Learn About Poppies

How to Sow

Annual poppies are grown from seed sown directly in the garden after heavy frost.

  • Direct sow seeds in average soil in full sun after all danger of heavy frost
  • Prepare the soil by removing weeds and working organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
  • Most plants respond well to soils amended with organic matter. Compost is a wonderful form of organic matter with a good balance of nutrients and an ideal pH level, it can be added to your planting area at any time. If compost is not available, top dress the soil after planting with 1-2 inches of organic mulch, which will begin to breakdown into compost. After the growing season, a soil test will indicate what soil amendments are needed for the following season.
  • Sow seeds thinly and cover with ¼ inch of soil.
  • Firm soil lightly, water and keep evenly moist.
  • Seedlings will emerge in 10-14 days.

How to Grow

  • Thin to stand about 10 inches apart when 1 inch high.
  • 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 seeds from germinating.
  • Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For annuals an organic mulch of 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.
  • Keep soil evenly moist but not wet.
  • No fertilizer is needed unless the soil is poor. Do not over fertilize.
  • Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
  • Remove plants after they are killed by frost in fall to avoid disease issues the following year.

Growing tips

  • Enjoy the beautiful blooms of these easy annuals in beds and borders.
  • Poppies make wonderful cut flowers. Cut the flower when it is still in bud, and seal the cut end of the stem with a lighted match to prevent rapid water loss.
  • Poppies are also excellent flowers for naturalizing in a wildflower meadow.
  • Poppies are great for rock gardens.
  • Poppies tend to self-sow reliably; leave some spent flowers to develop seeds.

Common Pests and Problems

Botrytis (Gray Mold): 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.

Damping Off: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason. Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, thoroughly wash them in soapy water and rinse in a ten per cent bleach solution after use.

Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish gray 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.

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: Practice crop rotation and do not plant related crops in the same area for several years. 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 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.

Leafhoppers: Leafhoppers cause injury to leaves and stunt growth. They also spread disease. Burpee Recommends: Remove plant debris. Use insecticidal soaps. Consult your Cooperative Extension Service for other insecticide recommendations.

Lygus Bugs (Tarnished Plant Bug): Lygus bugs are ¼ inch long and are green or brown with yellow markings. Nymphs are flightless and smaller than the adults. They suck on stem tips and flower buds and inject a toxic that deforms roots, stems and ruins flowers.  Burpee Recommends: Because lygus bugs over winter in garden debris, remove all debris after the first frost. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for insecticide recommendations.

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.

FAQ

Should I deadhead my annual poppies? Yes for continuous bloom it is important to remove the spent flowers.

Can I indoor sow poppies? Poppies are very difficult to transplant because they develop a tap root so we do not recommend them for direct sowing. They are quite easy to sow directly in the garden.

Are poppies deer resistant? Poppies are seldom damaged by deer, however if you have a lot of deer and little food deer will eat them.

Are poppies drought tolerant? Once they are established they are drought tolerant. 

Do poppies attract pollinators? Yes, they are very attractive to bees.

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