With their bright silky flowers, poppies bring early splashes of color to the garden. Poppies, which exist in annual, biennial and perennial varieties, are easy to grow from seed, and they require little maintenance if planted in a suitable location. The California poppy, an annual, and the Iceland poppy, a short-lived perennial, are poppy varieties known for longer bloom times, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service of Texas A&M University.
Poppies do best in cooler temperatures, so plant them in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Mix the poppy seeds with about three parts sand for ease of planting and a reduced need for thinning seedlings later. Scatter seeds where you want them to grow and then cover them with about 1/8 inch of soil. Sprinkle gently with water so as not to disturb the seeds. Keep the soil moist until the poppies germinate, which takes 10 to 15 days when the temperature is 55 degrees F. These flowers tend to self-seed so do not be surprised to find a good crop of volunteer poppies coming up in the following growing season.
If you space poppy plantings about two weeks apart, you can extend the blooming time of your poppies.
For a more abundant and longer lasting blooming period, remove old poppy flowers from the plants once they drop their petals, but leave some flowers on at the end of the season if you want poppies to self-seed.
Poppies planted in sites protected from harsh winds will also keep their flowers longer.
Grow poppies 6 to 10 inches apart, which provides for good air circulation, thereby reducing the possibility of developing diseases such as downy mildew.
Plant poppies in well-drained soil. Compost added to the soil will help improve drainage. Poppies tolerate dry soil better than wet soil. In fact, poppies wintered in wet soil may never fully recover.
If aphids appear on budding plants, spray them off with a strong stream of water using a garden hose. Poppies often do not respond well to chemical sprays, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Horticulture.