Poppies are a wonderful addition to any perennial garden in the Midwest. There are a few different varieties and colors to choose from, but all have about the same growth habit and garden needs.
The Oriental poppy (Papavar oriental) is the variety most people recognize with its bright red-orange petals, although they now can be found in white, pink, and salmon hues. These bloom during late spring – early summer. They reach heights of about 2 1/2 to 4 feet high and flowers can measure from 4 to 8 inches in diameter.
The Iceland poppy (Papavar nudicaule) blooms different colors on the same plant that include yellow, pink, cream, orange, and salmon. The leafy rosette reaches about 1 foot high with the flower heads nodding at about 2 feet. The blooms are on average 2 inches around.
Poppy care and cultivation
Poppies need a light, loamy soil that does not hold water and full sun. Planning a location for your poppies takes forethought, as during the hotter parts of the summer the leaves will dieback, creating an empty spot in the garden. Although planting a large patch can be an awe-inspiring experience, think about a later blooming plant to place in front of it to cover the plants dormant stage. Inter planting with other perennials can also be a solution.
Successfully cultivating poppies relies mostly on timing. They also do not like to be transplanted because of their long taproot, so indoor cultivation is not recommended.
From seed, the strongest plants will come from seed that is planted in the late fall, as the seeds need to be stratified, or go through a chilling period to germinate. Poppy seeds are extremely small, and mixing the seed with a small amount of sand will help thin them out. Seeds should be barely covered & pressed into the soil. A small layer of mulch will help stop the seeds from being washed away and offers some winter protection.
© Ilex Farrell