment for next year’s show.  At the end of the summer the leaves will yellow and die back as the plant slips into dormancy.  Foliage may be removed at this point.  Ranunculus prefers not to be watered while dormant.  Your ranunculus will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle.