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How to Care for California Poppy

By Willow Sidhe ; Updated September 21, 2017

The California poppy is an annual flower native to western North America, particularly California. They may, however, appear to be perennials since they often return in the same place each year due to self-seeding. Plants produce brightly-colored red, orange, yellow, white or pink flowers that emerge from the mats of fern-like leaves spreading over the ground. California poppies bloom during spring through fall, depending on when the seeds are sown. Easy to care for, California poppy plants will thrive with only minimal maintenance in the home garden, and are common bedding flowers throughout the United States.

Sow California poppy seeds directly into the garden in spring as soon as the soil has thawed enough to be workable. Select an area of the garden that receives full sun and has fertile, well-drained soil. Rake the soil thoroughly to prepare the area for planting.

Scatter the seeds over the planting site, and cover with a thin layer of soil, no more than ΒΌ-inch thick. Water thoroughly, and continue applying water twice per week to keep the soil evenly moist until the plants germinate in about 1 to 3 weeks.

Thin California poppies to one plant every 12 inches once the seedlings have reached about 3 inches in height. Reduce watering to once per week after the poppies begin to flower, and only water on weeks that do not receive at least one inch of natural rainfall.

Feed California poppy plants once per month during the summer months using an all-purpose garden fertilizer diluted to half strength. Apply only if necessary to encourage growth, as too much fertilizer can promote the growth of foliage over blooms.

Remove spent flower heads to maximize blooming, but allow some of the flowers to set seed if you wish the California poppy plants to return the following year. Trim plants back lightly if they begin to grow out of bounds.


Things You Will Need

  • Rake
  • Garden fertilizer


  • California poppy seeds may also be sown in fall for spring blooms.
  • California poppies are drought tolerant and may go up to two weeks without water. They perform best, however, when watered weekly.
  • California poppy flowers close at night and any time it is rainy or overcast.

About the Author


Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including Gardenguides.com.