The large Ranunculus plant genus includes various herbaceous perennials, such as buttercups and lesser celandines. Most plants in this genus display yellow flowers in the late spring and the early summer. Home gardeners interested in planting Ranunculus flowers should select plants according to mature size, bloom information, intended use and general culture.
The Persian buttercup (Ranunculus asiaticus) naturally occurs in Europe and Asia and typically performs well in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 8 to 10. This plant grows from a bulb and reaches between 12 and 24 inches in both height and spread. Flowers bloom in May and June, featuring poppy-like blooms with yellow, pink, white, red or purple petals. The green leaves look similar to parsley. This plant likes full sun positions with well-drained soils. Persian buttercups often suffer from root rot when planted in poor-draining soils. Gardeners often use the Persian buttercup in containers, flowerbeds and borders.
The creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) reaches between nine and 12 inches in height with spreads ranging from one to two feet. This Ranunculus species spreads quickly in moist, shaded soils. This low-growing plant features snowflake-shaped gold or lime-green leaves. Vibrant yellow flowers bloom in April and May. The creeping buttercup makes excellent ground cover in USDA zones 4 to 9.
The lesser celandine plant (Ranunculus ficaria) naturally grows in Asia, Africa and Europe. Winter-hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8, this Ranunculus variety prefers moist soils in partly shady sites. Lesser celandine plants reach from three to nine inches in height with spreads up to 12 inches. This species often forms dense mats that prohibit other plant growth. Yellow buttercup-like flowers appear from March through May. Plants generally go dormant during the summer. Snails and slugs sometimes feed on the foliage. The lesser celandine works well as ground cover in open areas.
The early buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis), also called the tufted buttercup and prairie buttercup, bears spreading stems that reach up to 12 inches in height. Bright yellow flowers bloom in April and May. The early buttercup prefers well-drained soils in various lighting conditions. This Ranunculus species naturally occurs in dry woods and prairies in the American South and Midwest. This plant has toxic properties that can cause allergic skin reactions and gastrointestinal distress. The early buttercup works well in perennial flowerbeds and wildflower gardens.
Early Wood Buttercup
The early wood buttercup (Ranunculus abortivus), also called the littleleaf buttercup and kidney-leaf buttercup, thrives in moist woodlands across the United States. This spreading plant ranges from six to 24 inches in height and features kidney-shaped leaves. Split stems hold up non-showy yellow flowers from April through July. This Ranunculus variety prefers rich, moist soils in shady locations. It exudes a sap that causes allergic skin reactions in some people. Gardeners often plant early wood buttercups in wildflower gardens, flowerbeds and open woodland areas.