Oriental poppies are favorites for gardeners who love their colorful late spring to early summer blooms. Their large crepe paper-like flowers come in a range of colors like white, red, orange and pink. Stems can reach heights of 4 feet when they receive proper care. Many of the poppies' growing problems can be fixed with cultural practices that makes sure their growing requirements are being met.
Two main soil problems can cause poppies to wilt and die: poor drainage and inadequate pH range. Poppies must be planted in well-draining soil or they will become susceptible to root rot and other fungal diseases. If you start to see your poppies discoloring, you should check their drainage. Dig a 1-foot hole in their designated planting area. Fill the hole with water to saturate the hole's lining and allow to completely drain. Refill the hole and measure the water level with a measuring stick. Measure the water level again in 15 minutes. Multiply your measurement by four to find out how well you soil drains in an hour. If the result is less than an inch, you will have to amend the soil. Transfer the poppies to pots while you are amending their soil. To amend the soil, spread a 6-inch layer of both compost and coarse builder's sand in the planting area. Till the area well and transplant the plants back to their growing area.
Soil pH Range
Growing a poppy out of its pH range will prevent the plant from being able to absorb the soil's nutrients. Oriental poppies need a pH range of 6.5 to 7.0. Conduct a soil pH test on the planting area if you see your flowers die back or discolor. Purchase a soil testing kit from your local county extension office. Dig a 6-inch hole to collect samples. Mail the samples off to the laboratory's address provided on the kit. Wait for the results. To amend acidic soil, spread a layer of lime over the area and till into the soil. For alkaline soil, spread a layer of sulfur and mix well into the native soil.
Wind, rain and the weight of the blooms can cause Oriental poppies to droop. To keep the poppies upright, place a spiral ring support into the ground near the poppy. Twist the spirals around the stem up to the bloom. You can plant one to three poppies in each support depending on its size.
Keep weeds from competing with your poppies' nutrients by spreading 2 inches of mulch around the plants. Be sure that you do not allow the mulch to touch the base of the poppy. Water your plant at its base twice a week in dry periods and once a week when it rains. A good rule of thumb is to allow the top soil to dry out before you water. Slowly release water, so that it gets absorbed deeply to the plant's roots.