How to plant poppy seeds

Written by macy mcdonald
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How to plant poppy seeds
Red poppies (Photos: juicyverve, kungfujen, audreyjim529, oakley originals - Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0)

Poppies are ornamental plants often cultivated for their vibrant flowers. They are extremely tolerant of cold temperatures and adapt to most growing conditions. Considered perennials because of their ability to self-seed, they often bloom in the summer and the fall, with flowers lasting three to eight days. Poppy plants are an outstanding colour choice for planting in both garden beds and containers.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Purchased or harvested poppy seeds
  • Tiller, hoe, spade or rake
  • Compost or organic fertiliser
  • Broadcast spreader (optional)
  • Liquid fertiliser (optional)

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  1. 1

    Plan your poppy garden for an area that receives full sun. Plant seeds in early spring or after the last snowfall for an early summer showing. For late spring blooms, sow seeds in early autumn.

    How to plant poppy seeds
  2. 2

    Loosen the soil using a tiller, hoe, spade or rake.

    How to plant poppy seeds
    Single poppy flower
  3. 3

    Spread a light covering of compost or organic fertiliser, and rake to distribute it evenly.

  4. 4

    Scatter the seeds by hand, or use a broadcast spreader to randomly sow the seeds over the prepared soil. Because poppy seeds are small, gardeners often mix them with sand to achieve a more even distribution. Plant the seeds into shallow trenches if you desire a more orderly outcome to your garden.

  5. 5

    Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil or sand. That helps protect the seeds from birds and small animals.

    How to plant poppy seeds
    California poppies
  6. 6

    Moisten the poppyseed soil bed after planting and as needed. Poppies prefer a consistently moist soil. They possess a delicate root system and should be watered gently until taking root. Germination is dependent on climate and should occur between four and 25 days.

  7. 7

    Thin seedlings, if desired, when they reach a height of 5 inches. Plants placed 8 to 10 inches apart will face less competition and produce more pods and seeds. Continue watering regularly. Liquid fertiliser can be added for more vigorous plants.

  8. 8

    Harvest the largest pods, and save the seeds for the next planting. Poppies are self-seeding and should reseed themselves once pods burst open. An established poppy garden is likely to produce a biannual showing with little maintenance.

    How to plant poppy seeds
    Poppy pod

Tips and warnings

  • Inspect poppy plants for aphid and beetle infestations, which can be removed with a strong watering. Weak plants may also be susceptible to powdery mildew or grey mould, which will cause discolouration on flowers. Fungicides can be used, but prevention is recommended.
  • Check local laws before growing opium poppy plants. Some poppy varieties are used for medicinal and edible purposes, leading to strict control of their production in the United States.

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