How to grow Know your: Poppies

Know your: Poppies

Photo - Robin Powell

A quick guide to identifying and growing the right bunch of poppies for you.

Iceland poppy

Papaver nudicaule

ID – Familiar from florists buckets, these are recognised by their hairy stems and flowers in tangerine, lemon, pink or white with four crinkled-silk petals.

Grow – This is an easy-care annual. Buy punnets in autumn and plant densely – at least 20 to a square metre. Pinch out the first few flower stems to allow the pant to reach 20cm across before flowering. Liquid feed monthly. Flowering will peak in September. 


Oriental poppy

Papaver orientale

ID - Finely cut feathery foliage explodes in spring with immense, vibrantly coloured flowers boasting bold black centres, black blotches and a prominent crown of stigma and anthers in the centre. One sight of these flowering with roses or sweet peas and gardeners are smitten.

Grow – These are native to the mountains of Turkey and Iran so grow better in cool, frosty areas. Keep them on the hungry side. These are best grown from pots. Shop online or at a plant fair. 


Photo - Kew Gardens


Californian poppy

Eschscholzia californica

ID – This cheery wildflower has finely divided foliage, pointed buds and simple orange flowers in early spring. Also available in red and yellow.

Grow – Native to Mexico and Southern USA so best for hot dry climates. Grow from seed. Sprinkle around companions like rock rose (cistus), Californian lilac (Ceanothus) and Pride of Madeira (Echium). Avoid this one if you live near bushland, as it self seeds readily. 



Flanders poppy

Papaver rhoeas

ID - This is the red remembrance poppy from the battlefields of France: blood red flowers with a black blotch on each petal.

Grow – Scatter seed in autumn for spring blooms. Plants grow up to a metre tall. Collect the seed in late summer and store until next autumn. Best for cold climates.



Shirley poppy

Papaver rhoeas

ID - These variations of the Flanders poppy are simple cups of lilac or pink.

Grow – Mickey Robertson at Glenmore House grows this poppy in two straight lines under her espaliered apple tunnels. The poppies bloom when the apple is in blossom, which is both gorgeous and practical – the poppies attract honeybees to pollinate the apples. Plant seed in autumn and collect the seed in late summer. 



Blue poppy

Mecanopsis betonicifolia

ID - Rare as rocking horse poop, this blue poppy makes gardeners go weak at the knees when they see it for the first time as it really is the blue of a cloudless sky.

Grow – You can’t – unless you move. Native to the Himalayas, this poppy is best admired in other people’s gardens – like the Royal Saville garden at Windsor - or at the Chelsea Flower Show.



Text: Linda Ross 

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Author: Linda Ross