Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) are highly desirable for their brightly colored blooms and for their general ease of care. In fact, these flowers "thrive on neglect," according to Jennifer Schultz Nelson, a horticulturist with the University of Illinois. Oriental poppies are hardy, showy and beautiful perennials, although the flowers are short-lived. Make the most of the blooming period by planting your oriental poppies in the right location and by properly caring for them.
Locate Them Properly
Oriental poppies should be planted in a location where they will receive a minimum of eight hours of sunlight per day, and preferably even more than that. These perennials, which can reach heights of up to 3 feet, make excellent back-row plants. Not only will oriental poppies be able to tower above many other types of perennials, but their foliage quickly yellows and withers in late summer, so it is a good idea to hide them behind other, evergreen plants.
Check the Soil
Poppies must have well-draining soil. These plants prefer the soil to actually be on the dry side. Standing water will quickly lead to root rot. Oriental poppies prefer the pH of the soil to be between 6.5 and 7.0. If your soil is too acidic, you can amend it adding lime.
Feed and Water Sparingly
Established oriental poppies are drought-tolerant but can benefit from about an inch of water per week while they are in bud or blooming. Once the plants go dormant in mid-summer, cease watering them entirely and let nature take over. Oriental poppies are so hardy that they do not require fertilizer. You can feed them, however, with a balanced (10-10-10), slow-release, water-soluble fertilizer in the spring to promote blooming.
Pick and Protect
Pick your oriental poppies often to encourage more flowers to develop, but avoid trying to transplant them. These plants have long taproots and can be difficult to move. If you must transplant them, do so in fall so they have a chance to establish a new taproot before growth occurs in the spring. Protect your poppies from freezing temperatures by mulching them in the fall.