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

How to Grow Red Poppies

By Laura Wallace Henderson ; Updated September 21, 2017
Red poppies add colorful bursts of graceful beauty to a landscape.

Poppies (papaver) add delicate beauty and grace to many landscapes and yards. Named for their interesting method of blooming, poppy buds "pop" open suddenly, often with a snapping sound. Poppies bloom in shades of lilac, orange, cream, yellow and red. Many people and organizations plant red corn poppies to show respect and remembrance for soldiers who lost their lives in service to this country. These symbolic red poppies grow easily in flowerbeds and borders, adding color and definition to the surrounding landscape.

Purchase a packet of annual corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) seeds; choose the red variety. Look for seeds packaged for use during the current year: You don't want to plant old seeds from previous years (fresh seeds produce the largest number of viable sprouts).

Choose a sunny location in your yard. Don't plant your red poppy seeds under tall shade trees or near structures that block sunlight. These pretty flowers prefer well-drained locations. Plant them in a level area, avoiding low areas that collect water.

Prepare the soil in your chosen site. Remove the existing vegetation, including weeds and ground-cover plants. Pull out the entire root sections to ensure complete removal. Loosen the soil with a garden shovel and throw out any large rocks, twigs or other debris. Add some fine compost to areas with compact soil. Smooth the site with a garden rake to create an even surface for the small seeds.

Combine your poppy seeds with some fine sand in a shallow bowl. Take a small pinch of the combined seeds and sand, and gently rub your finger against your thumb, slowly sprinkling the mixture over your prepared bed. Spread all of your red poppy seeds over the soil in this manner. Gently press the seeds and sand into the underlying soil with your fingertips. Don't bury the seeds: Simply press them gently down to encourage adequate contact between the seeds and the soil.

Apply a fine mist of water with a garden-hose attachment to moisten the surface of the soil. Keep the soil slightly damp throughout the germination period. Depending on your climate, this may require several light watering sessions each day. Germination normally occurs within 15 days after planting.

Thin your red poppy seedlings when they reach a height of about 1 inch. Allow a range of 6 to 10 inches between each seedling to provide adequate space for them to grow and mature. Cut back on your watering frequency when seedlings reach 2 to 3 inches high. Apply enough water to keep the soil near the roots slightly damp, allowing the surface to dry between watering sessions.

Pinch off the fading blossoms from your red poppies to encourage new ones to bloom. Don't use red poppies in cut bouquets: The flowers quickly wilt after cutting.


Things You Will Need

  • Red poppy seeds
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Rake
  • Fine sand
  • Bowl
  • Hose attachment


  • Remove weeds from beds of red poppies. Check regularly for the appearance of new weeds in your flowerbed and pull them immediately.

About the Author


Laura Wallace Henderson, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear online at Biz Mojo, Walden University and various other websites. She has served as the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." She continues to empower and encourage women everywhere by promoting health, career growth and business management skills.