Poppies (Papaver sp.) are resilient, tolerant plants. Their bright, crepe-like flowers nod cheerfully in rocky areas that deter other plants, and poppies reseed happily in gardens with poor soils. This tough nature comes with a price, however. Poppies produce thick taproots that enable them to survive under adverse conditions, but this feature also prevents easy transplanting; whenever possible, wait for the poppy to produce seed and simply reseed your plant in another area or transplant young seedlings. If you must move a poppy plant, follow a few guidelines to reduce stress on the poppy and increase your chances of a successful transplant.
Select young poppies whenever possible, especially when moving annual varieties such as Shirley or corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas). If you are transplanting seedlings, wait until the sprouts have two sets of true leaves. Water well to soften the soil.
Dig a new planting hole for the poppies in a sunny, well-drained area. If you move multiple plants, space the holes 1 foot apart.
Clear the area around the poppy. Use the shovel to cut a wide area around the plant, encompassing as much of the root system as possible. Lift the poppy, and stop if there are still roots binding the plant to the ground. Dig deeper if necessary.
Set the poppy immediately into the prepared planting hole, and adjust the hole depth to ensure the top of the poppy's root ball soil is even with or just above ground level at the new location. Press the soil lightly, and eliminate any air pockets. Water well, and mulch the newly transplanted poppy.
Transplant poppies on cloudy days, or wait until later in the afternoon. This reduces heat stress on the newly moved plants. Transplanting late in the day or evening allows the plant to recover some before enduring additional heat stress from the sun.
Always space poppies based on their mature size. Crowded poppies may appear attractive in bloom, but crowded poppies also attract pests and disease.