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Papaver orientale
Papaver orientale

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Zone
Zones vary by species.
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Papaver

Poppy
Papaveraceae
Annuals, Perennials

Poppies provide gay spring and summer color for borders, containers, and bouquets. Give ordinary, well-drained soil, and feed lightly until established. Perennial species tend to be short-lived. When using poppies as cut flowers, sear cut stem ends in a flame before placing them in water.

Papaver nudicaule
Papaver nudicaule

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Papaver nudicaule

Grown as an annual in Zones 7–9, 12–24. Native to subarctic regions. Coarsely hairy, blue-green, divided leaves make basal rosettes 6 in. wide. Hairy, 1–2-ft. stalks bear cup-shaped, slightly fragrant flowers to 3 in. across, in yellow, orange, salmon, rose, pink, cream, white. In cold-winter areas, sow seed in earliest spring for summer bloom; or set out plants in fall for bloom the following year. In mild-winter climates, set out plants in fall for winter and early spring bloom. To prolong flowering, pick flowers freely.

Papaver orientale
Papaver orientale

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Papaver orientale

Native to the Caucasus, northeastern Turkey, and northern Iran. Needs winter chill for best performance. In mild-winter areas, flowers tend to form without stalks, so they are partly or completely hidden among the leaves. Height is variable; some types are just 16 in. tall, others reach 4 ft. Plants spread by offsets to 2 ft. or more. These are among the leafiest poppies, forming bushy clumps of hairy, medium green, coarsely cut leaves to 1 ft. long. Blooms are 4-6 in. across; deeply crinkled petals often have a black blotch at the base.

Plants bloom from late spring to early summer, then die back (sometimes not completely) later in summer. In all types, new leafy growth appears in fall, lasts over winter, and develops rapidly in spring. Set sprawling plants such as baby’s breath (Gypsophila) nearby to cover the bare areas left after poppies die down. Plant dormant crowns in fall with tops 3 in. deep; or set out container-grown plants. Provide good drainage and room for air circulation. Divide every 3 to 5 years in mid- to late summer, after foliage has died back.

Papaver rhoeas
Papaver rhoeas

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Papaver rhoeas

Native to Eurasia and North Africa. Slender, branching, hairy-stemmed plant to 3 ft. tall and 1 ft. wide, with short, irregularly divided leaves. Single or double flowers are 2 in. or more wide, in white, pink, red, orange, salmon, scarlet, lilac, soft blue, bicolors.

Mix seed with an equal amount of fine sand, then broadcast it where plants are to grow. For bloom from spring through summer, make successive sowings starting in early spring. In low and intermediate desert, plant in fall for outstanding early spring show. For cut flowers, pick when buds first show color. Remove seed capsules (old flower bases) weekly to prolong the bloom season. Notorious self-sower.

Papaver somniferum

Believed to have originated in southeastern Europe and western Asia. Grows to 4 ft. tall. Hairless gray-green leaves have jagged edges. Late spring flowers are 4–5 in. across, in white, pink, red, purple, deep plum, and are sometimes single, usually double; some of the double forms have fringed petals. Blooms are followed by large seed capsules used in dried arrangements. Ripe pods include large quantities of the poppy seed used in baking. Shake pods over a tray to collect the seeds. Opium is derived from the sap of the green capsules; derivatives include morphine, codeine, and heroin. American federal law permits the sale, possession, and use of opium poppy seed, but it is illegal—a felony, in fact—to grow opium poppy plants. In spite of this, they are commonly sold at nurseries as “breadseed poppies.”

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