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Growing Poppies in Texas

poppy image by Alison Bowden from

All varieties of poppies produce beautiful flowers followed by interesting seed pods. The most common varieties grown in Texas are the bright orange California or Mexican poppy and the red corn poppy. In Texas, poppies bloom in mid-spring and produce pods sometime in early summer. Poppies have trouble naturalizing in Texas because of the imported fire ant. Fire ants consider the seeds a food source and quickly remove them from the landscape during the summer. To keep a nice crop of poppy flowers going year to year, harvest seed pods when they turn brown in June and save the seed to plant in December, or after the first killing frost, when the fire ants are dormant.

Remove weeds and garden debris from an area that receives full sun or at least six hours of sunlight each day. Break up the soil so the poppy seeds will have good contact with the ground. Spread a 1-inch layer of compost over the soil and work it into the top inch of soil. Rake the area until it is smooth. You will be preparing the planting area in the fall for planting in December.

Place poppy seeds in a container with a few handfuls of loose soil. Mix seeds with loose soil so when you spread the seeds over the ground they will be mixed with dirt and slightly covered with soil. You do not want the seeds to be competely covered with soil because they need the cool air and light to encourage them to sprout in early spring.

Spread water over the planting area with a light sprinkle to settle the seeds. Do not water the seeds again until spring when the light green plants appear. Keeping the planting area moist can rot the seeds. Once the poppies sprout, do not fertilize, as poppies just need average garden soil to survive. Keep the area free of weeds and allow the plants to bloom freely. Harvest seed pods when they turn brown and begin to split. Break open the pods to retrieve the seed and store in a paper bag in a cool, dry area until it's time to plant again in the fall.

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