Poppies usually need to be replanted each spring, as an annual flower. With their large seed pods, each containing hundreds of seeds, they are a suitable choice for learning the art of seed saving, and saving yourself the cost of purchasing seed or plants each year.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Purchased poppy flower seed (not that used in cooking)
- Short stakes
- Flagging tape
- Scissors or knife
- Large bowl
- Cheesecloth, optional
- String, optional
Choose one or more varieties of poppy flower seed to plant. If more than one variety is chosen, they must be planted far apart or, to be assured of preventing cross-pollination, you will need to pollinate the plants by hand. Label and place stakes to identify varieties.
As soon as the flowers begin to bloom, mark the plants from which you want to harvest seed by tying flagging tape around the stems. Choose those that have the characteristics you desire, such as size, colour, or early blooming. Those chosen should also be vigorous and healthy. f you are planting only one variety of poppy, you may omit Step 3, as bees will do the pollination for you.
If you choose to pollinate by hand, just as the chosen buds are opening, cover them with cheesecloth or lightweight white fabric and tie shut at the base. Replace fabric if it becomes wet. Remove each day to brush pollen from the tips of the stamens (thin projections around the ovary) onto the ovary at the centre of the flower, using a Q-tip or tiny paint brush. Remove covers when petals begin to fall, as pollination is complete.
Cut selected flower heads when petals are falling and the ovary, which will become the seed pod, is enlarged. Leave about two inches of stem on the flower head. Spread flower heads out on newspaper and allow to dry about two weeks, in a place that is room temperature or warmer, dry, and out of the sunlight.
Shake the pods to hear the seeds rattling inside to be sure seeds are sufficiently dry. Split the pod open and shake the seeds into a bowl. If opening the pod is difficult, poke a hole in the top of the pod with a knife to remove seeds.
Store seeds in a paper envelope, marked with the name of the variety and the year harvested. Keep in a room temperature, dry place.
Tips and warnings
- 1. By carefully selecting the parent plants for seed saving from year to year, you can develop your own strain of poppy, with the colour and size you want and suited to your microclimate .
- 2. Place envelopes in a rodent-proof container to prevent damage.
- 1. If seeds are stored in plastic or glass, even a few minutes of sunlight on the container can cause enough moisture condensation to damage the seed.
- 2. If you do not prevent cross-pollination of different poppy varieties, the dominant traits will eventually predominate in your saved seeds. These flowers have single petals and are purple and white in colour.
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