Growing Poppies:
How to Grow Poppy Plants Organically

Growing poppies will create annual theatrical bursts of color in your garden. This species includes perennials like Papaver Orientale that erupt year after year and annual mixes that are sown directly into the soil for natural-looking displays.

Most poppies are easy to grow, but for gardeners looking for a challenge, try the blue meconopsis (Himalayan poppy). Its favored conditions are cool moist climates such as British Columbia or Scotland.

Growing Poppies: Plant Snapshot

Growing Poppies
  • Poppy (Papaver)
  • Annual or perennial? Annuals and perennials
  • Recommended varieties (by color):
    • Blue: Meconopsis ‘Lingham’ & ‘Baileyi’
    • Orange: Orientale ‘Prince of Orange’, nudicaule ‘Wonderland’
    • Pink: Orientale ‘Raspberry Queen’
    • Red poppy flower: Rhoeas, orientales ‘Brilliant’ & ‘Turkenlouis’
    • Salmon: Orientales ‘Garden Glory’, ‘Cedric Morris’ & ‘Queen Alexander’
    • White: Orientale ‘Black and White’
    • Red and white: Orientale ‘Pinnacle’, rhoeas ‘Shirley Series’
  • Recommended USDA Hardiness zones: 03a to 10a depending on variety
  • Mature Height: 12 to 48 inches (30 to 120 cm) depending on variety
  • Mature Spread: 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm)
  • Sun Requirements: full sun
  • Blooming season: Late spring, early summer
  • Cold tolerance (annuals only): Half-Hardy - can tolerate cold, wet, damp weather but can be damaged or killed by frost.
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Growing Poppies: Planting Poppy Flower Seeds, Transplanting and/or Root Division

Where to Find Planting Supplies...

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Annual poppy flower seeds don’t transplant well from pots or modules, so they are best sown directly in a garden spot with good drainage and full sun. Rake the chosen area and remove any small stones. Broadcast the seed thinly and gently rake over with soil. Water lightly. Once the emerging plants have grown two or more true leaves, thin plants so they are about 8 inches (20 cm) apart.

If you’re growing perennial oriental poppies, they divide well and you’ll soon find you have plants to spare to share with fellow gardeners. Dig your poppies up in spring, when the plant is dormant. Look at the roots to see the natural divisions into smaller plants. Cut through sharply with a spade or garden knife. Replant your new poppies, being sure to water them well.

Use a slow release organic garden fertilizer like poultry manure in mid spring before flowering to give plants a head start.

Snapshot: Planting Poppy Flower Seeds

  • Germination soil temperature:45 degrees F (7 C)
  • Distance between plants: about 8 inches (20 cm)
  • Planting depth: 1 inch (2.5cm)
  • Days to germination: 10 to 21 days
  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 6 to 7
  • Root division information (perennials only):
    • Root system type (clumping, spreading, rhizome or tuber): rhizome
    • Roots division frequency: Every 4 to 5 years
    • In which season should dividing occur? Spring
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Growing Poppies: Poppy Flower Care

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Standard flower watering guidelines apply. Most poppies won’t need support, but very large oriental poppies may begin to fall over when their flower heads emerge. Use border restraint supports or linking support systems before flowers emerge so that foliage covers them.

Cutting oriental poppies back after their first flowering can result in a second show of flowers in milder climates.

Poppies will self-seed if left to their own devices. Leave their seed heads for a winter display if you don’t mind this or remove annual plants and cut back perennials to avoid this.

Snapshot: Poppy Flower Care

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Growing Poppies: Harvesting/Cutting Time

Wear garden gloves when cutting poppies as their sap irritates some people’s skin. Choose flowers that are fully formed with buds that are still closed. Cut early in the morning, preferably on a cool day, with sharp pruning shears.

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Growing Poppies: Pests & Diseases

Mildew attacks poppies that are too cramped or littered with garden debris. To avoid this, prevent poppies from becoming overcrowded and remove stray leaves from other plants.

Once oriental poppies have finished flowering, they will die down. Remove most of the old leaves, even if you want to leave a display of their seed heads.

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Poppy Flower (see Organic Garden Pest Control for information about how to prevent and address pests and diseases)...

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Hoplia beetle
  • Spittlebugs
  • Truebugs

Diseases

  • Diseases
  • Downy mildew
  • Gray mold
  • Powdery mildew
  • Rhizoctonia root
  • Viruses
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