Growing Poppies in The Garden

by Seasonal Wisdom on August 25, 2011

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Poppies are easy to love. The flowers mix beautifully with roses, lavenders and other perennials, and provide a romantic, carefree look to any garden. Best of all, poppies are easy to grow from seeds, and many of them reseed to provide beauty year after year.

The above pink ‘Shirley’ poppies (right) and orange ‘California’ poppies (left) are from my garden this summer. They are mixed with English lavender and roses.

All photos are copyright Seasonal Wisdom.

“The poppies hung Dew-dabbed on their stalks.” John Keats.

Over the years, I’ve had luck with three easy annual poppies: California poppies; Shirley poppies; and ‘Pepperbox Breadseed’ poppies.

Poppies first popped into my garden a few years ago, when I sprinkled seeds for California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) behind my fence. That year, a few of the flowers appeared, and added some cheer to the garden bed.

That wasn’t all, however. Each year, this drought-tolerant annual continues to reseed itself in my cottage garden, popping up among the roses, yarrow and canterbury bells.

Although these poppies are native to California, they will thrive in the right growing conditions elsewhere. They adore hot and dry areas. If you don’t want these poppies to spread too much, be sure to deadhead the flowers after they bloom.

Orange is the most popular color for this type of poppy, and the color looks fantastic with blue and purple flowering plants.

However, I recently grew pink California poppies called ‘Dusty Rose,’ found at Renee’s Garden Seeds. It’s a terrific option for the gardener looking for something new.

Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoes) are another easy-to-grow annual, which feature double flowers in a rainbow of colors. The first time I grew this variety, we had an amazing poppy palooza in the garden. Two years later, we still see poppies reseeding around the yard … all from one package of seeds.

Somehow this Shirley poppy managed to self-seed itself next to some lovely Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’, which I was testing from Annie’s Annuals. Don’t you love when Mother Nature assists in the garden design?

Pink, rose, red and salmon are just some of the colors available for this variety of annual poppies. Be sure to deadhead this flower often, and you’ll extend its blooming life considerably.

This year, I grew Pepperbox Breadseed‘ poppies for the first time. This old-fashioned heirloom not only has large flowers in bright colors that attract bees. The annual poppies also have handsome seed pods, which eventually provide black nutty-tasting seeds for cooking and baking. In fact, I’m drying some pods right now for poppy seeds.

To Plant Poppies: Sow seeds in late fall or early spring directly in the garden. Seeds will overwinter well in colder climates and germinate when your soil finally thaws. Don’t wait too late in the growing season to start your poppies.

Lightly cover seeds with soil and keep your garden moist until seedlings emerge in a week or so. Deadhead flowers religiously, if you don’t want them to self seed.

Other Poppies: Don’t limit yourself to these three varieties. Poppies come in all different colors and shapes, including annuals, biennials and perennials.

Learn more about poppies from Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service.

See more Shirley poppy pictures from my garden. All photos are copyright Seasonal Wisdom.


Jennie Brooks August 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm

I guess i can ignore this statement if I plant them in late fall – “and keep your garden moist until seedlings emerge in a week or so” ?
I planted seeds in early spring but didn’t have any luck. i will try again though.

Teresa O'Connor August 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Hi Jennie: Sometimes poppies take a while to get established. They also like a little cold weather when germinating. Even if you didn’t have the best results last year, don’t be surprised if you get some poppies this year. Or, improve their chances by sowing a few more seeds, just in case. Good luck! Teresa

Emmon August 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I’m just LOVING the colors! And I’m red-green color blind! My guess is these are even more colorful than what I see when I look at Kevin’s photos. Thanks for sharing!

Teresa O'Connor September 21, 2011 at 9:42 am

Thanks, Emmon. It’s true. These pictures don’t do the poppies justice. Such an easy flower to grow, and such great results. Appreciate your comments. Teresa

Mary Gregory October 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I only wish I could grow Matilija poppies in Louisiana

Teresa O'Connor October 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

Well, Mary, I bet you could grow a lot of these other poppies in Louisiana. Why not give them a try? Good luck and thanks for stopping by, Teresa

Janet May 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm

It’s May and I haven’t planted my poppy seeds yet. Is there any way to encourage them to grow this year? Maybe put them in some soil in the refrigerator for a week before planting?

Seasonal Wisdom May 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Not sure about that, Janet. Maybe it’s best to just hold onto the seeds until the fall and plant then. Depending on your climate, they might be best planted in the fall or early-spring. Meanwhile, seeds often last a year or two. So, give it a try in 2013! Good luck.

Care June 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm

About how long should you wait before cutting the pods off the plant of the large orange ornamental poppies?

Seasonal Wisdom June 25, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Here’s more information about deadheading poppies from e-How: Thanks for stopping by! Teresa

Care June 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Thank You. I had already looked at that link but did not find it helpful. Poppies finished blooming a few days ago & there are no more blooms on the stalks. Now that they have no blooms, I want to know how long to wait to cut of the stalks with only the pods remaining. Any ideas? I want to keep the stalks with pods intact.

Care June 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Everything is blooming a couple of weeks ahead here this year from usual so of course one they bloomed they were done. I went ahead & cut down one plant yesterday. I cut the stalks off with pods on them & set them aside. I do not want them to reseed in my garden since it is small & these plants are very large when in their fullness. (About 3 feet tall & 3 feet around.) In fact, I am going to give this plant to a neighbor & plant something else in it’s place. One plant with short lived blooms although abundant (over 20 this year) is enough for me. Thanks.

What I wasn’t sure about was if you need to leave them on the plant for a specific amount of time for the seeds to fully develop in the pod? Or, if they are cut will they still form useful seeds?

Seasonal Wisdom June 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Hi: I’m not sure what poppies you are actually growing, but here is information from Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Service about saving seeds of the tall ‘Breadseed’ poppy.

I’ve never tried to save poppy seeds, because I allow them to self-seed in my garden — and one package of seeds (under $3) has given me all the poppies I could ever want.

Good luck!

Care June 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Thanks. I wanted to give some friends some seeds.

Christina January 2, 2013 at 4:54 am

Hate to break it to you, but if papaver somniferum is illegal to grow you are breaking the law. One of those poppies in the picture of your pepper box poppies is a Danish Flag poppy which is a papaver somiferum (AKA bread seed poppy or opium poppy). Just thought I’d let you know. But the de facto rule is that growing papaver somiferum is legal as long as you don’t score the pods to obtain it’s opium content.

Poppies! May 16, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Just a heads-up: if your pepperbox breadseed variety are in fact pepperbox breadseed they are a variety of P. somniferum (there are many) and fall into legal gray area. They are technically a controlled substance (the only plant scheduled along side the targeted chemical!) but their seeds are widely available and grown just about everywhere; prosecutions are rare, it’s just something to be aware of.

Seasonal Wisdom May 17, 2013 at 9:36 am

Thanks Poppies and Christina, for your comments about the legality of growing certain poppies. Obviously, I’m growing my poppies from seeds purchased from a legitimate seed company, and I’m using them only for ornamental purposes. READERS, consider yourself warned, however, that these seeds fall into a “legal gray area.”

J.Becker June 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm

If you cut the plant off after it has bloomed, will it come back or do you have to leave the plant for it to re seed. This is my first time having poppies..they were beautiful but now they look pretty bad as it is just the stalk. Would like to get rid of it. Thanks for any information you can give me.

Seasonal Wisdom June 20, 2013 at 9:28 am

Hi J. Becker: Once the poppies have spread their petals and seeds, you can certainly get rid of them. Now the seeds need to do their job next season… Good luck and thanks for visiting Seasonal Wisdom. Teresac

Matt September 29, 2013 at 7:36 am

Just to let you know, your “Pepperseed Breadbox” variety IS the opium poppy. One of those photos includes the Danish Flag variety which is a very popular somniferum. Just thought you should know.

Seasonal Wisdom September 30, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Thanks, Matt. We’ve been chatting about that poppy in this comment stream. But your comments shows I need to add more information to my story. Appreciate your dropping by… Tersa

Shehen April 12, 2014 at 4:42 am

HI, I live in a tropical Island in the Indian Ocean where climate is Humid and Hot! Am Curious to know if Poppy (Papaver Somniferum), will grow well here? Afganistan, Indonesia, Turkey and India have almost the same Hot Climate but with 30% Humidity and here we got about 80% Humidity for Temperature abt 20 to 37oC Yearly! Poppies love hot & Humid climate???

Seasonal Wisdom April 14, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Hi Shehen: Poppies tend to like cooler temperatures. If you’re growing Iceland Poppies in hot, humid climates, you probably would treat it as an annual, according to this seed company.—biennials-/-poppies-/-iceland–poppy–papaver-nudicale-/Giant-Mixed-Iceland-Poppy.htm Good luck and thanks for visiting Seasonal Wisdom.

lyssa Riedel April 8, 2015 at 3:18 pm

I am having a problem with my poppies taking over the garden. Do they spread by seed, roots, or both. If it is by root, how can I keep them contained, please? Thank you

Seasonal Wisdom April 16, 2015 at 10:45 am

Lyssa, Sorry for the delay in responding. I just found your comment. Poppies spread by seeds. The best way to prevent them from seeding is to cut off the flowers before they die and spread more seeds. Good luck and thanks for visiting.

StormVet May 4, 2015 at 1:17 pm

What time of the year do poppies flower? I planted some seeds this past September or early October. But all I did was throw out about 10oz of seeds all around my flower garden areas. Thank You.

Seasonal Wisdom May 4, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Typically poppies bloom in late-spring and early-summer. Here’s more information from Colorado State University Extension Good luck!

Tammy May 30, 2016 at 7:48 am

I planted my poppies 3 years ago and this is the first year they have gotten any flowers. They have 3-5 that are opened and so many more to pop yet. I would love to reseed them but would like them in a different area. How should I go about doing this?
Thanks for any advice!

Seasonal Wisdom February 5, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Your best bet is to collect the seeds and sprinkle them where you’d like them. Good luck!

Melissa June 14, 2016 at 12:40 pm

I planted pepperbox poppy seeds early this spring. The seedlings have come up and continue to grow very slowly (we are experiencing a mild season so far), but there is no sign of the stem or bud. Does this mean that they will not flower at this point?

Anna Kramer April 12, 2017 at 3:34 pm


I have lots of lovely poppies blooming right now but I’m afraid of the area looking very brown and drab when their bloom is over. What can I plant with them that will give me yeararound flowers that look good in height, spacing, and color?

Thank you,

Seasonal Wisdom June 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Care, Not sure I totally understand your question. But I bet you could cut the stalks off now that they’ve stopped blooming. I often leave mine on the plant, which is why they self-seed all over the place for me. Let me know how that works for you. Good luck! Teresa

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