Ranunculus is a beautiful flowering perennial. It provides large bright blooms in red, orange, pink, and yellow blossoms, but if you start to notice ranunculus leaves dying you might be alarmed.
This can stem from multiple problems such as under or overwatering, as well as root rot and fertilization.
In this article we will take a dive into the causes of ranunculus leaves dying and what you can do to bring them back to their former glory.
Ranunculus is also known as a buttercup. Other colloquial names for the plant include spearworts and water crowfoots. There are over 600 species of ranunculus. Most have layers that look like origami flowers, but some species are open, with five petals.
Most species are perennial, but a few are annual. There are even a few aquatic species. Ranunculus love the sun and are relatively easy to grow. You can expect blooms in the spring and early summer before the plant goes dormant in the height of summer.
Ranunculus Leaves Dying Overview
There are several reasons why ranunculus leaves may die. Essentially, the leaves will die if the plant isn’t getting what it needs from the soil. This may be an issue with the soil itself or the roots of the plant.
A lack of water or overwatering, lack of nutrients, and root rot are a few things that can cause your ranunculus leaves to die.
There are several issues your ranunculus can encounter with water. The first is not enough water, which leads to dry soil. You can also give your ranunculus too much water, which can lead to root or crown rot.
One reason that ranunculus leaves can die is dry soil. Ranunculus requires plenty of water to grow properly. If it becomes dehydrated due to lack of water, the leaves will become yellow.
They may also turn brown, and feel dry and papery. It may also wilt. Often, the edges of the leaves will turn brown due to underwatering. Growth will become stunted.
If your plant is overwatered, you’ll notice that the soil is very dry beneath the surface.
Overwatering is another cause of ranunculus problems. The symptoms are similar to those of underwatering. Your plant will wilt and the leaves will turn yellow. However, the leaves do not feel dry or papery in this case.
This occurs because the roots can’t take in adequate water and nutrients when the soil is waterlogged.
Growth can be stunted. Your ranunculus is also at risk of root rot due to overwatering.
Root rot is caused by fungus. Overwatering allows the fungus to thrive. The plant and roots are already weakened by constant exposure to water. Once the fungus begins to grow, it begins to damage the roots.
The roots become brown and mushy, instead of firm and white. Once this occurs, the roots will be unable to function properly. The leaves begin to turn yellow, and the plant will wilt.
Blooming may be delayed or not occur at all because the plant isn’t healthy enough to sustain them. Root rot can kill your ranunculus if the roots become too damaged.
How to Water Ranunculus
It’s clear that over or under watering can cause significant problems for ranunculus. It’s important to water your plant properly. You’ll want to water deeply.
Wait until the top inch or two of soil is dry before watering again. Planted ranunculus should be watered about once a week because their tuberous roots require lots of water. They also limit the soil in the pot, which means the soil can’t hold as much water.
Just water until it begins to trickle from the bottom of the pot. Remove any excess water from the saucer.
Preventing and Treating Root Rot
Proper watering is key to preventing root rot in ranunculus. However, it’s not the only step you should take. If your ranunculus is potted, be sure the pot has drainage holes.
If it’s planted in the ground, the soil should be well-draining. Heavy or clay soils do not drain well. In this case, you’ll need to add perlite to the soil to improve drainage.
You can treat root rot if it’s caught early. If the plant is potted, remove it from the soil. Trim away any brown or dead roots, taking a bit of the healthy-looking root to ensure it’s not contaminated.
Use a new pot, or bleach the pot before replanting. Use new soil. This will help prevent contamination with the fungus. Water carefully, avoiding overwatering.
If the plant is in the ground, you can apply a fungicide. You should reapply once a month to treat root rot. Ensure that the soil has good drainage, and do not overwater.
If the root rot is severe, you may have to remove the plant. Avoid planting in the soil, because it is contaminated with fungus.
Lack of Nutrients
There are two nutrients that, when missing, can cause your ranunculus leaves to turn yellow. These are nitrogen and iron. Typically, the bottom leaves will turn yellow.
New leaves will appear greener than old-growth because resources are directed to new leaves.
Treating Lack of Nutrients
If you suspect a lack of nutrients is the cause of your ranunculus leaves dying, it’s best to start with a soil test. Then you’ll know exactly what your plant needs to thrive.
One way to feed your ranunculus is with a fertilizer. 15-30-15 works well. The high phosphorous content is beneficial for flower blooms.
Composted manure is another option, which is high in nitrogen. Coffee grounds may also be effective, although this isn’t as reliable as the other methods.
Lack of Sunlight
Sunlight is required for plants to create photosynthesis, which is their main source of nutrition and energy.
Ranunculus requires lots of sunlight. If it doesn’t get sufficient light, the leaves will turn yellow or pale. Without proper sunlight, it may bloom late or not at all.
If your ranunculus is potted, it’s easy to move it to an area that gets more sun. If your ranunculus is in the ground, you may have to move it to another location.
If there are trees or shrubs blocking the sunlight, it may be possible to trim them to allow more sun.
Your ranunculus needs at least 6 hours of sunlight each day to thrive.
You may be surprised that ranunculus leaves dying may just be part of its natural cycle. After the plant blooms, the leaves will turn yellow and die, typically during the summer.
By the fall, the leaves should be completely yellow. You can then trim them away. It’s best to trim the foliage at the base of the plant. This allows the plant to focus energy on the bulb, which will grow again in the spring. Until then, the plant will be dormant.
Final Thoughts on Ranunculus Leaves Dying
There are several reasons your ranunculus leaves may be dying. Some of these are related to watering, either over or under-watering. Lack of sunlight or proper nutrition is also potential culprits.
If your ranunculus has finished blooming for the year, the death is simply part of its natural cycle, and nothing to be concerned about.