Ranunculus Rotting? 4 Likely Causes And Solutions

You’ve had your Ranunculus for a while and you’ve been keen on taking care of it as much as you can. One day you notice some yellowing and drooping of your Buttercup, so you take all the necessary measures, but it seems to be getting worse.

You take your plant from its pot to have a look at the roots, and to your surprise, they’re rotten! What happened? Why is your Ranunculus rotting?

Ranunculus rotting happens mainly because of excessive water in the soil. This can be linked to overwatering, using heavy soil, or placing rocks in the bottom of your pot.

If you’d like to know how to handle rotting and even prevent it entirely, we have your back! Stick around. 

Image of a dead white flower - used in article titled Ranunculus Rotting? 4 Likely Causes And Solutions

What Is Ranunculus Rotting?

Ranunculus rotting is when the roots start to lose their normal structure because of a bacterial or fungal infection.

Ranunculus rotting is arguably the most annoying problem you could have with your Buttercup. Rot happens in the roots away from your eyes and it manifests as drooping or yellowing.

This can force some plant owners to take wrong actions in hopes of saving their Ranunculus, which makes the condition worse in most cases. 

A Ranunculus planted in pots or indoors is a lot more susceptible to rotting than plants placed in open soil. That’s because the enclosure of the pots gives more chances for the accumulation of bacteria or fungus.

How to Identify Ranunculus Rotting?

Ranunculus rotting isn’t the easiest thing to identify because you need to take your plant off its pot to see the rotten roots yourself.

The picture you’d see before taking your Ranunculus off its pot is drooping or yellowing, which doesn’t get better by adding more water.

If you’ve tried to fix the yellowing and the drooping without success, you should direct your attention to the roots. We recommend taking the plant off its pot periodically as a routine check for the roots.

That being said, root rotting presents as thinning of portions of the root as they have lost their outer protective layer or cortex.

If you run your fingers around the roots of a healthy Ranunculus, you would feel how firm they are. You’d need a considerable amount of force to rip them off. Rotten roots, on the other hand, come out very easily when you slightly pull them with your fingers.

Closeup image of woman watering a plant in the garden at sunset

What Causes Ranunculus Rotting?

Ranunculus root rotting can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. Overwatering

Giving your Ranunculus too much water is the most common reason for root rotting. 

The extra water drowns or soaks the root and prevents it from getting the air it needs. As a result, the root starts to rot, becomes dormant, and is unable to absorb nutrients from the soil.

This manifests as drooping or yellowing which makes you think that you’re not using enough water. You would then water your plant more which worsens the case even more.

  1. Underwatering

We’re not talking about occasional underwatering or slightly underwatering your Ranunculus most of the time; we’re talking about severe underwatering, which lasts for weeks and weeks. 

The root system of the plant will start to deteriorate and get smaller in size. As a result, leaf yellowing or drooping will start. You’d react to that by using the “normal” amount of water on your Ranunculus.

This is when rotting comes to play. That “normal” amount of water is suddenly too much for the shrunken-sized roots that you’re now overwatering your Ranunculus and causing it to rot!

  1. Heavy Soil

Heavy soil is an indirect reason for root drowning and soaking. When the soil is too heavy, the water will escape it much slower and the roots will absorb it slower as well.

Over time, the normal amount of water you add will accumulate in the soil faster than the plant can absorb it. The result will be—you guessed it—root soaking and rotting.

  1. Placing Rocks in the Bottom of the Pot

This is an interesting one. If you browse videos on YouTube, you’d find that many recommend putting rocks or clay aggregates in the bottom of your Ranunculus pot to improve draining and reduce rotting.

The idea is to reduce the amount of soil, which, in turn, reduces the amount of water it holds onto. In theory, that sounds logical, but in reality, not so much.

When you have a pot full of soil, you have three different zones:

The Top Zone

It’s what we call the dry zone. It’s the area most subjected to air and the one that tells you when you should water your plant when it gets too dry.

The Middle Zone

It’s what we call the unsaturated zone. It’s where most of your root lives and where it drains the soil. This area should have a relative amount of space in the soil to allow the roots to function normally.

The Bottom Zone

Also known as the saturated zone or the “perched water table.” In this zone, most of the water remains stagnant in the soil and provides little to no space for the roots to function.

However, since most of the root is in the middle unsaturated zone, the terminal thin roots are no issue. 

This is why if you take your Ranunculus out of its pot, you’ll notice that the bottom roots are often thinner.

When you put rocks under the bottom zone, you elevate the perched water table into the middle zone. What you’re doing at this point is narrowing the middle unsaturated zone and submerging the roots of the Ranunculus into the perched water table.

This gives the root much less room to function, drowning it and causing it to rot. With all this in mind, we don’t recommend putting rocks in the bottom of your Ranunculus pot. 

Multiple plant pots with different soils and plants

How to Prevent Ranunculus Rotting?

Unfortunately, bad things happen even to those who are extra careful. So, here’s what you can do to prevent the Ranunculus from rotting in the first place:

1. Choose the Correct Soil From the Get-Go

Ranunculus prefers loamy soil with a pH of 6.4 to grow without problems. This soil retains just the amount of water to keep the roots functioning without drowning.

2. Water Your Ranunculus Correctly

Just like any flowering plant, Ranunculus won’t tolerate the wrong amounts of water for long times.

Water your Ranunculus once every 10-14 days. If you live in a hot climate, add water every week or whenever you feel that the upper layer of the soil is too dry. 

3. Treat the Rot If It Does Happen

If you find rot in Ranunculus roots, follow these steps:

  1. Take the Plant Out of the Pot

Remove your Ranunculus from its pot and excavate the soil as carefully as you can from around the roots. 

It’s preferred to do that without any tools to avoid accidental cutting of healthy roots. If you have a severe rot, then every remaining healthy root matters.

  1. Run Under Tap Water

Clean the roots of your Ranunculus under tap water and use your fingers to remove the rotten roots.

You don’t need to apply much force. The minimal force of running water and your fingers should be enough to remove the majority of the thin rotten roots.

  1. Cut the Rotten Roots (Optional)

You can use sterile scissors to cut off the rotten roots if you feel the need to. Normally, you can remove all the rotten roots with water and your hands alone. 

  1. Replant Your Ranunculus

Use the correct soil without bottom rocks to plant your Ranunculus one more time.

We recommend using a new planting pot to minimize bacteria and fungus as much as possible.

Wrapping Up

Ranunculus rotting is mainly related to excessive water in the soil. You can contribute to that directly by watering your plant a lot more or a lot less than you should. The latter shrinks the root, so when you water normally, the water is too much for the shrunken root.

If you use the right amount of water, you could still contribute to rotting indirectly by picking the wrong soil and placing rocks in the bottom of your pot.

Keep in mind that restoring a rotten Ranunculus is a hit or miss. If you’ve discovered the rotting early, you have much higher chances of saving your precious Buttercup.

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