How to Grow Poppies

Poppies are one of the prettiest flowers to grow in a garden. They come in bright reds and warm oranges and form informal patches of color in your late spring garden. Most poppies self seed a little bit too so that once established they are carefree in the garden.

Poppies are best when they are grown from seed that is planted in fall or winter, even in cold winter areas. The seeds need to go through the natural freeze and thaw cycles to germinate and that is accomplished by fall sowing. They can also be sown in early spring, about a month before your last frost date. If your land is easily disturbed, try winter sowing: put some potting mix at the bottom of a small container and sow the seeds, then place the container outside in January or February. The containers keep the seed from washing away or being disturbed by animals.

To sow directly into the garden, prepare the area where you want your seeds to grow by raking the area smooth and removing any rocks. In fall, after the soil has cooled down, sprinkle the seeds on the ground. Cover lightly and mark the area. When the snow melts and the ground is warmed by a spring sun, the seeds germinate and start to grow.

Although poppies are trouble free in the garden they do need a sunny position that is sheltered. The flower stalks are quite frail and can be damaged by spring storm winds and heavy rain. The protection of a shrub, wall or support hoop helps keep them safe from such damage. Varieties that only grow to about 2 feet, such as some heirlooms and compact poppies, are less prone to environmental damage than the taller varieties.