Poppy flowers are native worldwide and have been prized not just for their stunning beauty bur for their medicinal history as well. Prior to the production of heroin and subsequent legal restrictions opium was one of the only medicines effective against pain and was used as such for centuries. Today, some of the other, non-narcotic members of this family are amongst the most coveted by horticulturists.
Papaver somniferum or oriental poppy is the only member of the poppy flower family that produces opium and it is illegal in the United States to grow this species. Teas prepared from other members of the poppy family are said to have a sedating effect. Poppy seeds are commonly used in pastries. Some dyes can be prepared from poppy flowers.
By far the most common use of the poppy flower family today is for ornamental gardens. These relatively easy to grow flowers produce vibrant colors that can highlight any garden.
Texas Agrilife's Aggie Horticulture lists the meanings of specific colors of poppies in a bouquet. In general, the poppy flower symbolizes eternal sleep, oblivion and imagination. A red poppy denotes pleasure, a white poppy is used to console and a yellow poppy can signify wealth and success.
The poppy flower can also symbolize beauty, fertility and eternal life. It was a funeral flower for the ancient Egyptians and used as a shrine flower by the Greeks.
Grown as annuals, poppy flower seeds can be scattered over a loose bed in direct sunlight towards the end of autumn. Keep them moist, but do not over-water. Poppy flowers prefer rich well-drained soil. Because of their need for direct sunlight, they do not make a good candidate for a houseplant. Poppy flowers will self-sow which means you may not have to re-plant them next year. However, pruning old flowers offer a better showing overall.
The California poppy flower is between 2.5 and 5 centimeters in width and is usually orange in color. The flower has four petals in the fan shape typical of poppy flowers. The plant itself can grow to 60 centimeters tall. They can be found in Southern California, the Mojave desert and even in Northwest Baja. It is the state flower of California and its folk-lore goes back to the 1800s when explorers noted the golden hillsides of California.
Himalyan Blue Poppy
The Himalyan Blue poppy flower, Meconopsis, is one of the most prized in the poppy flower family for its true blue colored blooms. This member of the poppy flower family is particularly sensitive to temperature changes and therefore can be difficult to grow. Found mostly in the Scottish highlands and Himalayas, they have been successfully grown in Alaska and coastal Washington. Their optimum temperature range is 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.