The Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) is widely coveted for its brilliant crepe-paper-like blossoms that appear in red, white, orange, salmon, maroon, purple, pink or white. The flowers often measure six inches across. They are produced in abundance throughout spring and into summer. Numerous cultivars are available that sport single, double or frilled blossoms. The heavy weight of the blossoms often causes them to flop to the ground and require support.
The seeds from the flower heads are widely used in the production of opium-based pharmaceuticals.
The plant will easily attain 36 inches in height, with a 24-inch spread. It will begin to produce an abundance of hairy fern-like foliage in the spring. The foliage will persist into the summer months and then begin to die back as temperatures increase. When the cool days of fall arrive the plant will begin to produce more foliage prior to winter. The poppy is highly deer resistant.
The Oriental poppy can withstand periods of drought well. The plant prefers well-drained soil. Wet roots for an extended time will easily kill the plant. It is advised to water the poppy flower using a flood irrigation system or simple soaker hose so the flowers do not become damp. The heavy weight of the water on the large flower heads will make them fall to the ground. Try to refrain from getting the flower heads wet.
Apply three to four inches of mulch over the poppy plant in areas of hard winters. The added mulch will insulate the plants root system until spring.
Transplanting, Division, Propagation
Transplant and divide poppies in the late fall. Large poppies do not withstand transplanting well. Often the plant will cease to blossom for up to three years while it establishes itself in its new location. To propagate the poppy using root division, simply cut two inches of root from the plant's root system in the fall and start the new plant in a sandy starter mix. Lay the root cutting horizontally in the mixture and lightly cover it with starter mix. The cuttings tend to root easily. The plant is also easily propagated using seeds.
The large blossoms of the poppy make ideal cut flowers if cut in the early morning as they are unfurling from the bud. The end of the flower stem will need to be seared using a match or other heat source. Once seared, place the flower stem in water.