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How to Care for Poppy Plants

Poppy plants are flowering herbs valued for their ornamental blossoms and ease of care. The plants typically grow to about 2 1/2 feet in height and 1 foot in diameter, forming colorful flowers during spring in shades of white, red or pink. Poppy plants are used extensively in flower gardens and floral arrangements, as their blossoms are long-lasting after being cut. They are resistant to most pests and diseases and require only basic care to thrive in the home garden.

Plant poppy plants during late fall in a location that receives full sunlight throughout the day. Spread a one-inch layer of peat moss over the planting site and use a garden tiller to incorporate it into the soil to increase drainage and fertility. Space poppies 10 inches apart.

Water poppy plants once per week, but only on weeks that receive less than two inches of natural rainfall. Do not splash water on the foliage during applications; moist leaves are more susceptible to pests and disease.

Feed poppy plants during late winter, just before new growth begins in spring. Use a balanced 10-10-10 NPK flower fertilizer to provide adequate nutrition. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper application and dosage.

Remove dead or faded poppy flowers as soon as possible to encourage the formation of fresh blossoms. Allow one or two flowers to remain and turn into seed heads if self-propagation is desired. Cutting flowers for arrangements will also encourage further blooming.

Lime On Poppy Plants

The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) flourishes in the western region of the United States, from southeastern Washington State to Baja California. The plant produces parsley-shaped bluish-green leaves topped by bright orange flowers. California poppies may be grown as specimen plants in the garden or broadcast in open grasslands to add vivid spring color. California poppies flourish in soils with pH levels from 5.0 to 8.5. Flowers may be up to 6 inches across on 4 foot stems. The Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) is a perennial poppy that thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 through 10. An application of horticultural lime is normally not required in most soils. Native to Burma, the perennial Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis "Lingholm") grows best in moist, acidic soil.


Do not mulch poppy plants; they will not be able to reseed and growth may be hindered.

Do not transplant established poppy plants. They are fragile and may not recover from the shock.

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