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How to Plant California Poppy Seeds

The California Poppy is also referred to as Eschscholzia californica and belongs to the Papaveraceae family. It is an indigenous plant to California and is regarded as a perennial in all zones, but is typically grown as annual. Poppies are small growing, compact plants with blue-green colored leaves and stems that can reach 24 inches in length. Colors of the California Poppy vary from various shades of yellow to deep orange, with some varieties also coming in cream, red, pink and white.

Outdoor Planting

Purchase California Poppy seeds. A good time to plant California Poppy seeds is during the fall in mild-winter areas (areas where there are above-freezing temperatures) and in the spring in colder regions (areas where there are below-freezing temperatures).

Select an area for planting. It's best to plant the seeds directly into the soil, since they do not transplant well. (However, you can start them a few weeks prior to spring by planting the seeds into peat pots.) When choosing an area, keep in mind that the plants require full sun and well draining, sandy-type soil.

Turn over the area you've selected to a depth of approximately 5 to 6 inches. Rake the area until it's level and smooth.

Water the area until the soil is damp but not saturated.

Scatter the seeds in the area. Gently rake the area to distribute the seeds further and protect them from birds. Or, press the seeds into the soil and cover with no more than 1/16 inch of soil. You can also place 2 to 3 seeds every 3 to 4 inches in rows approximately 12 inches apart, and cover seeds with 1/16 inch of soil. Place planting stakes around the area so you will know where to water.

Check on your seeds about once a day. Make sure to mist the soil whenever it appears dry. Germination for California Poppies is approximately 7 to 10 days, depending on the warmth of the soil. Once your California Poppies reach about 2 to 3 inches in height, you can reduce the frequency of irrigation, since California Poppies do not like damp growing conditions.

Planting in Peat Pots

Fill up the peat pots with a high-quality potting mix. Water each using your plant mister. Don't saturate the soil--use a gentle mist to dampen the topsoil in each pot.

Place a few seeds (2 to 3) into each peat pot and push them into the soil with your finger. Cover the seeds to a depth of approximately 1/16 inch of the potting mix. Mist each peat pot with water until the soil appears moist.

Place the pots in an area which will provide both light (which is required for germination) and heat, preferably about 65 to 70 degrees F and at least 8 hours of light each day.

Check on the seeds every day and keep the seeds damp but not drenched by misting with your plant mister. You should see sprouting in about 7 to 10 days.

Once your seedlings have reached about 2 to 3 inches in height, choose an area in your garden to transfer them. You can also use containers like barrels or clay pots.

Dig holes twice the width and depth of each of your peat pots. Fill up each hole with water then let it drain off.

Place a peat pot in the hole center and level so that your seedling is at the same level as the surrounding soil. Push dirt in carefully all the way to fill the hole back up. Water each seedling carefully so as not to soak the leaves or stem.


California Poppies grow best in arid coastal areas since they do not tolerate heat or humidity.

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