How to Grow Papaver Plants

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Poppy

Members of the Papaver genus can reach from 20 to 90 cm in height and are grown as hardy annuals, biennials and perennials in the garden.

The common names for Papaver is Poppy; some of the annual poppies include Corn poppy, Tulip poppy and Flanders Poppy; the biennials and perennial papaver varieties include Icelandic poppy (Papaver nudicaule) and Oriental poppy.

Papaver rhoeas
em>Papaver rhoeas - Common Poppy by Anemoneprojectors.

Poppies have a cup shaped flower (in nearly every colour but blue), and flowers from the middle of spring through to summer.

Papaver orientale
Papaver orientale (note spelling: not Papaver oriental or orientalis) - Oriental Poppies by Amandabhslater.

Papaver nudicaule
Papaver nudicaule - Icelandic poppies by Kimon Berlin.

Papaver Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Poppy: Common; Corn; Field; Opium; Peony; Pygmy; Spanish; Pricklyhead; Dwarf; Atlas; Fire; Tulip; Icelandic; Lapland; Oriental; Annual.
Scientific names: Papaver nudicaule, Papaver orientale, Papaver rhoeas.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual, hardy annual. Biennial. Hardy perennial.
Height: 6 to 40 inches (15 to 100 cm).
Native: Cooler regions of Europe, Asia, North America, Africa.

Growing Region: Annuals: zones 1 to 10. Perennials: zones 2 to 9.
Flowers: Spring and summer.
Flower Details: Yellow, red, lilac, pink, orange. The base of the flower often has a black base. Cup-shaped. Four to six petals. Ovary develops into a capsule.
Foliage: Lobed. Stem contains a latex.

Sow Outside:
Annuals: Surface or cover seed. Every six weeks from just before the last frost until the end of spring and again in autumn. Spacing 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm). Poppies prefer to grow in cooler regions so only sow in the autumn in very warm areas.
Biennials: Surface or cover seed. Late-summer. Spacing 8 to 24 inches (20 to 60 cm).
Perennials: Surface or cover seed. Before the last frost or in autumn. Spacing 8 to 24 inches (20 to 60 cm).
Sow Inside: Not recommended. Use peat pots. Germination time: three weeks in the dark. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Six or seven weeks before expected last frost. Transplant outdoors following the last frost.

Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Soil pH 5.5 to 7. Moist soil. Provide support for taller species. Deadhead. Water during prolonged dry periods. Propagate: cuttings from the roots in the autumn.

Family: Papaveraceae.
Miscellaneous: Used as a symbol for remembrance and Anzac day in many countries: In Flanders fields the poppies blow ; John McCrae.

How to Grow Poppy (Papaver)

Depending on the variety sow poppy seeds on the surface at the beginning of spring or the end of autumn (perennial poppies); in the middle of summer (biennials) or late autumn or early spring annuals (by continued sowing in the spring annual poppies can have a prolonged blooming season in the summer).

Poppies like to grow in sunny areas and like a moist soil of pH 5.5 to 7.

It is best to sow Papaver seeds outdoors as opposed to starting them off indoors in the greenhouse or in a conservatory.

If you choose to grow poppies indoors, then they should be sown in peat pots and it will take about 20 days for the seeds to germinate in the dark at 21 degrees.

Try planting poppies out following the last frost of spring at about 15 to 30 cm apart for optimum results.

Caring for Poppies and other Papaver Plants in the Garden

Once growing it is best to deadhead poppy flowers, such as those from Papaver nudicaule, after they have finished blooming.

Although Papaver plants do carry attractive seed heads they are prone to take over the garden if left to self seed.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Papaver plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Glaucium and Romneya plants.