Oriental poppies provide perennial garden flowers valued for their large, colorful blossoms, longevity and ease of care. Native to central Asia, these plants have adapted well to conditions in the United States. They produce flowers in spring in shades of orange, pink, maroon, purple or white, and quickly die back when temperatures rise. By entering dormancy in summer when moisture is less abundant, Oriental poppies survive until fall, when new foliage emerges. Oriental poppies grow in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 2 through 7 and thrive in most temperate regions of the country. Care for Oriential poppies by mulching the planting area and watering regularly.
Plant oriental poppies during mid-spring, after all danger of frost has passed. Choose a planting site that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Space oriental poppies 2 to 3 feet apart for the best results.
Spread a 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil surrounding the flowers to minimize weeds, increase moisture conservation and release additional nutrients into the soil. Begin the layer at least 3 inches from the base of the poppies to allow air circulation and room for new growth.
Water oriental poppies once each week during spring and summer. Reduce the frequency of water applications to once every two weeks during fall and winter when the plant is dormant. Apply water directly to the soil to reduce the chance of disease.
Fertilize the soil twice per year, once in early spring and again in early fall, using a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Water immediately after applying to release the nutrients into the soil. Apply following the manufacturer's instructions for proper dosage.
Pinch off dead or faded oriental poppy flowers to conserve nutrients, prevent self-propagation and encourage the formation of new blossoms. Sever the flowers at their point of origin to minimize damage and reduce the chance of disease.