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Learn about Poppy

Poppy: Direct Sow, Bare Root or Potted Plant Perennial

How to Sow and Plant

Poppy may be grown from seed sown directly in the garden, or grown from bare root or potted plants.

Sowing Directly in the Garden:

  • Direct sow in late spring to summer, after the soil is thoroughly warm, in full sun in deep, moist, well-drained, well amended soil.
  • Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.  
  • Sow seeds evenly and thinly and barely cover with fine soil.
  • Keep evenly moist.  
  • Seedlings will emerge in 10-20 days at 55-70 degrees F.
  • Thin to about 12 inches apart when seedlings are 2 inches high.

Planting Bare Root Plants:

  • Choose a location in full sun with deep, moist, well-drained, well amended soil.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12, inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
  • The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
  • Dig a hole twice as deep and wide as the bare root.
  • Spread the roots out in the hole. Hold the roots suspended in the hole at the proper depth. Fill in around the roots with soil until the hole is filled.
  • Tamp the soil firmly to get rid of air pockets and to ensure that the plant is set at the right depth.
  • Water well to fully saturate the roots and soil.
  • Because poppies have tap roots, be very careful to not damage the root when planting.

Planting Potted Plants:

  • Choose a location in full sun with deep, moist, well-drained, well amended soil.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12 inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
  • The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
  • Plant on a cloudy day or in late afternoon to reduce transplant shock.
  • Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.  
  • Unpot the plant and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root growth.  
  • Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand. Because poppies have tap roots, be very careful to not damage the root when planting.
  • Use the plant tag as a location marker.  
  • Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds.

How to Grow

  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their germination.  
  • Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For perennials, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time.  Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
  • Careful watering is essential in getting perennials off to a good start. Water thoroughly at least once a week to help new roots grow down deeply. Soil should be damp at about 1 inch below the soil surface. You can check this by sticking your finger in the soil. Water early in the morning to give all leaves enough time to dry.  One inch of rain or watering per week is recommended for most perennial plants. You can check to see if you need to add water by using a rain gauge.
  • After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer such as Garden-tone, as higher rates may encourage root rots.
  • Remove foliage when it dies back. Oriental poppy foliage dies back after bloom in mid-summer.
  • In colder regions, apply another layer of mulch (1-2 inches) after the ground freezes in fall. Evergreen boughs (from Christmas trees) provide additional protection. Remove this mulch in the spring.

Growing Tips

  • Do not transplant poppies as their tap root is easily damaged.
  • Poppies make great cut flowers. When cutting snip the stems just before the buds open. Seal the stems by burning the cut ends with a match before immersing them in water.
  • The seed pods are great for dried arrangements as well.

Common Disease Problems

Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations. 

Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet. 

Edema (Oedema): Leaves become distorted due to excess moisture in the soil. Plants absorb more water than they can use. Burpee Recommends: Do not overwater plants, keep the soil moist but not wet. If drainage is poor add compost or peat moss to improve drainage. 

Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations. 

Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots. Burpee Recommends: Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations. 

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects that can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap. 

Hoplia Beetle: The adult beetle is oval shaped about ¼ inch long and a dark reddish brown head and thorax and the rest of the body is a silvery green iridescent in sunlight. The larvae are small crescent shaped grubs that live in the soil. The grubs feed on plant roots and adults feed on the flowers, especially of lighter colored varieties. Burpee Recommends: Handpick and dispose of beetles in a bucket of soapy water. 

Plant Bugs: These bugs have a characteristic triangle or X shape on their backs formed by their folded wings. They suck the juices from foliage causing a pale stippling and distorting plant tissue. Varnishlike spots of excrement may dot the leaves. Burpee Recommends: These bugs do not usually cause extensive harm to established plants. Remove damaged foliage.

Spittlebugs: These hopping insects protect themselves from predators with a white foam while the young insects feed on the leaves and stems. When the insects emerge they are hoppers with large "froggy" eyes. There is only one generation each year but the larvae can hatch over a period of several weeks as the eggs were laid in the fall. Burpee Recommends: To control wash the foam off with a strong water spray. This will usually also kill the larvae. Do this once or twice a week for as long as needed. The damage is usually minimal. 

Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls. 

Poppy FAQs

Do you sell the poppy with edible poppy seeds? No, the poppies we sell do not have edible seeds.

My Oriental poppy plant died after flowering mid-summer? Oriental poppy plants go summer dormant; they die back during summer’s hottest months. Do not be alarmed if new growth appears in the fall and persists through winter. Try to plan for a black space in your border during the hottest part of the summer.

Do I need to divide poppies? We do not recommend disturbing poppies because of their taproots. Poppies tend to be short lived in the garden, but often self sow.

Can I grow poppies in containers? Yes, but poppies tend to be cool season plants and containers tend to heat up faster than the garden. They may die back in midsummer as well. Keep them cool and they should be fine.

Are poppies deer resistant? Yes, they do tend to be deer resistant.

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