Growing Poppies from Seeds

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Poppies seed tool

It’s hard to imagine a more carefree, romantic flower than the poppy. As the English romantic poet John Keats wrote, “Through the dancing poppies stole a breeze most softly lulling to my soul.” 

It’s easy to see what he meant when the spring breezes blow softly through the orange, pink, red and purple poppies in my garden. It warms my heart to see those delicate petals dance in the wind on their long, narrow stalks.

Best of all, poppies grow easily from seeds sown directly in the garden. Poppies also tend to self-seed again each year, filling in the spaces of my garden beds, and popping up in the most neglected spots in my garden, without much work on my part.

 

Poppies

 

Above you can see orange California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) with pink and red Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoes), growing amongst purplish-blue Canterbury bells and golden yarrow in my cottage-style garden in May. 

It must have been an overcast day, because the tiny orange California poppies have closed blossoms. These poppies close up at night or when the clouds are out. They are wide open during sunny days.

Growing Tips:  

My fascination with poppies began with a couple packs of inexpensive poppy seeds sown in well-prepared garden soil in early-March about three or four years ago. From those few seed packs, these pretty flowers have been coming back again and again ever since.

 

Corn Poppies

 

Above is a lovely field of bright-red corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) spotted during a dog walk in spring. Planted in mass, this poppy – also called the American Legion Poppy – gives an amazing display.

Poppies seeds prefer cool weather, and can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring. Some gardeners prefer to plant poppy seeds mid-fall. The seeds overwinter in the garden and germinate the following spring.  Poppies prefer well drained soil, and really love the sandy, well-amended soil in my garden.

Whether you plant in fall or early spring, remember that poppy seeds require light to germinate. Rake seeds lightly in the surface of the soil, and keep them moist. Luckily, spring weather usually helps with watering.

When your poppies grow about 2 inches tall, thin them to one plant every six or eight inches, depending on the variety. Your seed package will give you spacing directions.

In the right growing conditions, you’ll find poppies are easy to grow and don’t require much maintenance!

 

Shirley poppies

 

One of my favorites is the Shirley poppy, which comes in pink, rose, salmon and red. It makes a lovely cut flower with aromatic herbs. Deadheading poppy flowers regularly will keep them blooming, especially with Shirley poppies.

 

Lauren Grape Poppies

 

Another poppy I’m eager to grow this year is ‘Lauren’s Grape’ (Papaver somiferum), which has an exquisite dark purple-violet bloom. Legend has it that Colorado garden writer Lauren Springer planted some poppy seeds from her bagel to discover this flower. But the truth is that she spent years “culling the seeds from the most beautiful purple poppies growing in her garden,” reports Botanical Interests seeds.

 

Heirloom pepperbox poppie

 

Foodies may enjoy the ‘Heirloom Pepperbox’ – these old fashioned-poppies offer very pretty flowers as well as handsome seed pods for flower arrangements and delicious poppy seeds for culinary use. The blossoms come in purple, red and violet with dark splotches in the middle.  The flowers only last a few days, but the seed pods last for ages, long after your garden is just a pleasant memory.