Growing Papaver Somniferum


Papaver somniferum is the fancy botanical name for the bread seed poppy, also called the opium poppy. This flower is not only pretty, with its red or lavender blooms that occur most of the summer, but it is easy to grow and it often naturalizes in climates it favors. Although the Papaver somniferum produces attractive flowers that enhance your landscaping and that you can use in bouquets, if you eat the seeds in baked goods, you could fail a drug test for opiates. Poppy seeds are not illegal, but the narcotic that can be obtained from this plant certainly is.

Step 1

Clear an area in your garden of weeds and other plants that might shade or crowd your poppies after they begin to grow. Poppies thrive best in outdoor locations. Early spring and late fall are the suggested times of year to plant seeds.

Step 2

Dig in two to three shovelfuls of compost for an area two feet wide by six feet long, which will give you plenty of room for your poppy crop.

Step 3

Scatter seeds liberally and sprinkle a small amount of soil on top of them. They will begin to sprout when the temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 4

Sprinkle the planting area with a fine mist of water once each day until you see germination. Then keep the area moist but not waterlogged. Watering in the morning is the best time because nighttime moisture can contribute to fungal diseases.

Step 5

Thin your baby poppy plants to about one foot apart when they are two to three inches tall.

Step 6

Fertilize with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer when plants are about six inches tall if you are so inclined. (If you added compost to their planting area, that is typically all the nutrition they need.)

Step 7

Stop watering your poppies after the petals drop from the flowers if you are growing them for their seeds. Then allow the seed pods to dry out and collect the seeds when the pods, which can reach three-fourths inch in diameter, are completely dry.

Things You'll Need

  • Papaver somniferum seeds
  • Garden space
  • Compost
  • Sunny location
  • Water


  • Growing
  • Cautions
  • Seeds
Keywords: Papaver somniferum, bread seed, poppy opium

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 and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.