How to Grow Papaver Somniferum From a Seed

Written by megan mattingly-arthur
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How to Grow Papaver Somniferum From a Seed
Beautiful Papaver somniferum (poppies image by Tomasz Plawski from

Papaver somniferum, more commonly known as opium poppy, is an upright annual flowering plant that boasts bluish-green leaves and stunning flowers in shades of red, pink, purple or white. Native to southeastern Europe and western Asia, Papaver somniferum grows best in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 10, where the average annual minimum temperature is at least -15 degrees C. Sow your paver somniferum seeds in the late summer or early fall to ensure plenty of gorgeous spring blooms.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Papaver somniferum seeds
  • Compost
  • Peat moss
  • Garden fork
  • Horticultural sand
  • Salt shaker
  • Water-soluble fertiliser

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  1. 1

    Select a full-sun planting location for your Papaver somniferum seeds that receives six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Choose a planting location that provides your Papaver somniferum with afternoon shade if you live in a warm southern climate.

  2. 2

    Amend the soil at your selected planting location with organic material to make it more hospitable for growing Papaver somniferum. Spread a 4-inch layer of equal parts compost and peat moss over the surface of the soil. Work the amendments into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil until they are evenly distributed.

  3. 3

    Stir your Papaver somniferum seeds into a 1/2 cup of horticultural sand. Pour the Papaver somniferum and sand mixture into an old salt shaker with holes large enough to allow the seeds and sand granules to pass through.

  4. 4

    Shake the salt shaker to distribute the seeds over the soil at your prepared planting location. Continue shaking the salt shaker until all the seeds have been distributed.

  5. 5

    Water your Papaver somniferum seeds immediately after sowing to help them settle into the soil. Continue to water your Papaver somniferum regularly to maintain evenly moist, but never soggy, soil.

  6. 6

    Fertilise Papaver somniferum flowers with a balanced, water-soluble fertiliser like Miracle-Gro or Blooms Plus once a month while the plant is actively growing. Follow the application directions on the fertiliser package.

Tips and warnings

  • Though an annual plant, Papaver somniferum usually reseeds itself at the end of the growing season.
  • All parts of the Papaver somniferum plant, with the exception of the seeds, are poisonous.
  • Though Papaver somniferum seeds can be eaten, they contain trace alkaloids that can cause drug tests to test positive for opiates.

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