GROWING POPPIES: INTRO
Poppies are known worldwide for their beautiful flowers. There are actually hundreds of types of poppy flowers, and they are all members of the papaveraceae “poppy” family. The most popular and economically important species is Papaver somniferum, also known as the “opium poppy.” This plant is known as the opium poppy because it contains natural opiate compounds as a defense mechanism against predators. The knowledge of these plants containing opiates has led to more interest in growing poppies. This post contains instructions for planting a majority of the species of poppy plants, including Papaver somniferum. Make sure to read this whole post, especially the part about checking the legality of growing poppies in your area.
Growing Poppies: A Short Personal Story
You shouldn’t be intimidated about growing poppies. I grew some by accident, and I definitely don’t have a “green thumb.” I had purchased some poppy seeds for baking, and I spilled some in my kitchen. I swept them up and dumped them in my outside garden. I didn’t dig holes in the dirt, I just sprinkled (actually threw) the seeds on top of the ground. This “garden” was actually a big dirt pile in my back yard where a bush was previously located. The dirt was even poor quality, and it was about 70% clay. The plants actually sprouted, and I was so shocked that I tried to dig up half to put in my good garden. I’m glad I only dug up half because none of them survived the relocation. I didn’t water the original surviving plants until the had grown up to around 6″ tall. The plants ended up doing fairly well, especially given the circumstances. I wanted to share this story at the beginning so you could see that growing poppies isn’t difficult if you have the correct seeds (don’t worry, I include Amazon links below). If you follow the simple guide below, you will end up having beautiful and healthy poppy plants.
Papaver somniferum plants (Opium Poppy Flowers) are illegal to grow in some countries. In other countries, it is illegal to grow the plants to harvest the pods for their opiate compounds. Make sure to check your local laws and regulations before planting Papaver somniferum. Many people plant this species for their beautiful flowers, don’t ruin it by trying to harvest raw opium.
Discover the Benefits of Poppy Pod Tea on my separate post.
GROWING POPPIES: INFO
The first step that I suggest is to find great seeds for the desired species of poppy flowers that you would like to plant. I have included some Amazon links for some popular species below. You should purchase the seeds as soon as possible so they will arrive at your house in time for planting. I suggest purchasing the seeds on Amazon because they usually have quick and cheap shipping, and you have the convenience of not having to leave the comfort of your home.
Growing Poppies: Choosing Seeds
Here are some high quality poppy seeds that are definitely viable for planting. I include a detailed description and the Amazon links. These are all poppy seeds that I have personally purchased. I suggest reading my List of the Best Poppy Seed Brands prior to purchasing seeds.
It might seem like overkill, but I suggest purchasing this large bag of We Got Nuts Poppy Seeds. It is extremely difficult to find highly rated poppy seeds in those small packages for planting. This bag is much larger and is only a few dollars extra. We Got Nuts has consistently supplied excellent poppy seeds, and they have continued to keep their prices low. These seeds are definitely viable for planting and they make amazing and beautiful poppy flowers 😉 Plant some and use the rest for baking, or any other purpose you desire.
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
The California Poppy is another beautiful flower. The citizens of California like this species so much that they made it their official State Flower. This is a quality brand of California Poppy Seeds that are perfect for planting. This brand is a little more expensive than the others, but it is a large bag of seeds that can be trusted. I suggest reading more about the California Poppy on my related post, California Poppy Tea.
Red Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
The red poppy is another popular species of poppy flower known for its beautiful red appearance. It is so popular that it is also known as the common poppy or corn poppy. MySeeds is a trusted vendor that supplies high quality seeds for many different flowers, not just poppies. I currently have three varieties of their flowers growing in my garden. Once again, this brand is a bit more expensive. In gardening, you usually get what you pay for. The price is well worth it in this case.
Mixed Poppy Seeds
One of my favorite things to do is choose multiple poppy flowers for my garden. This is a perfect example of mixed poppy seeds that can give you variety in your garden. They are Papaver rhoeas seeds, so they are all from the same species. They just have different colors. I highly suggest this mixture, and these plants did excellent when I planted them this Spring. I had several people come and ask me where I got these beautiful flowers. Their jaws dropped when I said Amazon! These seeds are cheap with a current price of $10.00.
Growing Poppies: Instructions
Step 1: Timing
Have you ever heard the phrase, “timing is everything?” The optimal time to plant poppy flower seeds is in the Spring or Fall. I usually recommend growing poppies in the Spring instead of Fall. It is up to your personal preference, but around here it is hard to keep the plants alive through the cold late Fall. Hundreds of years ago, the seeds were usually planted in mid winter or early spring. The seeds were sprinkled by hand directly onto the melting snow. Many species of poppy seeds must be exposed to cool temperatures in order to begin sprouting. Expert gardeners have stated that if your local winter temps do not dip below 0 Fahrenheit, you should be able to plant the poppy seeds in the Fall. If you end up choosing to plant the seeds in the Fall, try to plant the seeds before the first frost, or they might not sprout. As I stated above, I have historically planted my seeds in the Spring. I decided to try and plant some this Fall, and I will update this post with the result. I’m actually going to record everything and post the video to this post.
Step 2: Plant in Groups
Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket by diversifying risk. Many experts suggest planting seeds in groups. This can be very beneficial if you decide to follow my recommendation and plant your first batch of seeds in the Spring instead of the Fall. To follow this optimal planting method, divide your poppy seeds into a few different groups. Then you plant each group of seeds two weeks apart. This should result in your garden blooming flowers for several months. Chances are that you will hit an optimal time period with one of your groups. An easier alternative for growing poppies would be to only split your seeds into two equal batches. Even having one extra batch will help you diversify risk in case something happens to one of them. Chances are one of the batches will produce beautiful flowers.
For the Fall planters, I don’t suggest splitting up the seeds. Experts state that it is not beneficial in the Fall because you can’t plant after the frost anyway.
Step 3: Area
Try to find a good area around your house to plant the poppy seeds. The poppy plants prefer partial sun. Experts generally suggest that the planting area has ~ 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day. It can be difficult to grow the seeds and keep the plants alive if you live in a hot climate. If you live in warmer areas, you should try to plant the seeds in an area that is at least partially shielded or blocked from the intense afternoon sun.
Step 4: Importance of Drainage
This is where many novice gardeners make a mistake. I think this is because people either don’t have the advice or they want to take shortcuts because they don’t have time. It is vital to choose a planting area with sufficient drainage. If you are planning on growing poppies in gardening pots, make sure that they have holes drilled in the bottom. You can place gravel in the bottom of the pot to avoid soil erosion during watering. Soil drainage is yet another reason that I recommend planting poppies in the Spring rather than the Fall. Poppy flowers have roots that are extremely susceptible to root rot. The Fall is riskier because drainage is more difficult in Winter and leads to a greater chance of the plants developing rotten roots.
It can be difficult to determine whether or not a given area has sufficient drainage. This is why I suggest completing a simple test to verify that the soil has good drainage prior to growing poppies. Start by digging a four inch hole and fill it with water. Let the water to drain until the hole is empty. Now the soil should be saturated. Next, fill the hole up with water again. Use a watch and time how long it takes for the water to drain into the soil again. This process should be completed in less than one hour to empty, and I suggest under 45 minutes. If the soil fails the drainage test, you should choose another area to plant your precious seeds. If you don’t have other options that will pass the test, read the next step for guidance.
Step 5: High Quality Soil
Depending on the area you live in, it may be difficult to find an area that passes the drainage test mentioned above. It is possible to improve soil drainage to help an area pass the test. The first step is to mix the top two inches of soil with compost. It is a good idea to mix your soil with compost or manure even if your drainage is sufficient. For those of you that want to put in the extra work, you can make a raised garden bed.
Step 6: Aerate the Dirt
Poppy flowers need aerated soil to thrive. They enjoy aerated soil, and this is why the seeds have been historically sprinkled on top of the dirt. You can use a shovel or a garden hoe to loosen the dirt to 10 inches deep. This will ensure the optimal environment is achieved when it is time to plant the seeds. Poppy seeds have a long root that grows straight downward. This root has difficulty growing through packed soil which will stunt the growth of the plants. It can lead to disease or even the death of the plants. This is why it is imperative to choose the correct place when growing poppies.
Step 7: Mix the Seeds with Sand
Poppy seeds are kidney-shaped and extremely tiny. This makes them difficult to separate for planting. The plants thrive when they aren’t planted on top of each other, which further complicates matters. Luckily, resourceful gardeners have established a method for separating the tiny poppy seeds. The best way to separate poppy seeds is to mix them with sand. I usually place the seeds in a salt or pepper shaker. I add double the amount of sand, so the sand/seed ratio is 2-1. Once the shaker is full, 2/3 of the mixture is sand, and the other 1/3 is made up of the poppy seeds. Make sure allow room for the seeds and sand to mix prior to planting. Once the mixture is ready, you can shake the seeds out when it is time to plant.
If you don’t want to use a shaker, you can use a different container and sow the seeds by hand. Grab a handful of the mixture and prepare to plant…
Step 8: Plant the Seeds
Finally, you’ve reached the fun step; it’s time to plant the seeds! You can use the shaker or alternate container to sprinkle the poppy seeds and sand mixture directly onto the aerated soil. Next, I recommend covering the seeds with a light dusting of fine soil. Make sure that you don’t bury the seeds. They need to have direct access to sunlight. Too much dirt will cover the seeds and block germination. The poppy seeds naturally grow on top of the soil, so the dusting is not necessary. I have found that it helps more of the seeds germinate, and it keeps critters from eating all of the seeds.
Once again, make sure to avoid planting a large number of seeds on top of one another. This will result in seeds germinating and growing on top of each other and will result in weak plants that are susceptible to disease.
Step 9: Water the Seeds
I suggest using a generic spray bottle to water your delicate flowers rather than a hose, especially when the plants are young. The hose can be too powerful and it can result in washing the precious poppy seeds away or ruining and removing the nutrients from the soil. Make sure to keep the dirt moist during the first two weeks after planting. Make sure to verify that you aren’t over-watering. Most poppy flower species take 2 weeks for the seedling to sprout. If the seeds haven’t sprouted after 3 weeks, that is a sign that there is a problem. Make sure to keep spraying the seeds daily for the first week. After the first week, you should be able to complete a thorough watering every two days. During warmer days, it may be necessary to water more frequently to keep the plant hydrated and happy.
Step 10: Enjoy
Congratulations, you have followed these instructions and now you hopefully have a garden full of beautiful poppy plants. Make sure to take the time to sit back and enjoy the beautiful flowers. They represent hours of hard work, and the view is worth it!
Grow Poppy Plants: Video
Video is coming soon! I’m recording the batch of seeds that I plant this Fall (2017).
GROWING POPPIES: CONCLUSION
Hopefully this guide has helped you grow a beautiful garden full of poppy flowers that will make the neighbors jealous. There is nothing better than a garden full of vibrant poppy flowers. Usually the flowers will turn into large pods, and you can harvest the seeds for use next year. I love growing poppies!
Find out How to Make Poppy Pod Tea Stronger
Growing Poppies: Comments
Do you have experiences related to growing poppies? Please share your knowledge with this community and help it grow!