Planting, Growing, and Caring for Poppies

red poppies blooming in a garden
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Planting, Growing, and Caring for Poppies

Poppies Are a Popular Perennials for Gardeners

The poppy family includes many species of vibrantly colorful wildflowers that are a favorite of perennial gardeners. The flowers are attractive to pollinators like honey bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. They usually grow to at least over a foot tall, and have one bloom per stem in colors covering the entire color wheel from red to blue.

Most poppies are hardy beyond USDA Zone 4, but some will survive in 3 or even 2. They are fairly drought tolerant, usually preferring well-drained soil and light waterings.

Planting Poppies

Poppies from Seed

Sow outdoors in the fall or winter. Most poppies require a period of stratification, or a period of exposure to cold, before they will germinate. Due to their tiny size, the seeds just need to be sprinkled along the surface when sowing out doors. After the seedlings start to sprout in the spring, you may wish to separate the ones that are growing too close to 6 inches to a foot apart.

Planting Bare-root or Transplanting Potted Poppies

  • You will plant your poppy plant in the summer, just before it blooms (if you ordered from Wayside Gardens, your poppies will ship at the proper time for planting in your zone). Choose a spot in full sun with well-draining soil.
  • Dig a hole a few inches bigger than the root-ball of your plant on all sides - this will loosen the soil around your plant, allowing it to spread its roots and grow more easily.
  • If your plant is in a pot, pull it out and spread the roots a little, freeing them from the shape of the pot.
  • Place the plant in the hole, and loosely fill in your soil, do not pack it down. The plant should be at the same level it was in the pot. If it was bare-root, just fill to just above the crown of the root-ball.
  • Water thoroughly.

Caring for your Poppy

  • Your poppy will always need full sunlight and well-drained soil.
  • Because of the relatively short bloom-span, different varieties and annuals are often planted in the flower beds with poppies to keep the garden full of color year-round.
  • [Optional] Dead-head to prevent seeding and spreading, but if you let them seed, your poppies will spread and naturalize nicely.
  • At the end of the summer, it is okay cut the stems back to the ground when they die back.