Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Poppy Plant Characteristics

By Heide Braley ; Updated September 21, 2017
Traditional red poppy plant
Red poppy image by Imagine-Imaging from Fotolia.com

The red poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is one of the most widely known wildflowers in the world. They are pretty annuals that produce delicate multicolored flowers on top of fern-like leaves. Many times they will reseed themselves and come back the following year, often as the original red poppy. If you grow them in an area where they can live undisturbed, they will reseed en masse, filling the area with brightly colored blossoms.


The blossoms of this flower are characterized by their light, papery feel. They are so thin, often just a slight breeze will cause one of the petals to flop over. The centers usually are black and the petals can be red, pink or white. The flower is borne on a long, scratchy stem. Before the flower opens, it just looks like a drooping bud, hanging from the end of the stem.


You will see the leaves of the poppy plant early in the spring, or even late winter. They radiate outward flat on the ground until faster growth starts with the warmer weather and the leaves rise up. They look like miniature ferns radiating outward from the base.


Common wild poppy seeds are not the same as the opium poppy nor the poppy seeds used in cooking. These seeds are light to dark brown and borne in a seed head that forms after the flower fades. Only about .5 mm in width, several hundred poppy seeds are contained in each pod.


About the Author


Maryland resident Heide Braley is a professional writer who contributes to a variety of websites. She has focused more than 10 years of research on botanical and garden articles and was awarded a membership to the Society of Professional Journalists. Braley has studied at Pennsylvania State University and Villanova University.