The Oriental poppy (Papaver somniferum) blooms with an abundance of blossoms in early summer. Each flower head can easily measure up to 6 inches across. Blossoms appear in shades of pink, salmon, white, burgundy or orange. The plant's seeds are often used to flavor various culinary dishes and the sap of the seed capsule is used in the commercial production of opium.
Spring Foliage Growth
Each spring when the ground begins to warm, the dormant root system of the poppy plant wakes up and begins to sprout foliage in a rosette shape. The heavily serrated leaves appear to be covered in fine hair. Each leaf measures up to 6 inches in length. The plant prefers full sunlight with well draining soil. It does not tolerate wet roots or standing spring water well.
In early June the poppy plant begins to produce flowers. The plant sends up a flower stalk that often towers 4 feet in height. The oblong flower bud is covered in fine hairs. The bud quickly bursts open, and the large flower begins to unfurl. The blooms are relatively short-lived and often only last a week before the petals drop to the ground so a seedpod can form. The poppy flower makes a wonderful addition to cut arrangements if the end of the stem is seared with a match. Once the stem is seared, it must be placed in water promptly or the flower will wilt.
The flower's petals fall from the bulbous seed pod. The seed pods dry out in the summer sun, and the top opens up to disperse the seeds by use of the wind. Once the seeds are spread, the seed pods dry out; they make a fashionable ongoing flower arrangement when cut.
Summertime Foliage Dieback
During the height of the summer heat, the foliage of the poppy plant begins to dieback. This occurs after the plant produces flowers and the seeds are dispersed, which normally takes place by the end of July. The foliage often dies completely to the ground, and the plant enters a state of dormancy.
Shorter days and cooler fall evenings encourage the root system of the poppy plant to leave dormancy. The plant begins to produce foliage again in preparation for winter. During this time, the plant stores nutrients. The first hard freeze prior to winter kills the newly grown foliage to the ground. Put mulch around the plant prior to freezing conditions to help protect the plants root system during the cold of winter. When the ground freezes, the poppy plant again becomes dormant until spring.