Flower Fields blooming big-time through May

Each Spring, the Ranunculus flowers on the hillside of The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch burst into spectacular bloom, to the delight of thousands of visitors from around the world./Joanne and Tony DiBona

El Nino rain in February should mean magnificent Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch blooms beginning March 1 through May 12.

Mellano & Company of San Luis Rey is the production arm and onsite grower. The Ecke family owns the land. Over 50 acres are devoted to raising the ranunculus bulb crop; approximately five acres are used for other specialty flowers.

Rains that have pummeled San Diego County could mean large and beautiful wildflower blooms a bit ahead of schedule in Carlsbad and Anza Borrego this year.

As storm systems have moved through the region this winter, rainfall showering Carlsbad Flower Fields and Anza Borrego has prepped soil for large wildflower blooms, according to officials from both areas.

Steady rainfall has already helped a few flowers bloom in Carlsbad, according to Fred Clarke, with the Flower Fields.

“The rains have been perfect for us. They have been overall gentle and steady which is ideal for germination and growing of the Ranunculus plants,” Clarke said. “We are seeing the plants develop a bit faster with a few lonely flowers being spotted in the fields of green already. It is looking like a spectacular year is in store for The Flowers Fields, good germination make for a spectacular bloom.”

The Flower Fields feature what is called the Tecolote® Giant Ranunculus, which is one of the finest strains of ranunculus plants in the world. The ranunculus flower is native to Asia Minor and is a member of the buttercup family. This unique blossom also is known as a Persian Buttercup or Ranunculus Asiatic.

A portion of the flower crop is sold as cut flowers. The remainder of these flowers are grown to provide the ranunculus bulbs. Fresh cut flowers are sold at the adjacent Armstrong Garden Center.

Thanks to cooperative efforts between the land’s owner, the grower, The City of Carlsbad, The Carlsbad Agricultural Improvement Fund and the California Coastal Conservancy, this colorful hillside will continue to welcome visitors for years to come.


Flowers in full bloom at the famous Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch/Andy Wilhelm

According to Taylor Morgan of Garden Collage Magazine, the ranunculi planting cycle begins in the Fall, as six- to seven- foot tall walls are temporarily positioned to usher million of tiny seeds into their respective rows in the Carlsbad Flower Fields, creating a funnel for them to be pollinated by the wind. This is a requirement for their survival, as ranunculus have no fragrance or nectar to incentivize pollinators.

The seeds resemble Quaker Oat flakes, which can often become problematic for the methodical vision the farm strives for– a true synchronicity of variety and color.

In order to give weight and consistency to the seeds, silica sand is mixed in with the seeds before they are sprinkled in the planting rows. A tractor will then form an additional layer of mulch and compost appropriate to their sowing. Approximately four weeks later, the ranunculus seed germinates, but it can take up to six months for lush blossom to take shape.

The Flower Fields in Carlsbad have a reputation that proceeds them: over eight-million ranunculus grow in this distinct region of Southern California annually, blooming in April through May. People come from all over the world to see them. The flowers are watered on a drip-system that the farm has cleverly implemented since the ‘70s. The computerized system acts as a moisture sensor for the soil, enabling farmers to prevent over-watering— water has become an increasingly rare commodity in California these days— and monitors the moisture off-site.

“When the city of Carlsbad installed the reclaimed water line, up Palomar Airport Road, they asked if we would like a sideline to our property,” Fred Clarke, the farm’s General Manager, explained during my visit. “We have access to lots of reclaimed water and the city has said we are somewhat drought-proof because of that. But we are still a working farm with 55-acres of ocean-view property, so monitoring water is always important to us.”

When the ranunculus flowers fade, which happens sequentially beginning at the furthest point north where seeds are first planted, the bulbs’ tuberous root— the bulb of the plant— is harvested by machine. Next, they are air-dried and sorted according to size, before being packaged. The trademarked “Tecolote” Giant Ranunculus bulbs are then distributed to the California Flower Bulb Company, where they are sold at Armstrong Nurseries around the state and throughout nurseries in the U.S., Canada, and Europe under the trademarked name, “Easy to Grow”.


Flower Fields in bloom./Joanne and Tony DiBona

Ranunculus grow wild in the Northeast Mediterranean, but eventually seeds found their way to Europe, the U.S., and to Luther Gage [who is considered the foremost authority when it comes to farming ranunculus],” Clarke explained. Gage began growing the ranunculus next to a small vegetable farm, owned by the Frazee family, who quickly added the flower to their crop.

Of course back then, the flowers were nothing like those you see today— there were five petals. Edwin Frazee, whose father owned the farm, became transfixed with optimizing the ranunculus’ most favorable attributes, which is what led him to propagate the beautiful, spiral-petalled flower we know today.

“He would plant a bunch of seeds, each as individual as you and I are,” Clarke recalls. “The seeds had different qualities and so he picked out plants that had lots of petals, long stems, bright colors and grew them all together, allowing them to pollinate. Then he harvested the seed and planted more of them, repeating that process, which we still do today.

That process began in the 1940s, but when Frazee reached the point where he knew that the quality of his plants were distinctive— he doubled the size of the flowers with long stems— he called the variety “Tecolote Giant Ranunculus.”

“This area,” Clarke tells us, switching gears, “Used to be countryside [before 150,000 visitors began flocking to the fields each year to see the flowers]. There were owls that burrowed in the ground and the farmers called them Tecolote owls. That’s how he got the name!”


Horticultural History

Dating back to the 1920s, the Flower Fields represent roughly 90 years of dedication from three families: those of Luther Gage, an early settler and grower; Frank and Edwin Frazee, a father-son flower-farming duo whose Oceanside operations expanded along the North County coast; and Paul Ecke Jr., who carried on Frazee’s legacy after his retirement.

Joint Ownership

The Flower Fields moved to its current location in Carlsbad in 1965. In 1993, Ecke joined forces with grower Mellano & Company to keep the flower business going. Today, the San Luis Rey-based company maintains operations and the Ecke family owns the land.

Blooms by the Numbers

Each season, more than 70 million flowers come and go at the 50-acre site; 7 million ranunculus are cut and sold across the nation. The flowers have a long vase life of seven to 10 days once cut.

What’s a Ranunculus?

The flower, a member of the buttercup family, is native to Asia Minor and is also known as a Persian Buttercup or Ranunculus Asiatic. The Flower Fields’ specific strain, the Tecolote Giant Ranunculus, was named after the local owls on Gage’s property.

Bees Be Gone

Ranunculus have no fragrance and are wind-pollinated, meaning no bees needed.


Although the flowers need watering two to three times per week, the farm uses a highly efficient drip irrigation system buried in the flowerbeds. The infrastructure was built during a drought in the 1980s.

Helping Hands

The Flower Fields staffs roughly 60 people to cut flowers seven days per week for 10 to 15 weeks each year.

True Colors

Traditionally, ranunculus come in white, red, and yellow. The vibrant purples, pinks, and oranges are the result of cross-pollination and creative growing. Unique colors like café, lavender, and the multicolored picotee have all burst their way onto the field.

Patriotic Petunias

During the season after 9/11, the Flower Fields planted a 300-by-170-foot floral American flag out of nearly 10,000 red, white, and blue petunias.


The Flower Fields At Carlsbad Ranch

  • WHEN: Ongoing from March 1 until May 12, 2019[days & times]
  • WHERE: The Flower Fields At Carlsbad Ranch, 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008
    Map | Website
  • AGES: All ages
  • COST$9 – $18

The Flower Fields will be open daily from from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m March 1- May 12, 2019 .

Tickets can be purchased online or onsite.

For over sixty years, Mother Nature has transformed the rolling hills of North San Diego County into one of the most spectacular and coordinated displays of natural color and beauty anywhere in the world.

The nearly fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers that make up The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are in bloom for approximately six to eight weeks each year – from early March through early May – literally bringing the famous fields back to life.

This annual burst of color, which has become part of the area’s local heritage, also is one of nature’s official ways of announcing the arrival of spring here in Southern California.

The Flower Fields are an alcohol and tobacco-free environment, smoking and alcoholic beverages are not permitted onsite. No Pets, Bicycles, hoverboards or drones are permitted.

Contact: (760) 431-0352.

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