Clump-forming perennial wildflowers native to western Asia, the oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) are loved by gardeners since they produce cup-shaped flowers on bristly stems in late spring to midsummer. Their petal bases typically display large white or black blotches. Modern oriental poppies grown in gardens are actually hybrids made with two other poppy species, allowing for a broader range of flower colors, including traditional orange to white, yellow, pink and salmon. Finding red-flowering oriental poppies can be tricky, as the petals are various shades and tints of orange-red.
Beauty of Livermere
Growing 3 to 4 feet tall and 36 inches wide, the 'Beauty of Livermere' poppy variety is quite large-growing. The bowl-shaped flowers measure up to 8 inches in diameter, according to the American Horticultural Society's "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants." The petals are large and crimson-scarlet with a black mark at the base of all the petals. Allan Armitage, herbaceous plant expert from the University of Georgia, calls 'Beauty of Livermere' "one of the finest reds I have seen."
Ranging in color from scarlet-orange to fire-red, 'Brilliant' is a variety of oriental poppy that grows 32 to 36 inches tall and about 25 inches wide. Some people think this variety was what New Mexico artist Georgia O'Keefe painted in the 1930s. It also is among the best for cold winter regions (such as USDA hardiness zones 3 and 4). Black blotches occur on at least three of the petal bases in each bloom.
Growing 30 to 35 inches tall and 20 to 24 inches wide, 'Indian Chief' bear large flowers on very sturdy stems. The petals are red to dark red; some authors mention that they look "mahogany red." Literature and photos of this variety also is contradictory as to whether black blotches are found on petal bases in the core of the flowers or not.
Although it is seemingly counter-intuitive for this ruffly flower to be named after an American soldier persona, the 'G.I. Joe' oriental poppy variety does have a bold flower color to stand up to any battle. Allan Armitage describes the large flowers as "deep red," while Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum published it as more "cerise with watermelon-red."
Dark coral-red to bright-red petals occur on the oriental poppy variety 'Allegro.' Black blotches appear on the crepe paper-like petal bases. What sets this selection apart from other red-flowering ones is that 'Allegro' is a dwarf. The plant overall matures only 16 to 20 inches tall and about 12 inches wide.
Little information on the 'Crimson Pompon' variety is listed. It seems to be an older selection, as indicated by its inclusion in the Arnold Arboretum's "Perennials for Low Maintenance Gardening, Part III," from the 1970s. It is large-flowering and red-petaled. The Crimson Pompon is a double-form poppy, meaning its red flowers contain extra petal rows, making it look extra full and ruffled and masking the center of the flower.