How to grow papaver somniferum indoors?

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. E.T. on Tuesday June 13

A North Carolina man was arrested last month when police discovered an acre of opium poppies growing in his yard.

The alleged grower, Cody Xiong, faces a rare charge in the United States. Despite a raging opioid epidemic in the country, fields of home-grown opium are rare. The sheriff in the North Carolina case said the discovery was only the second time the plant had been found growing in the United States this year, WBTV reported.

There are two big reasons for this lack of agricultural entrepreneurship: effective U.S. law enforcement and the ease of importing heroin made from opium poppies grown elsewhere, said H. Douglas Wankel, a former assistant administrator and chief of operations in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Growing enough poppies to make heroin in the United States doesn’t make much economic sense compared to importing the drug from more lawless regions, Wankel said. Compared to marijuana, opium poppies are more conspicuous and harder to process, and carry much harsher penalties for growing.

“It’s very labor-intensive,” Wankel told Live Science.

How heroin is made

Heroin comes from the gum of opium poppies (Papaver somniferum). These flowers aren’t difficult to grow, Wankel said. They thrive in temperate climates and are probably native to the Mediterranean, but they can be grown in subtropical and tropical regions as well.

Papaver somniferum plants are the same ones that make poppy seeds, which are legal and widely available from many seed catalogues. Growing these seeds, though, puts gardeners in something of a legal gray area. The DEA includes “opium poppy” and “opium straw” (the plant, minus its seeds) on the agency’s list of Schedule II drugs, meaning that technically, the DEA could press charges against anyone growing that variety in their backyard.

Practically, the agency usually doesn’t do this, but in 1997, food writer Michael Pollan wrote an article for Harper’s Magazine on the potential legal complications of planting opium poppies. In the article, he described the case of a counterculture writer Jim Hogshire, who was arrested for possessing a handful of dried poppy bulbs he’d bought at a florist. Felony charges against Hogshire were eventually dropped in a plea bargain that left him with a misdemeanor on his record, a $100 fine, 100 assigned hours of community service and a year of probation, The New York Times reported. Pollan found that, at the time, the DEA was quietly trying to urge garden companies not to sell Papaver somniferum seeds.

It’s undeniably illegal to grow opium poppies with the intent to make opium tea, heroin or any other intoxicating substance. The processing itself is not challenging technically, though it does involve more labor than, say, harvesting marijuana: The grower must use razors to slice the bulb under the poppy plant in the morning and then wait all day for drops of thick, white opium gum to ooze out. This gum is then scraped and processed with water and solvents to extract a morphine solution. Additional chemicals are added to precipitate solid morphine out of this liquid.

This morphine solid is then dried, heated and processed with several other chemical additives to make heroin. Crude processing creates black-tar heroin, which is mostly smoked or snorted. Additional purification steps are needed to make white-powder heroin, which is injectable.

At-home heroin?

The first problem for do-it-yourself growers is that it would be hard to plant enough poppies to make an appreciable amount of drug without being noticed, Wankel said. The plants can grow more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) tall and are topped with brightly colored flowers that look a bit like frilly tulips. Any reasonably sized plot of these flowers would easily stand out in terrestrial or aerial surveys done by law enforcement agencies, Wankel said.

In one case in Oregon, a forest patrol officer stumbled across a plot of poppies in a remote area. Initially, he went to check them out because he thought the scarlet blooms would make a nice bouquet for his wife. On closer inspection, he realized the plants were suspicious.

Though opium yields vary based on growing conditions, 2.5 acres (1 hectare) of poppies typically produce between 17.6 and 33 lbs. (8 to 15 kilograms) of raw opium, according to the book “Opium: A History” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999). Estimated yields of heroin from raw opium are between 6 percent and 10 percent. Thus, the acre of poppies found in North Carolina would yield a little more than 13 lbs. (6 kg) of raw opium and 1.3 lbs. (0.6 kg) of heroin in a full growing season in the best of circumstances.

That’s not nothing; CBS News reported in 2014 that heroin was going for $60,000 per kg (2.2 lbs.) in New York City, though actual prices vary based on purity and supply. But the value of Xiong’s plants is nowhere near the $500 million that the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office claimed the poppy bust was worth.

The penalties are stiff for growing poppies in the United States. According to WBTV, Xiong has been levied an illegal drug tax of $186 million for growing the plants. He has also been charged with manufacturing and trafficking by possession. North Carolina has a mandatory minimum sentence of 225 months, or almost 19 years, in prison for trafficking more than 28 grams (about 1 ounce) of heroin. (For comparison, you have to traffic more than 10,000 lbs., or 4,500 kg, of marijuana to get a mandatory minimum of 175 months, or 14 and a half years, in prison in the state.)

Given the United States’ established law enforcement and stiff penalties for manufacturing heroin, most of the country’s supply of the drug comes from Latin America, Wankel said. Countries in which the government is ineffective are the most fertile ground for large-scale poppy cultivation, he said.

As of 2015, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that there are more than 690,00 acres (280,000 ha) of land under cultivation for opium poppies worldwide, with approximately 330 tons (300 metric tons) of heroin produced. Afghanistan is the world capital of opium; estimates peg its share of the global opium production at between 75 and 85 percent, with an estimate of nearly 500,000 acres (200,000 ha) under cultivation as of 2016. Most of Afghanistan’s production ends up on the black market in Russia, Asia and Europe, but smaller heroin producers in Myanmar and Laos also feed those markets.

Even in these countries, though, profits flow to the drug cartels that process and move heroin, not the people who grow the poppies. Vice reported in 2016 that Mexican farmers could sell a kg of opium paste for $870. The amount of heroin in that quantity of paste could, once processed, fetch more than $4,500 on the street in the United States. In Afghanistan, the UNODC estimates the total export value of the opium trade at $4 billion, only $1 billion of which goes to the farmers who grow opium poppies. The rest flows to traffickers and warlords, along with government officials who look the other way as poppy blooms nod in the fields.

Thorny problem

The problem of heroin addiction goes beyond the drug itself. Overprescription of legal opioid drugs — along with less-than-upstanding doctors and pharmacists who run “pill mills” that prescribe painkillers freely — has helped create widespread addiction to opioids, said Theodore Cicero, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who has researched opioid abuse. (Though only 4 percent of people who misuse prescription pills go on to use heroin, nearly 80 percent of people who become addicted to heroin had used prescription pills first, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.)

People often turn to the drugs as a form of escape or an (extremely dangerous) do-it-yourself mental health treatment, Cicero said.

“It meets a lot of needs for people to escape medical conditions they have,” he said.

As the depth of the problem has become apparent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tightened the guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. This has taken some of the pill supply off the black market, Cicero said, but people who are addicted have turned to heroin instead.

“As you reduce the supply of prescription drugs, addicts aren’t going to stop using,” Cicero told Live Science. “Rather, they’re going to switch to something else.”

Heroin is typically much cheaper than black-market prescription drugs anyway, Cicero said. Making matters worse, opioid users gradually develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning they need more and more to get high. In the quest for customers, dealers often sell heroin mixed with even higher-octane opioids, like fentanyl. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the UNODC. According to the DEA, most black-market fentanyl in the United States is illegally manufactured, mostly in China, rather than stolen from the pharmaceutical industry.

As more potent drugs have appeared on the market, overdose deaths have spiked. Since 1999, according to the CDC, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled. In 2015, the agency reported that 33,091 Americans died of a drug overdose involving a prescription or illegal opioid drug.

“There’s a fine line between the next best jolt,” Wankel said, “and the death jolt.”

Editor’s Note: This story was edited to note that Cody Xiong faces charges of manufcaturing and trafficking by possession, but has not yet been convicted of a crime.

Original article on Live Science.

Poppy (Papaver)

Blousy blooms with colourful, almost paper-like, petals are the hallmarks of many true poppies – particularly the perennial Oriental poppy – Papaver orientale. These flowers, swaying in the breeze, are the very essence of the British summer.

Most poppies also produce ornamental ‘pepper pot’ seed heads, which can be cut and used for indoor decorations.

There are several types of poppy, from the annual Papaver rhoeas, called the field poppy, corn poppy or Flanders poppy, and which includes a specific type called Shirley poppies, to those large-flowered, perennial Oriental poppies.The wild corn poppy brings a bright splash of red to fields, but it looks great in gardens too. It is perfect for providing colour in a sunny situation where little else will grow, and for creating cottage gardens and is excellent for attracting bees and other pollinating insects.

Papaver rhoeas is used as a modern-day symbol of hope every autumn and especially on Remembrance Sunday.

Other plants have the name poppy in their name, such as the blue poppy (Meconopsis) and Californian poppy (Escholzia), but true poppies are species and varieties of Papaver.

How to grow poppies


Poppies will grow well in either a sunny or partially shaded position.

Annual and biennial poppies will grow in a wide range of soils, including very poor and even stony ones, where little else grows well. The perennial, Oriental poppies prefer deep, fertile, well-drained soils.

Poppy varieties

  • Papaver rhoeas, the field poppy, is a hardy annual, growing up to 40cm (16in) high and flowering from June into September.
  • Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy, is also a hardy annual, growing to 60cm (2ft) high and flowering throughout summer. Cultivated varieties are safe to grow in the garden as they don’t produce opium!
  • Papaver nudicaule, the Arctic poppy or Icelandic poppy, is a hardy but short-lived perennial, usually grown as a biennial or even an annual. It grows up to 60cm (2ft) high and flowers from late spring to mid-summer. The perennial Oriental poppy, Papaver orientale, makes large, substantial plants up to 90-105cm (3-3.52ft) high. The flowers are up to 15cm (6in) across and produced in late spring and early summer. Lots of named varieties are available with flower colours from white all the way through shades of pinks and plum to deep red.

Sowing poppies

Hardy annuals

The hardy annuals are incredibly easy to grow, as you can sow them directly outside where you want them to flower. Sowing time is usually from late March to mid-May. You can also sow in August and September to give plants that will flower earlier the following year.

Sow the seeds in well-cultivated soil that has been raked to a fine tilth in drills 30cm (12in) apart. Water the soil regularly, especially in dry periods. When large enough to handle, thin out seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart.

Seeds can also be sown indoors in March/April in cell or plug trays filled with seed sowing compost at a temperature of 21-24°C (70-75°F). Lightly cover the seed with more compost and keep moist. Grow on the seedlings in cooler conditions of around 10°C (50°F) and plant outside in late May or early June when the last frosts are over, after hardening off – gradually acclimatising them to outdoor conditions – for 10-14 days.

Icelandic poppy

Sow Icelandic poppy seeds from February to April or August and September on the surface of moist seed sowing compost and cover with a fine layer of vermiculite at a temperature of around 18-21°C (65-70°F). When large enough to handle, transplant the seedlings into 7.5-9cm (3-3.5in) pots or module trays. Grow them on in cool, well-lit conditions and, when well grown, plant outside 30cm (12in) apart after hardening off.

Sowings made in August and September can be overwintered in a cold frame and planted out the following spring. Or you can sow them directly in the soil outside in late spring.

Planting poppies

Container-grown Oriental poppies can be planted at any time of year, but autumn to spring are the best times. Bare-rooted plants are also available from mail order suppliers for planting from late autumn to late winter.

Dig a good sized hole, big enough to easily accommodate the rootball. Add a layer of organic matter – such as compost or well-rotted manure – to the base of the hole and fork it in.

Place the roots in the planting hole and adjust the planting depth so that it is planted at the same depth as it was originally growing and the top of the roots are level with the soil surface.

Mix in more organic matter with the excavated soil and fill in the planting hole. Water in well, apply a granular general feed over the soil around the tree and add a 5-7.5cm (2-3in) deep mulch of well-rotted garden compost or bark chippings around the root area.

Suggested planting locations and garden types

Flower borders and beds, patios, containers, cut flowers, city and courtyard gardens, cottage and informal gardens, wildlife gardens.

How to care for poppies

Annual poppies

Monthly feeds with a liquid plant food during the summer will help increase flowering.

The annual poppies will flower for longer if they are deadheaded after flowering to remove the developing seed heads. Follow this up with a feed with a high potash liquid plant feed.

If the seed heads are left on some plants after flowering, they will self seed for future years.

Perennial poppies

For perennial Oriental poppies, water well during the first year whenever the weather is dry. In subsequent years, watering during prolonged dry periods may be needed to keep plants growing well. Mulching around the plants in late spring will help to conserve soil moisture and keep down weeds.

For the best displays, feed in early March with a general controlled-release feed.

After flowering, cut down the flowering stems and remove any old or damaged foliage to keep the plants looking good and tidy.

Flowering season(s)

Spring, Summer

Foliage season(s)

Spring, Summer


Partial shade, Full sun

Soil type

Clay, Loamy

Soil pH


Soil moisture

Moist but well-drained

Ultimate height

Up to 1.2m (4ft) depending on variety

Ultimate spread

Up to 60cm (2ft)

Time to ultimate height

2-3 years

The Iceland poppy or summer-blooming Papaver nudicaule is a hardy perennial suited for cold climates as it comes from the icy, rocky terrains of Iceland and the polar regions.

Featuring large, bright flowers on leafless stems, the Papaver nudicaule has become a popular outdoor perennial in colder regions and grown as an annual in warmer regions.

It is part of the family Papaveraceae along with the:

  • California poppy
  • Oriental poppy
  • Blue Himalayan poppy
  • Bush poppy (Dendromecon rigdia)

The Iceland also goes by a couple of common names:

  • Icelandic Poppies
  • Arctic Poppies

Papaver nudicaule pronounced , is an easy-care and easy to grow flower that even thrives in harsh conditions.

While it is an undemanding plant and deer resistant, the following tips will help ensure optimal growth.

Iceland Poppy Care

Size and Growth

Most varieties of Icelandic poppy reach between 12″ to 16″ inches tall. It’s a low-growing plant with bushy growth near the roots and flowering stems that reach about six inches.

While the flowering stems don’t produce leaves, the bushy growth below produces tiny, thin leaves that cover the base of the plant.

Flowering and Fragrance

Iceland poppies are available in a rainbow of colors.

The flowers are found with various shades of yellow, pink, orange, salmon, cream, rose, and white.

Several of these flowering plant varieties are even bi-colored.

The bloom time starts in early spring with blooms typically lasting into early fall. The flowers appear at the ends of the stems and produce a slight fragrance.

Each flower contains four delicate petals around a handful of stamens.

Later in the season, the ovary appears and develops into the seed heads. It resembles a small lamp when ripe.

For indoor flower harvesting, the flowers can be picked when they are still buds, just as the color starts to show.

TIP: Sear the tips of the flower stems with a lighter to increase the life before placing them in a vase.

Light and Temperature

While there are many popular plants that grow best in warm weather, the Iceland Poppy prefers cooler weather. It’s recommended for USDA hardiness zones 2 to 7.

Despite the need for cooler conditions, the Iceland Papaver poppy likes full sun but also grows well in partial shade.

It’s a hardy plant that thrives just about anywhere if the weather doesn’t get too hot or humid.

Watering and Feeding

Iceland poppies don’t need frequent watering. Only water the plant when the weather is dry during the spring or summer. During the winter, it rarely needs watering.

Feed the plant once or twice each season unless the soil is already fertile.

Soil and Transplanting

It grows well in poor soil. If the soil is too rich or too much fertilizer is added, the plant will grow thicker. Unfortunately, the extra growth discourages flowering.

If the soil drains too quickly, adding some clay to the mix can help create a firmer foundation for the plant.

It isn’t a long-lived plant. It typically dies out in a few years, eliminating the need to transplant.

In fact, the process may kill the plant. While it’s not a picky plant, it may not survive getting transplanted.

Maintenance and Grooming

Remove withered leaves to prevent plant diseases from spreading to the rest of the plant.

Removing the older flower before they produce seed pods can prolong the bloom.

How to Propagate Papaver Nudicaule

Propagate the plant using Iceland poppy seeds in the fall or spring. It’s a self-sowing plant and tends to die out after a couple of seasons. Sowing the seeds allows for continual growth.

Harvest the seeds from the pods when the capsules turn dark brown and start to open. If sown in the fall, the poppies should bloom next summer.

To sow the seeds in a flower bed, simply sprinkle them over the soil and cover with a thin layer of sand.

If growing the plants in containers, sow the seeds in a plant starter tray. After the seedlings appear, thin them out, leaving two to three small seedlings per tray.

When grown from a seed packet, the plants will likely produce red, yellow, and orange blooms.

The plants can be separated by color, making it easier to propagate specific colored varieties the following year.

Icelandic Poppies Pests or Diseases

The biggest threat to the plant is wet soil. Poppies don’t survive long in soil that is saturated with water. Ensure that well-drained soil is used.

Poppy blight is another threat to the health of this plant. It appears as a fungus on the bottoms of the leaves and on the stems.

Treat the whitish-gray deposits with fungicide and trim away any darkened parts.

Suggested Ways To Use Iceland Papaver Plants

Iceland poppies are almost always grown outdoors, where it’s easier to show off the brightly colored Icelandic flowers that last through a large portion of the year.

The plant also grows well in poor soil, providing more options for placement around the yard.

Grow the plant in rock gardens, near paths, or on a patio.

Some gardeners are growing Iceland in their garden to create beautiful cut flowers.

Iceland Poppy

Iceland poppies have glistening, translucent flowers, which are a glowing sight when backlit by the sun. The petals look like tissue paper or crinkled silk. Their spring and early summer splendor in warm parts of the country can be enjoyed throughout the summer in cooler climates. They’re short lived perennials that are best started fresh each year.

Annuals Image Gallery


Description of Iceland poppy: A rosette of thin, narrow leaves forms the base. The tall, slender stems are topped by flowers virtually in all colors of the rainbow but blue, with many hues in between. The ring of prominent yellow stamens enhances the colorful blooms. Stem height varies widely from 1 to 2 feet. There are semi-double forms as well.

Growing Iceland poppy: Iceland poppies prefer full sun and a fertile, well-drained soil; otherwise, their requirements are not demanding. Early flowers during cool weather will be the largest. To encourage continued flowering, remove seed heads when they form.

Propagating Iceland poppy: By seed. Seeds sown indoors in January will bloom the first season. Plants may also be started the previous summer and overwintered in the garden. In mild winter areas, bloom can start in the winter. Seeds germinate in 10 to 15 days at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Poppies are tap-rooted plants that do not transplant easily once the tap root is formed. Grow in peat pots and transplant into the garden, pot and all.

Uses for Iceland poppy: A whole bed of poppies is spectacular. They can also be grown as clumps, groups, or ribbons of plants in mid-border. They’re especially beautiful backed by the foliage of hedges or other green plants. They also make good cut flowers. Cut the flowers in early morning just as the buds are showing color, sear the cut ends in an open flame or plunge the stems in hot (not boiling) water for a few moments.

Iceland poppy related species: Papaver rhoeas, the Shirley poppy, is the cultivated form of the Flanders poppy, a deep scarlet with black centers. There are many new forms including doubles in pink, white, rose, salmon, as well as red. Mother of Pearl is a selection of pastel shades including gray, blue, lilac, dusty pink, and bicolors.

Iceland poppy related varieties: Wonderland series offers separate colors of white, orange, yellow, pink, and a mix. They’re more compact than most, blooming on 1-foot stems. Oregon Rainbows and Iceland Mixed Colors are a mixture of exceptionally large-flowered Iceland poppies, including peach, apricot, cream, picotee bicolors, green, and lavender, as well as more conventional colors.

Scientific name of Iceland poppy: Papaver nudicaule

Opium Poppy Papaver somniferum

Opium Poppy: A Field Guide

Despite the fact that its name sounds like a controlled substance, opium poppy is a harmless and charming annual flower to add to an ornamental bed or an edible garden.

Like many of its cousins in the poppy family, Papaver somniferum is an annual wildflower, with varieties that will bloom in a wide range of colors from white to red to purple. If you leave seed heads in place, opium poppies will sow themselves in the garden and pop up next year un unexpected spots. “A couple of seeds may result in shades of profound magenta and desirable pink. On the other hand, they could germinate into the tawdriest hues of clapped-out mauve, in which case you are perfectly within your rights to pull them out,” writes our contributor Kendra Wilson, an avowed enthusiast who nurtures opium poppies in her edible garden.

Unlike its cousins with larger and more assertive blooms, such as the Iceland poppy (P. nudicaule) and the Oriental poppy (P. orientale), opium poppies are delicate additions to the front of a flower border. If you are trying to choose the right poppy for your garden, see our overview on the topic at Poppies: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

The Remembrance poppy is the common field poppy (Papaver rhoeas), one of the first wildflowers to colonise disturbed ground or fallow cornfields. It became identified with the battle zones of the First World War, or Flanders Fields, which were originally corn fields.

Poppies have become synonymous with remembering those who died in the First World War Credit: National Trust/Handout

  • Buy poppy seeds now from Thompson & Morgan

Moina Michael, an American humanitarian, devised the idea of making this flower the symbol of Remembrance.

Here are some interesting facts you may not have known about the flower which represents so much.

  1. The use of opium poppies goes back to Sumer – an ancient civilization, which recorded their use in the form of images.
  2. Enormous poppy fields feature in both the film and book version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – a chapter in the book itself is even entitled ‘The Deadly Poppy Field’
  3. Major John McCrae’s poem, In Flander’s Fields, was supposedly written on the evening of the 2 May, 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, in memory of his friend, Alexis Helmer
  4. The poppy’s use in medicine was reworked in George R.R.Martin’s Game of Thrones – where a medicine entitled ‘milk of the poppy’ is used.
  5. Poppies bloom from mid-June right through to October.
  6. Persian literature cites red corn poppies as the flower of love.
  7. Poppies are frequently found weeds on agricultural land, however they were welcomed as they proved the soil was fertile.
  8. Opium poppies are grown commercially in Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Lincolnshire and Wiltshire for use in medical opiates such as morphine
  9. Poppy seeds can remain active in the soil for 8 years.
  10. Main different garden strains exist, such as Shirley poppy, Iceland poppy, California poppy, Himalayan and Welsh.
  11. Poppies are featured on the back of Canadian $20 notes
  12. Poppy seeds do contain opium alkaloids, meaning that if poppy seeds are ingested, in the most innocent of ways, it can give false readings during a drugs test. As a result, people travelling on planes between countries are advised not to carry poppy seeds, and in Singapore they are classified as ‘prohibited goods’.
  13. Average seed numbers per plant can range from 10,000 to 60,000.
  14. Opium poppies feature on the Royal College of Anaesthetists coat of arms.

• 20 free Oriental Poppies and seed. Just pay £5.65 postage

Iceland Poppy Care – How To Grow An Iceland Poppy Flower

The Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule) plant provides showy blossoms in late spring and early summer. Growing Iceland poppies in the spring bed is a great way to add delicate foliage and long-lasting flowers to the area. When planted in the right spot, the Iceland poppy plant blooms from May through July.

Iceland poppy flowers attract birds, butterflies and bees. The flowers of the Iceland poppy plant are usually orange and reach 2 feet (60 cm.) in height and the same in spread. Colors of white, yellow and red are available in more than 80 varieties of the Iceland poppy flower, as are varying heights.

Don’t be deterred from planting this beautiful, easy-care bloom out of fear that it is illegal. The opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) variety is the only one that is forbidden from cultivation in most areas.

How to Grow an Iceland Poppy

Plant seeds of the Iceland poppy plant in fall. Seed directly into the flower bed that will be the permanent location of the Iceland poppy flower, as the plants do not transplant well. If you wish to start seeds indoors, use biodegradable cups that can be planted right into the bed.

There is no need to cover the seeds; the Iceland poppy plant needs light to germinate in spring. Mark the area, if necessary, so you don’t mistake the spring foliage for a weed.

Grow the Iceland poppy flower in a full sun area. Soil for the Iceland poppy plant should be light and well drained.

Iceland poppy care includes a onetime feeding in spring with a general purpose fertilizer. Other Iceland poppy care involves the deadheading of spent blooms for more of the cup-shaped flowers to appear.

You should also water infrequently during times of limited rainfall.

Now that you’ve learned how to grow an Iceland poppy, be sure to plant some seeds in fall in a sunny area, around the same time you’re planting flower bulbs. Plant them in masses for showy blooms. The Iceland poppy flower is a great companion to other spring blooming plants.

Plant of the Week

Range map of the California poppy. States are colored green where the California poppy may be found.

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). © Br. Alfred Brousseau, Saint Mary’s College.

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Photo by Julie Kierstead Nelson.

Slideshow: California Poppy – Modern Reminder of California’s History (PDF)

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

By Julie Kierstead Nelson

California poppy, the state flower of California, is native to the Pacific slope of North America from Western Oregon to Baja California. Adelbert von Chamisso, naturalist aboard the Russian exploring ship “Rurick”, discovered and named the species. The Rurick visited Alaska and California in 1816 under the command of Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue. Chamisso named the California poppy Eschscholzia californica in honor of J. F. Eschscholtz, the ship’s surgeon and entomologist (note that he accidentally left the “t” out of Eschscholtz’s name).

Seeds of this plant were introduced into English gardens in the nineteenth century. Seed catalogs now offer many different colors. California poppies have been planted in most of the United States and have become established along roadsides, in empty lots, and other disturbed places. In California, it is hard to tell any more which poppies are native wildflowers and which are garden escapes.

California poppies are easy to grow. Sow the seeds shallowly (1/16-inch deep) in fall or early spring in mild, wet winter climates, including most of California west of the Sierra-Nevada. Seeds will germinate after the first fall rains or when the soil warms in the spring. In hot summer areas, the poppies will bloom in spring and early summer, and then the tops will die back and the plants become dormant during the heat of the summer. The poppy survives in the form of a fleshy taproot. In cooler coastal climates, California poppies may bloom most of the summer. Sandy, well-drained soil in full sun is best. No supplemental watering is required unless the growing season is exceptionally dry.

In mild-winter climates, these poppies will survive several years, resprouting each fall. They will reseed themselves if they are happy. Where winters are cold, the poppy behaves as an annual, renewing itself from seed each year. The flowers of California poppy close each night, and on cloudy days. Enjoy them where they grow. If you pick California poppies for a wildflower bouquet, you will be disappointed when the petals almost immediately fall off.

For More Information

PLANTS Profile – Eschscholzia californica, California poppy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *