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A Guide to Growing Poppies

The common Poppy, Papaver rhoeas, is an annual, self-seeding flower that blooms in the late spring. Seeds of the Poppy can lay dormant in the soil for up to 80 years and will germinate once the soil is disturbed.

A Guide to Growing Poppies

The traditional color of the Poppy is red but there are varieties of the flower that bloom in colors such as orange, yellow, pink, and white.

Types of Poppies

Cultivars of the common Poppy are collectively called the “Shirley Poppy”. These cultivars come in a variety of colors and add great interest to your garden and make stunning cut flowers in arrangements.

Amazing Gray:

This variety produces small blooms in a stunning purple-gray color. This Poppy prefers full sun and will grow up to 30 inches tall. Directly sow the flower’s seeds into the garden once the risk of frost has passed in the spring. 

Mother of Pearl:

This flower comes in smokey, muted tones of gray, lilac, mauve, pink, orange, and white. Often the flowers will be a combination of two colors for a stunning effect. These Poppies also prefer full sun. Surface sow in the late fall or early spring when frost has passed. The seeds will germinate in two to three weeks.

Angel’s Choir:

This Poppy produces double and semi-double blooms in various shades of pink and white. This type also prefers to be directly sown in the ground in fall or spring.


The blooms range from red to a deep burgundy with hints of silver or white on the outer petals. The flowers grow to a height of between 12 and 25 inches. If the plants are deadheaded after bloom expires they will bloom from June to September.

When to Plant Poppies

Sow Poppy seeds directly into the garden in either the fall or spring. Seeds sown in the fall will go dormant and overwinter until the following spring. If seeds are sown in the spring, they will germinate within two to three weeks. 

Where to Plant Poppies

Choose a spot that receives full sun with at least six hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal Poppy growth. Poppies will adapt to partial shade, but both growth and flower production will be inhibited. 

Poppies are not particular to the type of soil they grow in and will adapt to most soil types as long as the soil is well draining. Poppy seeds will germinate and grow in poor soil but will only achieve optimal growth in rich soil with some nutrients.

To prepare the site for sowing your Poppy seeds, use a rake to clean up any stray vegetation off the soil and to loosen the top inch of soil. If the soil is of poor quality, sprinkle a ½ inch-thick layer of compost and work it into the top layer of the soil with your rake. 

How to Plant Poppies

Poppies look best in the garden when they are randomly scattered throughout the planting area. Sow the seeds by hand onto the surface of your prepared soil. Once all the seeds are sown, use a garden rake to gently cover the seeds with 1/8th of an inch of soil. Water the area until the soil is moist but not soggy. 

Companion Plants for Poppies

Companion Plants for Poppies

Including companion plants with your Poppies creates a more diverse and natural-looking garden. The following flowering plants get along well with Poppies, require the same growing conditions, and look great in contrast to the Poppy.

Shasta Daisy: 

Shasta Daisies are another full-sun perennial that grows three feet tall and two feet wide. The white Shasta Daisies look great interspersed among your Poppies. Daisies grow best in zones 5 to 9.


Salvia are tall plants that produce long spikes of flowers in purple, blue, yellow, pink, or red. The Salvia is a hardy plant that tolerates high heat and will continue to bloom from June until the first frost in the late fall.


The big blooms of the Dahlia stand up well to large Poppy flowers. Booth plants are easy to care for and grow well under the same conditions. Dahlias are available in a variety of colors so you can create the color combination you want easily.


These early bloomers appear in spring, often when there is still some snow on the ground. Hyacinth are very fragrant flowers and look stunning when dispersed in with Poppies of a contrasting color. 

Caring For Poppies

Water your young Poppies regularly until the plants become established and regular growth is occurring. Once the plants are thriving, only water your Poppies if the weather is hot and rainfall levels are low. Water until the soil is moist, but not soggy, as too much water will result in leggy plants with overgrown stems.

In most cases, Poppies do not require additional fertilizer if they are growing in a nutrient-rich soil. If you notice your Poppies are producing a large amount of foliage but very few blooms, this is an indication of a nutrient imbalance resulting in too much Nitrogen and too little Phosphorus. Feed the Poppies with a low Nitrogen, high Phosphorus fertilizer to correct the imbalance and encourage more blooming.

Once all your Poppy’s blooms have all died off, cut the plants back to soil level to encourage new growth. Often, if your growing season is long enough, your Poppies will enjoy a second blooming season. 

Overwintering Poppies

As Poppies are self-seeding, annual plants they do not need any traditional overwintering preparations. Instead, allow the plants to produce their seed pods and let these pods dry out naturally. Once the pods have dried, you can leave them to disperse their seeds on their own, or remove the pods and scatter the seeds yourself for more control over where they germinate. 

After the first frost, or once the foliage is dying off on its own, cut back the foliage once again to the soil level to keep the area clear of rotting debris. 

Growing Poppies FAQ

Are Poppies Considered Toxic?

Yes, Poppies are considered very toxic and no part of the plant should be consumed. 

What Do Poppies Mean in Flower Language?

The primary meanings associated with Poppies are consolation, remembrance, and death. 

Can Poppies Be Started Indoors?

Yes, Poppies can be started by seed indoors. The seeds require cool temperature, light, and a consistently moist soil. 

When is the Best Time to Cut Poppies for Flower Arrangements?

Cut Poppies when the flower bud is just starting to open and only a crack of color can be seen through the sepals. The flower will continue to open indoors and will last five to seven days after becoming fully open. 

Can Poppy Seeds Be Stored?

Yes, once the pods have dried out, place them in an airtight container or resealable bag and store them in a cool, dark place.