Fundamental Facts

HARDINESS: Frost tolerant
ATTRIBUTES: Crepe-paper textured blossoms in soft colors; for beds, meadows, or wildflower gardens
SEASON OF INTEREST: Spring and summer
FAVORITES: Mother of Pearl and Angels' Choir Shirley poppies; Thai Silk, Gloriosa Double Mix, and 'White Linen' California poppies
QUIRKS: Seedlings seldom survive transplanting
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Bachelor's burton, foxglove, hollyhock, larkspur, peony
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Sun, well-drained soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Plants grow and bloom poorly in dry, infertile soil; may rot in wet soil
DIMENSIONS: 18 in-4 ft (45.7 cm-1.2 m) tall, 12 in (30.5 cm) wide

Poppy in the Landscape

Poppies are among the easiest flowering plants to grow. They can be grown from seed sown directly in the garden and often reseed each year. You can let the lantern-shaped seed pods mature and dry on the plants, harvest them and shake the seeds into an envelope for replanting, then use the handsome pods in dried flower arrangements.

The Poppy Palette

The red poppies that often grow along roads, called corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas), are frost-tolerant annuals that can be sown in fall or early spring. Varieties in other colors, called Shirley poppies, include Mother of Pearl, a mix of mauve, blue-gray, and dusty pink. Angels' Choir is a double-flowered mix in shades of soft pink and white, with 3 in (7.6 cm) diameter flowers borne on 2 ft (0.6 m) stems.

California poppies (Eschschokia California)) are less tolerant of cold but will flower heavily in hot weather. The species blooms in rich orange, but new varieties have expanded the color range. The Thai Silk series and Gloriosa Double Mix include yellow, red, and apricot, all with semidouble petals. 'White Linen' blooms in a
creamy white that can be used in complicated color combinations.

Growing Poppy

In Zones 6 to 9, corn poppies and California poppies are best sown in fall, atop finely cultivated soil. Seeds germinate sporadically all winter, and the tiny plants grow quickly as days lengthen in spring. In colder regions, sow seeds in early spring, while the soil is still cold. Once growth begins, thin plants to at least 10 in (25.4 cm) apart and dispose of thinnings.

Despite their wildflower reputation, poppies bloom best when grown in soil of average fertility. After thinning, apply a balanced granular fertilizer at half strength.

California poppies are ideal for dry climates but will bloom best if given water when the soil is dry, particularly when the plants are about ready to flower. Poppies are virtually pest and disease free but plants may succumb to fungal root rot when grown in soggy soil.

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