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How to Grow Papaver Somniferum Indoors

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017

Papaver somniferum is commonly called the bread seed poppy or the opium poppy. Somniferum translates as “sleep-bringing poppy.” It’s an annual plant that produces pretty white, red or lavender colored flowers in the summertime. When the flowers fade, a seed pod forms: it is the sap within this pod that is used to make the illegal opium. This poppy thrives best in cooler summer temperatures with plenty of natural sunlight. Simulate its natural growing conditions by growing it indoors.

Order seeds from a seed catalog or the Internet and plan for fall planting.

Prepare your planting pots by filling them with potting soil that has a neutral pH (around 7.0 is ideal). Water them thoroughly and allow the water to drain out.

Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of the small seeds on top of the soil. Cover them lightly with a bit of the potting soil you used for the pot. Water again and keep the nighttime temperature a cool 35 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Set up fluorescent shop lights or more sophisticated lights such as metal halide so they hang just a few inches above your seeded pots.

Turn on the lights for 12 hours every day.

Use a light spray to mist your young plants every day and water them thoroughly about once each week. Poppies like to live in moist soil that is never soggy.

Thin your seedlings when they are 1-2 inches tall. Leave the strongest plant in the pot.

Watch for flower buds as your plants grow larger. When they appear, reduce watering and stop misting your plants. If you water them only every 10 to 14 days, they should respond well during blooming.

Increase light to 16 hours per day after flower buds begin to form. You can also increase the daytime temperature to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This poppy also prefers a nighttime temperature of 35 to 55 degrees.


Things You Will Need

  • Papaver somniferum seeds
  • Grow lights
  • Potting soil
  • Pot or pots with drainage hole


  • Hang your lights so you can raise and lower them to keep them close to the tops of the plants without touching the foliage.
  • It's possible to transplant seedlings you thin from your pots, but not preferable; poppies do not transplant well, so you will have better success if you grow this plant in the pot where it will spend its entire life.


  • Check with your local authorities because many cities or states forbid you to grow the Papaver somniferum.
  • If your poppies start to form a sooty-looking coating on their leaves, it could be the fungal disease called powdery mildew. Control this as soon as you notice it by spraying your plants with a sulfur-based spray.

About the 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.