Poppy Gardening 101

by Ann Waskosky

Plant Sciences 211, NDSU
NDSU, Fall 2010

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Over 120 species of poppy exist in the genus Papaver---the genus we usually think of when we say poppy, and which includes the common red, field or corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) as well as the notorious opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). However, the Family Papaveraceae contains 26 genera, with some species that look very little like the garden poppies many are used to.


The red poppy has long been the symbol of life, death and renewal. Poppy flower fancy red pink purple in bright June sunshine. Bright orange California poppies bloom at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, located in northern Los Angeles County, from late February through early May usually peaking in mid-April.


Types of Poppies

There are so many different types of poppies, I will narrow in on a few of the more popular ones.

Corn Poppy

The corn poppy is the Flanders Field poppy, the one associated with Memorial Day. It is also called the Shirley or field poppy. The corn poppy is an annual, a plant that only lasts one year. New plants have to be started from seeds. The flowers bloom in spring or early in the summer, grow to from 2 to 4 inches in diameter and can be single, semi double or double bloom. They grow on stems that are 2 feet tall and come in pink, red, white and yellow. Seeds take from 10 to 30 days to germinate.


Iceland Poppy

Iceland poppies are another annual that produce fragrant flowers that can be orange, white, red, pink or peach. The flowers can be up to 3 inches in diameter and grow on 2 foot tall stems. Wild Iceland poppies have orange or yellow flowers on stems that bend. The cultured varieties have stronger stems that stand up right. They have white, orange, yellow, pink or multicolored flowers. In their natural environment , they are perennials, but in the colder areas, they usually do not last more than a year.


Oriental Poppy

Oriental poppies are perennials, flowers that grow for many years. Each year the clump of flowers gets larger. The stems can grow from 2 to 4 feet tall. Flowers can be pink, red, orange, white or near-white and they bloom in late spring or early summer. The Oriental poppy blooms in May and June and the flowers can grow to from 9 to 10 inches in diameter. Water them occasionally during dry spells, but not after they have finished blooming. Give them a mulch in winter.


California Poppy

(seen above)

The California poppy is a wildflower in California and the southwest and it ranges as far north as Washington State. It is a perennial that also self seeds to produce new plants. The flowers, which are a bright orange, close up at dusk and on days when there is no sun. It is the state flower of California and is protected by state law from being destroyed. They grow to from 12 to 18 inches and the flowers grow to from 2 to 3 inches in diameter.


Mexican Poppy

The Mexican poppy produces large white or yellow flowers. It is a wildflower in the temperate zones of the south in the United States and in Mexico. It likes full sun and dry weather. It self seeds and can become invasive if left unchecked.