How to Grow Papaver Plants

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Poppy

Members of the Papaver plant genus can reach from 20 to 90 cm (8 to 36 inches) in height.

As a large genus, specific members may be grown as hardy annuals, biennials and perennials in the garden.

The common names for Papaver is the Poppy.

Papaver rhoeas
Papaver rhoeas - Common Poppy by Anemoneprojectors.

Some annual poppies include Corn poppy, Tulip poppy, and Flanders Poppy. The biennials and perennialPapaver varieties include Icelandic poppy (Papaver nudicaule) and Oriental poppy.

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

Papaver nudicaule
Papaver nudicaule - Icelandic poppies by Kimon Berlin.

Poppies have a cup shaped flower. These appear in nearly every colour but blue.

Plants bloom with flowers appear from the middle of spring through to summer.

Commonly Grown Papaver Species Photographs and Plant Identification

Papaver somniferum

Papaver somniferum
Papaver somniferum (Breadseed Poppy / Opium Poppy), photograph by Dr. Hans-Günter Wagner; CC.

Papaver rhoeas

Papaver rhoeas
Papaver rhoeas (Common Poppy / Flanders Poppy / Corn Rose / Field Poppy / Red Poppy), photograph by Andreas Rockstein; CC.

Papaver orientale

Papaver orientale
Papaver orientale (Oriental poppy), picture by Gail Hampshire; CC.

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 Papaver plant 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 in late autumn or early spring for Annuals

By using continuous sowing in the spring, Annual poppies can have a prolonged blooming season, well into the summer).

Poppies like to grow in sunny areas, and enjoy 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. It will take about 20 days for the seeds to germinate. This should be performed in the dark, at 21°C (70°F).

Try planting poppies out following the last frost of spring, at about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) 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. It is therefore a good idea to dead-head the plant before seed-set.

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, Mexican poppy, Blue poppy, and Romneya plants.