There is something ephemeral about poppies. While the Oriental poppy is a large perennial plant with big showy flowers in spring, I favor the more delicate, seeded poppies that flower in spring or fall depending on your location. These include the California poppy, Icelandic poppy, and Shirley poppy. I love their paper-thin, colorful flowers that dance in the breeze.
These poppies grow quickly from sown seeds into flowering plants. They dont transplant well, so sowing seeds directly in the garden or starting seeds in biodegradable pots is best. While you can sow them in early spring for spring blooms, in warm climates you can also sow them in later summer for fall and winter blooms. In cool areas, some will bloom on and off all summer.
Once established in a garden, poppies will provide years of color. In fact, be careful where you plant them because some poppies love to spread and can become weedy over time. Mother plants tend not to survive in most areas, but seeds disperse and germinate quickly. I often get two to three flushes of color from my poppy plantings from the self-sown seedlings, and the seeds overwinter in the soil for next year as well.
Here are some of my favorites:
- California Poppy: The classic California plant is actually well adapted to many areas of the country. While the original species produces orange flowers, there are now versions with white, pink, and red flowers.
- Icelandic Poppy: These North America natives like cool weather conditions, so sow seeds in early spring, or in late summer for fall. Although they are technically a perennial, most survive as annuals or biennials. Red and white are the dominant colors, but you’ll also find varieties with orange, yellow, and pale red flowers.
- Shirley Poppy: These poppies are also known as the Flanders poppy or corn poppy. The traditional color is bright red. They bloom in spring, but in many areas successive sowing of seeds produces flowers into summer and fall. In warmer climates, try a late-summer seeding for fall and winter flowering.