Poppy Plant Care

Latin Name Pronunciation: pah-pah'-ver

Oriental Poppies are among the most brilliant herbaceous perennials to grace the early summer garden. The flowers appear to be fashioned of crepe paper and can be more than 6" across on stems to 3' in height. Compact varieties such as 'Peter Pan' and the delicious 'Watermelon' are also available. Colors vary from true neon hues to gorgeous pastels. Oriental Poppy blossoms offer superb material for indoor arrangements.

We've known Oriental Poppies to bloom faithfully for decades when their modest needs—a sunny spot and well-drained, moderately fertile soil—have been satisfied. Winter hardy virtually anywhere in the continental United States, Oriental Poppies are also outstandingly tolerant of summer drought. The bristly leaves turn brown in early summer and disappear entirely, reappearing in early fall. Avoid a hole in the garden by placing Oriental Poppies behind large perennials or simply fill in with shallow-rooted annuals (see 'Companion Plants' below). Oriental Poppies will not grow in the hot, humid summers and clay soils of the South.

Growing Poppies

Please Note: The plants have long, carrot-like roots, and the bareroot Poppies we ship should be planted with 3" of soil over the crown (as indicated on our plant labels). Dig a hole that's deep enough to accommodate the roots, up to 10-12" deep. Shallow planting is often the cause of failure, as is soil that is too wet.

Light/Watering: Plants need a full 8 hours of sun to flower well. While they are drought tolerant once established, give them an inch of water a week when in bud or bloom. Do not overwater when plants are dormant.

Fertilizer/Soil and pH: Poppies need a well-drained soil close to neutral, so gardeners with acid soil may want to add lime. Soil should have a pH of 6.5 to 7.0 and be well drained, as plants will not tolerate wet soils in winter, which rot the fleshy roots. Apply a slow-release fertilizer in spring, or side-dress with compost or aged manure. When planting bareroot plants, soil should be deeply prepared and the crown covered with 3" of soil.

Pests/Diseases: Oriental Poppies are seldom bothered by insects or disease. During extended wet weather buds may blacken and fail to open. Fungicides may be employed to help prevent this problem.

Companion Plants: Plant behind large perennials, like Baby's Breath (Gypsophila), Siberian Iris or herbaceous Peonies, as mentioned above, to camouflage the hole left behind when Poppies go dormant in summer. Other good companion perennials include Phlox, and Hollyhock. Filling in with annuals such as Dahlia, Nicotiana or Cosmos is also effective.

Reflowering: Since deadheading does not reward the gardener with repeat bloom, you may choose to leave the flowers on the plant for the interesting seed pods that follow.

Dividing/Transplanting: Poppies have deep taproots that may make transplanting a challenge. Division is needed only every 5 years or so and the best time to divide or transplant is in August when plants are dormant.

Calendar of Care

Early Spring: Check soil pH and adjust to 6.5 to 7.0 if needed. Apply a slow-release fertilizer or side-dress with compost or aged manure.

Mid-Spring: Apply a fungicide if extended wet weather has caused plants to become diseased.

Summer: Plant annuals to fill in holes left by dormant plants if needed. Do not overwater dormant plants. Divide or transplant Poppies in August when they are dormant.

Winter Protection: In the fall leave new foliage alone, and mulch with a loose material like evergreen boughs or pine needles after the soil has frozen to a depth of 1".

Frequently Asked Questions

When to plant Poppies?

Plant bareroot Poppies in the fall.

When do Poppies bloom?

Oriental Poppies bloom in June and July

How long do Poppies bloom?

Oriental Poppies typically bloom for a relatively brief 10-14 day period.

Where do Poppies grow?

Poppies grow best in an area with full sun and well-drained soil in growing Zones 3–7. As noted above, they don't tolerate southern hot, humid summers and heavy clay soils.

Do deer eat Poppies?

Almost no plant is deer-proof; it they're hungry enough, deer will eat almost anything. That disclaimer notwithstanding, we can say that Poppies are typically not a deer delicacy.

Do Poppies make good cut flowers?

Yes, Poppies make a spectacular cut flower display whether alone, or mixed with other early summer blooms such as Peonies. Cut in early morning when the buds are just unfolding, searing the stem's cut end with the flame of a match.

What to do with Poppies after flowering?

You can either deadhead your Poppy plants after flowering or leave the remaining seed heads to feed your local songbirds.

Shop All Perennials

Poppies We Offer:

 Papaver orientale 'Aglaja' Papaver orientale 'Aglaja' SKU: F35548
From $19.00
 Papaver orientale 'Central Park' Papaver orientale 'Central Park' SKU: F35556
From $19.00
 Papaver orientale 'Eye Catcher' Papaver orientale 'Eye Catcher' SKU: F35557
From $19.00