Common name: Poppy
Poppies are either annual, biennial, or herbaceous perennials and are members of the papaveraceae family.
They range in size from a few inches tall to four or five feet tall.
The colour range is extensive for example: they can be white, red, pink, blue, purple, yellow and orange making them the perfect flower for any garden border or wild / meadow garden.
Another attribute of these flowers is they require little care and no fertilizing, and they will reseed and return year after year, some species have the ability to live for up to to 20 years.
And if that is not enough the stems can be cut down when the seedheads appear and be used in floral arrangements.
Alpine poppy (alpinum)
A rock garden specie that forms mounds of grey green foliage about 100mm (4") high and spreads to around 250mm (9")
The flowers are 30-50mm (1.5"-2") in diameter and appear from May onwards.
Iceland poppy (nudicaule)
A short lived perennial that is generally treated as a half hardy annual.
The plant grows to around 600mm (24") high and should be planted out at 300-500mm (12-18") apart.
The flowers are approx 50mm (2") in diameter and appear in June to August.
Oriental poppy (orientale)
A hardy perennial that grows to around 700-900mm (30"-36") high, and should be spaced out around 600mm (24") apart.
The 100mm (4") diameter scarlet flowers with a dark blotch appear from May onwards.
Field poppy (rhoeas)
A hardy annual that grows to around 600mm (24") high and should be spaced out around 300mm (12") apart.
The 75mm (3") diameter red flowers with a black centre appear in June to August.
Opium poppy (somniferum)
A hardy annual that grows to around 750mm (30") high and should be spaced out around 300mm (12") apart.
The 100mm (4") diameter flowers appear in June to August followed by large flat topped seed pods, often used for flower arranging or as part of a dried flower display.
Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica)
Is a perennial with yellow or orange petals.
It is a prolific self seeder and spreads quite easily and can often be found growing between paving slabs and at the edges of walls.
Cultivation of annual species:
Sow seeds directly into their flowering position, thinning down to required spacing.
Most poppies resent root disturbance so transplanting is not recommended.
Alternatively, sow under glass in cell trays of seed compost by placing a pinch of seed in each cell, and germinate at 16°C (61°F)
Germination should take about five to seven days, if sown in seed trays indoors, and up to two weeks if sown directly into the soil outdoors.
As soon as the seedlings grown indoors are large enough to handle, prick out the weakest seedlings in each cell leaving the strongest one to grow on.
Gradually harden off by placing in a frost free cold frame until planting out time.
Plant out in ordinary well drained soil in a sunny position.
Most species self seed, so dead head regularly to prevent this.
Cultivation of perennial species:
If not done previously in November, take root cuttings by scraping away the soil to expose suitable lengths of main roots and cut off pencil-thick pieces with either a sharp knife or secateurs.
See below for method.
Divide established plants and replant immediately.
If not done previously, take root cuttings now.
Most poppies can be sown direct in spring into the soil, either into a nursery bed or where they are to flower, but to perform, well they need thinning out to at least 200mm (8”) apart.
Sow by broadcasting them thinly in a prepared seed bed, transferring the strongest plants to flowering positions in the autumn or next spring.
Alternatively, sow seed in pots/trays of seed compost and germinate in a cool greenhouse or cold frame.
When seedlings are large enough to handle prick them out into 75mm (3") pots of potting compost, and grow on in cold frame until planting out time.
Cut down stems with their large flat topped seed pods, and use as part of a dried flower display.
To take seed for next season, save surplus stems, and hang them upside down to dry in a shed/garage until required.
Plant seedlings out in suitable weather from now until March.
They may take several years to build up into flowering size.
If soil conditions allow, take root cuttings from orientals by scraping away the soil to expose suitable lengths of main roots and cut off pencil-thick pieces with either a sharp knife or secateurs.
Cut the pieces into 50mm (2”) sections by making a sloping cut at the base and a straight one at the top, this ensures they are planted the right way up.
Push each section down vertically into the compost with the sloping cut facing down, then cover the tops with compost or 13mm (½”) of sharp sand, grow on in a cold frame until the following March/April.
Keep containers moist and frost free.