Simple but elegant flower, originating in Asian countries, the buttercup, can give our garden early colors, with its flowering that usually takes place at the end of winter.

Known and cultivated above all as cut flower, if well cared for, as we have said, we can adorn our garden with colors, with a wide range of different shades, before the others.

Buttercup: Characteristics and Origins

The Buttercup is the common name of the Ranunculus is a genus of herbaceous spermatophytes dicotyledonous plants of the family of the Ranunculaceae, composed of more than 500-600 species all originating in the cold and temperate areas of the globe.

The Buttercups are simple and elegant flowers originating from Asia. Historical records make us understand that this kind of plant was already known in ancient times, in fact the Turks called these plants “double flowers of Tripoli”, while the famous Roman writer and philosopher Apuleius called them “wicked grass” because of their toxicity.

The common name (Ranunculus), through the Latin, comes from the Greek batrachion, and means frog, since this kind of plant prefers wetlands and swamps, just as an ideal habitat for frogs, in order to grow strong and lush.

The plants belonging to this genus are mainly terrestrial, although there are also amphibian/water species.

Their height varies depending on the species but does not exceed one metre. The biological cycle is perennial, although some species can also be annual. All species, terrestrial, annual or perennial, as well as amphibian, are without oil cells.


Normally the roots are secondary to fascicular rhizomes. Although in some species, as in the case of Ranunculus bulbosus, parts of the root bark may turn into reserve parenchymes (containing starchy granules). In others (Ranunculus ficaria) root tubers are present.

The Stem

The stalk of the buttercup has an erect or creeping posture. Sometimes, depending on the species, more or less leafy or ramified. In aquatic varieties, it is submerged and flaccid without supporting tissues.


The leaves are divided into basal or cauline. The leaf lamina can be whole or even deeply incised into 3 or more lobes, which in turn are further subdivided. The edges of the leaves can be lobed, lanceolate to narrow lacinias.

Arranged alternately along the stem, the cauline leaves are smaller in number and generally shaped like lacinias, especially near the inflorescence. In aquatic species the submerged leaves are divided into capillary lacinias, while the emerged leaves are developed normally.


Large and good-looking with a shape similar to that of roses, the flowers of buttercups have a corolla generally composed of 5 petals (the number of petals, however, can vary from 3 to about 15-20 depending on the species) commonly yellow or white (although now on the market with all the hybrids created you can find a wide range of different shades). The size of the petals varies from 1 to 26 mm.

Like the petals, also the calyx is generally formed by 5 sepals (some species have only three) of yellowish-green or brown colour, alternating with them. In some species, the sepals are persistent at the fructification. The size of the sepals of the buttercups varies from 1 to 15 mm.

The flowering of the buttercups, as we have already said, takes place in late winter, and although they are very beautiful and elegant, they are fragrance-free.


The fruits are aggregates of achenes and form an ovate or hemispherical spike structure placed at the apex of the flower peduncle. Each achene has an elongated spherical shape similar to an egg, and contains only one seed, and with a more or less curved rostrum or short apical beak.

How to Cultivate the Buttercup

A simple herbaceous plant to cultivate, the buttercup produces simple and elegant flowers, it can be used both in the garden and in pots to obtain early flowering.

The Soil

These plants prefer moist and slightly acid soil, rich in organic substances.


The Buttercup, as we have already said, prefers humid and swampy places, therefore the watering must be frequent and abundant, especially in periods of strong heat. In case the buttercup is cultivated in pots or flower boxes, at least for the most common terrestrial species, pay attention to the water stagnations, which can cause the radical rottenness.


We have said that these plants are native to the cold areas of the globe but they adapt well to temperate climates. However, they prefer more or less sunny places, better if located in areas of the garden where the sun does not shine at least part of the day.

Multiplication of the Buttercup

The propagation of this plant occurs more frequently by division of the heads or sowing.

Propagation of buttercups by sowing. Sowing will have to be done in late summer or early autumn depending on the climate, however this system presents many difficulties, besides being very long, it takes at least a couple of years before the seeds can germinate.

Multiplication of the buttercup by division of the heads. This practice, used for the multiplication of herbaceous plants, consists in removing the plant from the ground, and physically divide the heads from the plant that we consider most suitable and then plant them in different pots or flowerpots to get a new plant from the first. Late summer, early winter is the best time to perform this practice.

Buttercup Meaning

The Buttercup, in the meaning of flowers, represents melancholic beauty. Legend has it that this flower was created by Jesus as a gift for his Mother.

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