Planting & Landscaping

Everything You Wanted to Know About Planting Poppies

A spring flowering short-lived perennial, the poppy is a beautiful flower in many colors and textures. As a result, poppies can make an extremely colorful addition to any flower garden or potted plant display. And because poppies are so beautiful, they are frequently planted as border plants to highlight spring beds or planted in masses.

While numerous varieties of poppies are available, most share common needs such as planting depth, soil pH, and watering habits. Once you understand the various requirements of this versatile garden flower, you will be well on the way to enjoying this stunning component of your garden.

When deciding where and how to plant poppies, a few things need to be considered. The first question you have to ask yourself is, "Am I using seed or plants?" Planting poppies from seed means you need to sow them directly into the garden soil.

On the other hand, planting poppies from transplants means they will be purchased as potted or bedding plants and planted in your garden when they are ready for transplanting.

Some varieties can be grown either way. However, you must make sure to understand how a particular variety should be planted before purchasing seeds or plants.

Planting poppies is easy, but there are certain steps you must follow.

Sowing Poppy Seeds 

Poppies are relatively easy and inexpensive to grow from seed. Sow them in rich garden soil in full sun for the best color. Poppies will adapt to most soils, even clay. However, they do not like shade or waterlogged soil.

Poppies do not like to be transplanted; therefore, direct sow the seeds into your garden bed as they need light to germinate. You may cover them lightly.

Mix the seeds with sand to evenly distribute them when sowing. Thin to 6in (15cm) apart once they germinate. Keep the soil moist, not soggy until germination. Once established, reduce the watering.

Seeds will take 20-30 days to germinate.

When to Plant Poppies 

Depending on the variety, perennial type poppies are hardy from USDA zone 2 to 9, with annual type varieties growing in USDA zones 5 to 10.

Poppies prefer cool soil. Sow poppies from fall to late winter or very early spring (a few weeks ahead of your last frost). It is very dependant on your zoning. Contact your local extension office for exact dates.

Water the seeds frequently until they are established.

Fertilizing Poppies 

Annual poppies do not need any added fertilizer. Do not mulch annual poppies as this prevents self-seeding.

Perennial poppies appreciate added compost in the spring and mulch to prevent weeds from germinating and keep the soil moist.

Harvesting Poppy Seeds 

Harvesting poppies is easy, but there are certain steps you must follow.

Once the poppy seed pods are dried, cut the stalks off. However, do not cut them too early when the seed pods are still green because those seeds won't germinate.

When you pull open a seed pod by hand, the seeds should fall out easily, or you can tap them, and the seeds should fall out.

Place the seeds in a glass container with a lid. Write the variety and date on the jar. Keep refrigerated until you sow again.

Poppies will self-seed if left to disperse naturally.

Should I Deadhead Poppies?

Deadheading is not necessary but the plant will flower more profusely. However, you may want to remove the past-prime blossoms. Then, you can decide for yourself whether or not it's worth the effort of deadheading your poppies.

If you choose to deadhead your poppies, cut off the seed pods after they have dried and collect the seeds. You will find that the plant will continue to produce new blossoms and seeds for a long time.

Growing Poppies in Containers 

Use a good organic potting mix and a container with drainage holes. Remember to keep the soil moist at all times until germination has taken place.

Poppies will make a stunning display on your balcony or patio. Growing them in pots is much like growing them in the garden bed, except that they will need more frequent watering as the soil in containers dries out faster.

Some Varieties and Cultivars

Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis)

Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis)

This poppy prefers a partly shaded area of the garden with moist soil. The soil acidity will determine the color of the poppy.

If the soil is alkaline, the poppy flower will be deep blue to almost purple.

Oriental Poppy (Papaver Orientale)

Oriental Poppy (Papaver Orientale)

The Oriental Poppy is a very popular garden flower. This poppy has large silky satin flowers that are single or double and comes in many colors.

Plant this poppy where it will get full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. It can tolerate poor, sandy, acidic soil.

Oriental Poppies are grown as perennials in Zones 3 - 8.

Spanish Poppy (Papaver rupifragum)

Spanish Poppy (Papaver rupifragum)

This poppy cultivar has silvery-grey leaves and is an excellent specimen to grow on steep slopes. Spanish poppy has a single apricot-colored petal and self-sows freely.

Spanish poppy is not fussy about soil and needs little water. Plant it in full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.

A rare native of Spain, it is grown as an annual everywhere else.

This perennial grows in zones 6 - 9.

Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

Californian Poppy (Eschscholzia California)

California poppy is the state flower of California. It is drought and heat tolerant, and blooms come up from early spring until the first frost hits. Their flowers close at night and on cloudy days.

Californian poppies will bloom in late spring and early summer in hot summer areas, but the flowers will become dormant during the summer heat. In mild climates, the poppy will return each fall.

Where winters are harsh, they can be treated as an annual.

Icelandic Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)

Icelandic Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)

This Iceland poppy can survive cold temperatures. Plant Iceland poppies where they will get partial shade and well-drained soil. This double flower is perfect as a cut flower. It has large petals, which can be white, pink or orange.

They are best bought as poppy seedlings or start the seeds in seed trays and transplant them into the garden or container when ready. USDA Hardiness Zones 2 - 7.

Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus)

Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus)

Greater Celandine is also a member of the poppy family, but it is invasive in the cooler northern regions. They closely resemble the celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum).

Calendine is a fast-growing, tough plant that is known for its lovely buttercup-like yellow flowers.

This herbaceous perennial poppy is native to Europe but has naturalized in North America as a perennial. The name "greater" refers to the three large leaves that grow on each stem.

Plant them in individual containers or plant them in a group to spread out and not take over the garden area.

Companion Planting with Poppies 

Companion Planting with Poppies

Plant cornflower and daisies with poppies for a showy display in your garden beds and containers.

Planting Allium, an ornament onion with poppies together with Salia
will attract beneficial insects.

Plant poppies with spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea ) will add height to the planting area.


Poppies are really beautiful! Planting poppies is easy once you understand the growing conditions that they prefer.

Planting poppies is a rewarding gardening experience that adds an abundance of colorful blossoms with little effort on the gardener's part.

Planting poppies can be done in containers, raised beds or garden beds. They need well-drained soil and good sun exposure from full sun to partial shade.

So if you're ready, let's get planting!

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