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Tips on Planting & Growing Poppies

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Tips on Planting & Growing Poppies

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Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) are the longest-lived of the poppies. According to a "Garden Gate Magazine" video, Oriental poppies can live almost as long as peonies, which can "last for generations." The alpine poppy is also a perennial. The National Garden Bureau lists the Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule) as a perennial, although the plant is short-lived and is often grown as an annual. Other species are biennial or annual and they self-seed.

Planting Oriental Poppies

Plant Oriental poppies by bare-root or container plants. Plants grow easily from seed, but are slow to reach flowering size. They prefer full sun and a well-drained soil with some compost mixed in. The crown of the plant (above the roots and below where the leaves begin) should be planted just below the soil surface to avoid rot. Plant in spring. Oriental poppies grow in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 to 9.

Growing Oriental Poppies

Oriental poppies don't require supplemental water, unless conditions are very dry. Fertilizer isn't necessary, according to the National Garden Bureau. ( If the requirements of full sun and well-drained soil are met, plants do well. Plants come in shades of red, orange, pink, purple and white, and grow 2 to 4 feet tall. After flowering, foliage yellows and disappears, returning when the temperatures grow cooler.

Planting and Growing Alpine Poppies

Denver Plants, a gardening website, lists the alpine poppy as a short-lived perennial that self-seeds. As with other poppy types, the alpine poppy prefers full sun, well-drained soil amended with compost, and infrequent watering. Plants grow slowly from seed; it may be easier to purchase container plants. Flowers come in a mix of oranges, reds, whites and pinks. Alpine poppies grow 6 to 12 inches tall and are hardy In USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 to 9.

Planting and Care of Iceland Poppies

The Iceland poppy isn't from Iceland; it originated in Asia, according to the National Garden Bureau. "Fine Gardening Magazine" says the plant is often grown as a "cool weather annual," since Iceland poppies do so poorly in the heat. This is a short poppy at 12 inches. Flowers are salmon, red, orange, pink and white. Plant Iceland poppies in full sun and well-drained soil. USDA Hardiness Zones are 3 to 7. Remove flowers to encourage more flowering.

Annual Poppy Types

Annual poppies such as the corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas), opium or bread-seed poppy (Papaver somniferum) and the Shirley poppy (Papaver rhoeas) grow easily from seed. The corn poppy has a red single flower and its progeny, the Shirley poppy, is mostly white in single or double forms. Although technically illegal to grow, the opium poppy comes in colors from oranges to dark purple and flower forms that range from single to fringed to peony-like.

Blue Poppies and California Poppies

Poppies that are related but not in the Papaver genus include the blue poppies (Meconopsis) and the California poppy (Escholzia californica) Although the Himalayan blue poppy's color is like no other blue, it can be difficult to grow, according to Jennifer Schultz Nelson writing for the University of Illinois Extension. The California poppy is traditionally orange, but also comes in pinks and whites, and in double and semi-double forms.

Sowing Seeds and Plant Care

The National Garden Bureau recommends mixing poppy seeds with sand and planting them outdoors in early spring. The sand helps with sowing and also makes thinning the plants later much easier. Soil should be well-drained. Cover the seeds very lightly with soil. Keep soil moist but not wet until plants sprout. When they're about 1 inch tall, thin them until they're 10 inches apart. Be aware of watering needs until plants are better established. Do not fertilize.

Keywords: poppy care, poppy planting, Oriental poppies, alpine poppy, opium poppy, Himalayan blue poppy

About this Author

Janet Belding has been writing for 22 years. She has had nonfiction pieces published in "The Boston Globe," "The Cape Cod Times," and other local publications. She is a writer for the guidebook "Cape Cod Pride Pages." Her fiction has been published in "Glimmer Train Stories." She has a degree in English from the University of Vermont.