Oriental poppies underscore a certain level of magnificence and flamboyance when they bloom in your garden – truly unique. Poppies are quite appealing, and that explains why they are a favorite for most people.
With shades of purple, red, pink, white and orange, these plants are truly gorgeous to have around. The grayish-green foliage they form as they grow out of the ground creates a sense of responsibility and authority – you feel as if you are playing your part in making the world a better place to live in. The beauty they produce is a sight to behold.
These perennials are not too hard to grow either. However, they are a little different than other plants you have dealt with – but that does not mean they are complicated.
The Different Varieties of Poppies
The field poppy or the Papaver rhoeas go as high as 16 inches and flower between June and September. The field poppy is a hardy variety, and so it should not be so much trouble to care for.
The opium poppy or Papaver somniferum is another hardy variety that flowers throughout the summer and grows up to 2ft. And no, you don’t have to grow it in the forest somewhere away from the law enforcement. They don’t produce opium – good news?
Another hardy variety is the Icelandic poppy or in more scientific terms, Papaver nudicaule. They are short-lived and can actually be annual or biannual. They manage a height of 2ft, and they flower between late spring and summer.
However, the perennial Oriental poppy can reach a height of 3.52ft. Their flowers are substantial and can reach 6 inches. The other name for this variety is Papaver orientale.
Sowing the Poppies – Best Time to Scatter and Growing Inside
Some of the most natural plants to sow are the hardy annuals – quite hardy as the name suggests. As a matter of fact, you can sow directly to where you think they should be, outside. And the most appropriate time to do so is between late March and mid-May.
The idea is to make sure you sow the seeds in a soil that is adequately cultivated and raked 12 inches apart. Ensure you water the soil well and more so during the dry season. And when they have grown to the right size that is easy to deal with, thin them out at a gap of 6 inches – the seedlings, of course.
You can sow the seeds indoors by using plug trays or cells. Fill it with compost maintaining temperatures between 21 and 25 degrees centigrade. Remember to keep the compost moist and only transfer them outside early June when snow is ending.
And for the Icelandic poppies, you do it between February and April. Place the seeds on the surface of moist compost covered in vermiculite. The ideal temperature for sowing is about 21 degrees centigrade. And when the poppies have attained the appropriate size, transplant them into module trays or pots and make sure they are in a cool and well-lit environment. You can then transfer them outside and plant them at 12 inches apart.
Alternatively, you can sow Icelandic poppies between August and September. However, you will need to plant them out the following spring.
Planting Poppies – What is the Best Time to Plant?
You can plant oriental poppies at any time of the year. However, the ideal time is autumn spring. Dig a hole of the right size that can comfortably accommodate the plant – all of it including the rootball. Have a layer of organic matter at the bottom of the hole. You then place the roots in the hole and adjust appropriately – the idea here is to make sure the top of the roots are level with the soil.
You then mix the organic matter with the topsoil and add it to the hole. Add a general feed before watering in sufficiently. A three-inch thick mulch of adequately aged manure sprinkled around the roots will be perfect – you can also have wood chippings as mulch, the choice is yours.
Edibility of Poppy Seeds
You have probably heard something about poppy seeds and their edibility – and that may have made you look at them longingly. The seeds are a fabulous addition to bagels and bread – they are a standard feature in wholemeal foods. Unfortunately, not all seeds are edible.
The only seeds that you can eat are from Papaver paeoniflorum and Papaver somniferum – the keyword here is ONLY. Others are NOT edible, unfortunately.
Caring for Poppies
- For the young poppy seedlings, water them at least once every week. This is only applicable if there was less than an inch of downpour in the last seven days. The colorful poppies need this much water when growing – one inch. However, when fully developed, you will not need to water them except during the dry weather.
- You should never forget to cover the poppies with mulch – at least 2 inches thick. Mulch helps keep the soil moisture and weed from thriving. It may seem a bit off, but you need to keep replenishing the mulch every spring to make sure it is always 2 inches thick.
- During the flowering period, you should keep cutting the dead flowers as they are likely to prevent further blooming. However, you can leave the seed pods for the appeal.
- Keep testing the soil and add lime if necessary – the goal is to maintain a neutral PH, ideal for the poppies.
- You will not need to feed the poppies – of course, we mentioned they are hardy plants. They also don’t need watering unless the weather is extremely dry.
- The tall varieties can sometimes succumb to the weight of their blooms. If you happen to notice this, use flower stakes for support.
- To propagate, you can use the emerging baby tubers or the taproot cuttings. You get them by digging the root up and cutting it into 1-inch pieces. Ideally, do this in fall. Resist the urge to overdo it. – Poppies are quite proud and may not take your actions to disturb them kindly. However, the plants are hybrids, and you will not get the original plant after propagation.