How to Plant Papaver Somniferum


The bread seed poppy, also known as the opium poppy, is an annual flowering plant with attractive white, red or lavender flowers. It is easy to grow from seed in many climate zones. If you live in an area where the summers are very hot, this poppy will thrive better when you grow it in partial shade. In cooler summer climates, it tolerates full sun. Although it prefers to grow outdoors, where it often reseeds itself and naturalizes, some people grow it as a houseplant.

Step 1

Prepare a planting area in fall by pulling all weeds from a sunny or partly sunny spot in your garden. Spread a 2-inch layer of organic compost over the soil surface and then dig it in to a depth of about 8 inches. Rake the area level.

Step 2

Broadcast poppy seeds over your prepared area, then cover them with a fine layer of additional soil/compost. Water well and keep the area moist through the winter if rains are insufficient to keep the soil moist.

Step 3

Thin young 2- to 3-inch tall poppy plants to stand about 1 foot apart.

Step 4

Start your seeds indoors in early spring if you want to control their growing conditions more closely than plants you grow outdoors. Fill nursery pots or flats with potting soil, then water them well, until moisture flows out the pots' drainage holes. Sprinkle the fine seeds over the soil surface, and barely cover with more potting soil.

Step 5

Keep your pots or flats in a sunny spot indoors to protect sprouts and young growing poppy plants from frost. Keep the soil moist. Thin seedlings to 3 or 4 inches apart when they are 2 to 3 inches tall.

Step 6

Transplant your young poppy plants to their outdoor location after your final spring frost. Plant them about 1 foot apart in your prepared garden bed, then water them well by running a sprinkler over the area for about 20 minutes.

Tips and Warnings

  • Although growing this species of poppy is legal, and the seeds are legal to be sold for growing and baking purposes, the narcotic drug opium that is extracted from its seedpods is illegal.

Things You'll Need

  • Papaver somniferum seeds
  • Sunny or partly sunny location
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Nursery pots or flats
  • Potting soil


  • Growing
  • Papaver somniferum

Who Can Help

  • The Thyme Garden: Poppy, Opium Seeds
  • Legal Issues
Keywords: Papaver somniferum, opium poppy, bread seed growing

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.