Planting Guide - Poppy Seeds
Growing Poppies in Your Garden
The true poppies are Papaver, of which we carry 15+ varieties, including annuals, biennials and perennials, such as the opium poppy Papaver somniferum; the common poppy, Papaver rhoeas, and the large flowered herbaceous P. oriental, the Oriental poppy. But there is also the Eschscholzia californica family and we carry 12 of those varieties. Poppy blooms may be single, double or semi double boasting amazing texture and size. Their flower colors range from vibrant to subdued – from deepest crimson, bright orange and yellow to soft pink, dusty peach, rose, lilac, and cream. Soft smooth petals or textured crepe paper ruffles all combine to create a flower that will match or blend any garden’s theme.
When & How to Plant Poppy Seeds
Poppies are not easy to transplant and actually do not fare well if their roots are disturbed, so starting them indoors is not recommended. Directly sow poppies outdoors in early spring even if threat of frost still exists. Poppies are frost tolerant and germinate best in cool weather and soil, sow your poppy seeds as early as the ground can be worked. If you are gardening in zones 8-10, plant your poppy seeds in December & January and they will bloom for you the following spring.
Poppies bloom profusely under cool growing conditions. They are known for self-sowing, sometimes with abandon, and you may find seedlings popping up all around the garden bed. They are not invasive and the seedlings are easy to pull up if they land in unwanted places.
Select a site in full sun, one that receives at least six hours of direct sun daily. In warm climates, plants do best with some protective shade at midday. Poppies grow in almost any kind of soil with good drainage. They do not mind a high soil temperature and a minimum supply of moisture in the soil.
Because poppy seeds are so small, mix the seeds with some sandbox sand to help you distribute the seeds evenly. The light-colored sand will also act as a marker on the soil surface of where you have planted the poppy seeds and where you haven’t. Poppies germinate best with some light so do not bury the seeds. Cover them with a very thin layer of fine soil or just press them into the soil by stepping on them for smaller jobs and using a weighted roller for bigger jobs.
Keep the soil moist but not soggy until seeds germinate. If the soil temperature is at least 55 F expect germination in 10-15 days.
Poppies can thrive for years in poor, neglected areas like an unkempt side yard while other times they simply won’t take, no matter how hard you try. Keep them moderately well watered in hot, dry weather, and do not fertilize.
You will find that once you successfully plant poppies you will see more and more of them year after year. The seed is so small and fine that the slightest breeze can carry it from one part of the garden to the other…and another. The silvery leaves and lovely blooms appear as welcome surprises each spring.
Poppies are beautiful in your garden and many of us want to bring that beauty indoors. This can prove difficult because poppies can, at best, last 2 to 3 days as a cut flower. Sometimes, they wilt right away. If you would like to use them as a cut flower, consider arranging them with some sturdier flowers or greenery to help keep their stems upright.