Planting california poppy seeds

The California poppy: Fall planting is best for their natural life cycle

By Maureen Gilmer

Ask historians why California was first named “Tierra Del Fuego” and you’ll get an argument every time.

Translated from Spanish, it means “land of fire.” One camp believes it was due to wildfires that burned every year from June through December. Others attribute it to the California poppy, with its fiery orange blossoms cloaking coastal hills in color during April and May. While these wildflowers aren’t abundant enough today to seemingly warrant such a name, conditions a few hundred years ago were very different.

Native-plant experts attribute the changes to the introduction of exotic grasses and other herbaceous plants that have naturalized on the Pacific Coast. These out-competed the native grasses, displacing them entirely in most areas. The native grasses were compatible with the poppies, but these exotics arrived with their own special chemistry to discourage competition. They pushed the wildflower into limited areas.

While we always think of this poppy in the spring, it is a child of autumn. Unlike many annual wildflowers, Eschscholzia californica is technically a perennial. The tiny seeds produce a plant with a deep taproot that survives through the hot, dry, dormant season to flourish with the fall and winter rains. However, this plant can also be an annual where conditions aren’t good enough to support a taproot. They will grow and bloom from seed, then die out entirely.

Poppies in general love disturbed ground. California poppies are most often found in porous sandy, gravelly soils or on better ground provided it is on a hillside to ensure rapid drainage. The hills north of Los Angeles illustrate this every spring when the huge perennial colonies come back densely from roots to shelter new seedlings. But more often the poppies are often found along roadsides, often in conjunction with our annual lupine, both of which thrive where conditions are too Spartan for competing. Similarly, poppies can be found in the thin soils of cliffs and rocky outcroppings too hostile for ordinary plants.

How and when you sow California poppy seed can dictate whether they become perennial, or are just a flash-in-the-pan wildflower color. In the wild, seed is shed and lies dormant over the hot summer, waiting to germinate with the rains of late fall in California. This begins early development of the taproot, which digs deeper and deeper over the cold, wet season. Then when days grow longer, they are well established to produce a large foliage mass and numerous flowers. The root also helps them to survive the rigors of the long, hot dry season to come.

Sowing in spring is not productive because there is no time for taproot development. Sure, they may sprout and bloom modestly, but when the heat comes they wither and die. But if you sow them in the fall you are working with their natural life cycle. It can mean that a greater proportion of those you grow do indeed become perennials to come back a second year.

If you’re serious about sowing seeds on a new home site, a recently graded piece of land, the site of a landslide or reintroducing them into your natural garden, pass by the small packets in the store. Instead, buy your seed in bulk so there is enough of it to produce a highly visible result. It also allows losses to birds and washout after a heavy rain. American Meadows sells them by the quarter pound. (Visit http://www.AmericanMeadows.com.) Also check out Eden Brothers (http://www.edenbrothers.com) and Clyde Robin Seed Company (http://www.clyderobin.com).

The beauty of fall-sown wildflowers is that it’s easy to forget about them over the holiday season. When conditions are right and spring rolls around, you’ll enjoy your own tierra del fuego, as the orange blossoms of California’s amazing state flower spread like wildfire throughout your garden.

How to grow: California poppy

The drying seed pods split open with an audible crack on sunny days; if you have enough plants it sounds like Chinese New Year in miniature. A good tip is to cut some plants hard to the ground during mid-summer to encourage a succession of flowers throughout the season, while leaving others to set seed.

Eschscholzia californica thrives in dry, gravely and well-drained soil – I have seen it looking fabulous growing almost without soil, each side of a gravel drive. Once established, it will seed itself around, often germinating in nooks and crannies where one would never have dreamt of trying to plant anything.

How to grow

The most successful and cost-effective way to grow the California poppy is by sowing seed directly into prepared ground during spring – and for prepared read stony. Work your topsoil into a reasonably fine tilth before applying a layer (up to 2in thick) of gritty sharp sand, pea shingle or rounded stone. The seed can be broadcast directly on to this free-draining layer before being watered in. A succession of sowings from early April through to May will result in plants maturing and flowering over a long period. It is possible to grow E. californica under glass in pots or, in some instances, to buy as an established plant, but it is hardly worth the effort.

Good companions

As the California poppy is a plant of rough and rocky ground it associates best with plants of a similar provenance. The silvery foliage of Artemesia arborescens offers a good backdrop, as does the zingy green of Cistus populifolius.

Orange is a fabulous colour in contrast with dark, rich hues and the California poppy looks stunning with the purple of French lavender (Lavendula stoechas cvs) and Salvia ‘Mainacht’, or the cerise-pink Geranium cinereum ‘Splendens’. The finely divided foliage looks good with ornamental grasses such as Stipa grandis and Nassella trichotoma, and complements plants with grassy foliage such as Eremurus stenophyllus.

It will also look effective with other plants that establish from in situ sowings, such as Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist) and Agrostemma githago (corncockle). With unusual lobster-claw-shaped flowers produced during early summer, followed by adundant ferny foliage, Lotus berthelotii ‘Maculatus’ is perfect for the front of a border or cascading over a wall.

Where to buy

Thomson and Morgan Seeds, Poplar Lane, Ipswich, Suffolk (01473 695200; www.thompson-morgan.com).

Walnut Tree Garden Nursery, Attleborough, Norfolk (01953 488163).

Care Of California Poppies: How To Grow A California Poppy

The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a naturally seeding colorful wildflower. It is native to California but has been transported to other areas of the country mechanically and agriculturally. In some regions it is considered a weed because of the plant’s stoic and tenacious nature; however, in its native range, the California poppy plant is the state’s flower and a symbol of the Golden State.

California Poppy Info

If you’ve ever been through California and seen a hillside of bright orange blooms, you are familiar with the California poppy plant. Knowing how to grow California poppy will provide the gardener with a foolproof plant and a wild native that is perennial and easy to maintain. The cheery eye-popping flowers will enliven any scenario, but be cautious. The plant has a deep taproot and ferociously reseeds, making it a possible pest plant in some locations.

The California State Floral Society selected the California poppy as the state flower in 1903. Interestingly, the plant had been an important herbal

prior to its state elevation. The indigenous people used it for cosmetics, as a medicinal and the seeds were used in cooking. California poppy info would not be complete without addressing its cousin, the opium poppy. The California poppy does have a mild sedative property but it is not nearly the same effect as opium because it carries a different class of alkaloids. The other is also illegal to grow.

Growing California Poppies

California poppy is remarkably drought tolerant and quickly lays down mats of blue-green, lacy foliage and orange blooms. The combined colors form a rich mosaic across much of California’s highways. The plant is easy to establish by seed, as are all poppies, and thrives in full sun locations with highly fertile but well-drained soil.

California poppy is useful as a container plant as well as a meadow or wildflower addition. It is an excellent xeriscape specimen and will excel even in sandy soil. Very little effort needs to be expended on the gardener’s part in the care of California poppy. It is a hardy and reliable performer with few needs outside occasion watering when young.

Basic Care of California Poppies

Interestingly, California poppies close their nodding heads when it is overcast, raining and at night. This doesn’t signal weakness but is a protective mechanism for this heat-loving plant. The poppy needs little special care except perhaps deadheading, if you are up to the task. This will help prevent over-seeding and keep patches of the plant looking attractive.

This hardy specimen is not particular regarding soil type but does need good drainage for best results. It is also remarkably tolerant of any lighting. Growing California poppies is an excellent choice for the novice gardener due to the plant’s flexible nature. As long as you are aware of its possible invasive nature and can manage any excess plants, there are few more visibly rewarding and low maintenance flowers for the garden.

Perennial Poppies

Southern California gardeners, seeing gorgeous photographs in books, have been trying to grow oriental poppies for years. These brightly colored, huge-flowered poppies are perennials and are reasonably easy in cold climates, but not so here. They will grow and they may even flower after a few years in the ground, but the flowers are often on such short stems that they bloom inside the foliage.

Last year, there was hope that a new kind of Oriental poppy might grow well in Southern California, and this year we can report that there are indeed oriental poppies we can grow–a special strain developed right here in California. This strain came from crosses between a California perennial poppy and an Oriental, and it resulted in poppies called Minicaps.

They bloomed in my own garden most of last summer and are blooming again right now, with flowers six to seven inches across. Do not expect a mass of flowers at any one time but there are nearly always a few in flower. Individual flowers only stay open two or three days, but they are quite a spectacle during that short time. The fuzzy, slightly gray foliage makes a mound about two feet by two feet and flowers are on stems about three to four feet tall.

Unlike some perennials, these should not be cut to the ground for winter, but just left alone. You may dig the plants up and move them in winter as I did, so they could be in a sunnier spot. They like lots of sun.

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Minicaps will be available at the Huntington Botanic Garden Plant Sale on May 21. Tickets may be obtained by sending a stamped, self-addressed legal envelope to Huntington Plant Sale, 1151 Oxford St., San Marino, Calif. 91108. You can also order them directly from the grower who offers a color catalogue for a 25-cent stamp. Write to Mohn’s, P.O. Box 2301, Atascadero, Calif. 93423.

Lake Elsinore isn’t the only place to see poppies. Here are other Southern California spots

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Crowds packed into Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Calif. for the poppy flower super bloom. The city called it a public safety emergency. Wochit

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So, you want to see fields of orange flowers, but don’t want to drown in the poppy apocalypse in Lake Elsinore?

You have several other poppy viewing opportunities in Southern California if you’re steering clear of the mega-popular Walker Canyon, which Lake Elsinore officials temporarily closed after thousands of people trying to see flowers and take selfies caused gridlock on Interstate 15 and city streets around the trailhead. The city eventually re-opened the canyon, and on Thursday announced that weekend visitors would have to take a $10 shuttle bus ride to the fields.

Weekend update: Want to see the poppy super bloom at Lake Elsinore? Brace yourself for large crowds and long lines

Update: You’re going to have to pay $10 to see Lake Elsinore’s poppy super bloom this weekend

More: Poppy fields in Lake Elsinore re-open to public amid super bloom apocalypse

Wherever you go, please respect the flowers. When you pose for a photo by lying in the midst of them, you crush that entire field of blooms.

Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve

Poppies are currently blooming on the east side of the preserve, located in the Mojave Desert near the city of Lancaster. You might also see the orange flowers along Pearblossom Highway, which begins west of Victorville and eventually reaches the preserve,says ecological consultant James Cornett. If you go, the state Department of Parks and Recreation reminds visitors on its website not to take photos in the flowers. Walking in the poppies creates dirt patches and could earn you a ticket,it says.

More: Guide to California’s wildflower super bloom, plus everything else happening in the desert

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Amid the epic super bloom in California’s largest state park, you’ll find desert gold poppies on the lower hillsides along Coyote Canyon, Cornett says. Yellow Pariah’s poppies are also blooming in the Texas Dip area of the park. Check out the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association’s flower reports for near-daily updates on which flowers are blooming and where. There’s also a wildflower hotline at (760) 767-4684.

More: Pack your bags. The super bloom is about to be epic in Borrego Springs

More: Start the countdown. Here’s a guide to California’s wildflower super bloom

More: 5 top spots to see the wildflower super bloom in California – and beyond

Malibu Creek State Park

About 25 miles from Los Angeles, this park is currently home to California poppies and purple lupin. An online update notes they’re currently blooming along Crags Road Trail as well as on the hillsides above the site where “M*A*S*H” was filmed.

Point Mugu State Park

Poppies are blooming in several areas across Point Mugu State Park, including near the Satwiwa Native American Indian Natural Area. According to an update posted to the park’s website Mach 5, wildflowers can be found along La Jolla Valley.

More: What is a super bloom and where can you see wildflowers in Ventura County?

More: Before you go Instagram the California poppies, let’s talk about safety 101

More: Joshua Tree National Park sets attendance record as super bloom sprouts ‘never seen before’ wildflowers

Santa Monica Mountains

Poppies and other flowers are also growing along the trails in Triunfo Creek Park, and Paramount Ranch is bursting with huge patches of poppies, according to the National Recreation Area’s flower report. Dorothy Steinicke, who submitted a flower report for Paramount Ranch, referred to the Woolsey Fire, which burned almost 100,000 acres of land in the Santa Monica Mountains in November, and said, “it is pretty magical to see a place recover from what seemed to be a devastating fire.” You can also find poppies in the upper portions of Cheeseboro Canyon.

The spectacular Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve is a sight worth the drive if you time the trip right. courtesy destination lancasterca.org Poppy flowers cover Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Calif. on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun Crowds walk in Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Calif. to view the poppy fields on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun Crowds walk toward Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Calif. to view the poppy fields on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun Crowds walk toward Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Calif. to view the poppy fields on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun Crowds walk in Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Calif. to view the poppy fields on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun epa07424024 A couple sits on a slop in the middle of a poppy fields the slops of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, California, USA, 08 March 2019. The heavy rains in California have boosted the growth of wild desert flowers, an occurrence called super bloom. EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT ORG XMIT: ELAU4359 ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE epa07424022 Girls take ‘fashion’ pictures of each other in the middle of a poppy fields on a slop of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, California, USA, 08 March 2019. The heavy rains in California have boosted the growth of wild desert flowers, an occurrence called super bloom. EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT ORG XMIT: ELAU4371 ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE Poppy fields are blooming on the slops of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Calif. March 8, 2019. ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE Girls take ‘fashion’ pictures of each other in the middle of a poppy fields on a slop of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Calif. March 8, 2019. ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE Crowds walk toward Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Calif. to view the poppy fields on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun Two buddhist monks walk among the poppy fields as they are blooming on the slops of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Calif. March 8, 2019. ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE People walk on a trail near the poppy fields blooming on the slops of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Calif. March 8, 2019. ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE Poppy fields are blooming on the slops of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Calif. March 8, 2019. ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE People walk on a trail near the poppy fields blooming on the slops of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Calif. March 8, 2019. ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE Poppy fields are blooming on the slops of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Calif. March 8, 2019. ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE Poppy fields are blooming on the slops of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Calif. March 8, 2019. ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE Poppy fields are blooming on the slops of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Calif. March 8, 2019. ETIENNE LAURENT, EPA-EFE Crowds walk on Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Calif. to view the poppy fields on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun California poppies bloom along a south-facing hill in Point Mugu State Park near Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park. ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR Purple phacelia and poppies bloom along a south-facing hill in Point Mugu State Park near Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park. ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR California poppies bloom along a south-facing hill in Point Mugu State Park near Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park. ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR California poppies bloom along a south-facing hill in Point Mugu State Park near Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park. ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR California poppies bloom along a south-facing hill in Point Mugu State Park near Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park. ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR

Interested in this topic? You may also want to view these photo galleries:

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Yucca Valley

From Palm Springs, the closest place to see California poppies is along Highway 62, just as you enter Yucca Valley, Cornett says. These poppies should reach their peak in April, he added.

More: Not up for a road trip? Here’s a lazy local’s guide to the wildflower super bloom

Want more news like this? Subscribe to desertsun.com.

Ventura County Star reporter Cheri Carlson and Venutra County Star multimedia producer Anthony Plascencia contributed to this report.

How To Grow California Poppy From Seed. (Eschscholzia)

Not only did I find my first Nicotiana flower of the season today…but also the first spring sown California Poppy arrived in planet Higgledy. What a result…I love Eschscholzia, clearly one of the happiest flowers in the solar system.

Spring sown California Poppy. ‘Orange King’ Photographed today.

I also had the shorter but equally groovy ‘Ivory Castle’ flowering…

California Poppy ‘Ivory Castle’.

Both of these were direct sow into the soil in mid April. Though can be also be sown in autumn…autumn sown plants will be bigger and flower earlier than their spring sown chums….though the spring ones will flower later into the season.

Top Tips For Growing California Poppies From Seed.

*They must be sown in a bed that gets lots of sunshine…big portions for this chap.

*A poor, gritty…well drained soil is best.

*They will happily self seed year in year out in the same bed.

*Don’t try and start them off in pots and then plant out…they LOATH root disturbance and will usually keel over within days of being replanted.

The Two Together…cracking!

* Successive sowings from April and through May will give you a longer flowering period. (I don’t do this…mainly due to blokey laziness…and instead just enjoy them whilst they last.)

*Eschscholzia is great as a drought tolerant plant…and needs very little looking after.

Eschscholzia seedling.

*I thin my seedlings out to between 6-12 inches.

Click if you would like to to view them in the shop: ‘Orange King’ & ‘Ivory Castle’

Have fun.

Benjamin Higgledy.

Eschscholzia bud

I remember the first time the Californian poppy stole my heart. I was weeding out the Bermuda buttercup, Oxalis pes-caprae, in the rock garden at New York Botanical Garden. This is one of those difficult weeds: it’s easily pulled up, sure, but it leaves behind small, round bulbils that spring merrily back into life. Their saving grace is that the leaves are nice to nibble on – they have a pleasant, lemon sherbet flavour.

So there I was, weeding and nibbling, plugged into my Walkman with Caetano Veloso singing Nine Out Of Ten. These details are etched into my memory, for as Caetano hit his stride singing “walking down Portobello Road”, the sun came out and a whole bank of Eschscholzia californica opened their flowers. They had been used as an under-planting for Echinacea paradoxa, a lemon-yellow cornflower. It’s a winning combination: the echinacea rises just above, its petals brilliantly set off by the orange of the poppy. Both love sun, free-draining soil and are covered with butterflies and bees for as long as they flower. The cornflower grows to about 65cm high; the poppies around 30cm or so. It was one of those moments when you just have to sit and stare at the grace of nature.

Eschscholzia are annuals or short-lived perennials that are found naturally growing along the west coast of America. Yes, the name is hard to pronounce: it’s one of those you have to take a bit of a run at and miss out the c’s (eh-SHOLTZ-ee-uh). There are numerous lovely cultivars, from the pale E. californica ‘Alba’, which open creamy and fade white, to the brilliant scarlet flowers of ‘Red Chief’. There are many mixes and doubles (the latter are less good for bees and foraging insects because they have less pollen).

It’s best to sow E. californica direct. Like many annual poppies, they do best in disturbed, poor soils and are brilliant for scattering along the edge of paths or under the base of bare-stemmed shrubs. The pink forms, such as ‘Bridal Bouquet’ or ‘Thai Silk Appleblossom’, work well under roses or around the base of a wisteria. Those sorts of dry, hot patches with little soil are ideal for California poppies. The trick is to sow in succession from May to June once the soil has warmed up. This will keep them flowering into autumn and, if the winter is mild, some might flower next spring. Sprinkle the seed on the surface of the soil, press them down lightly, but don’t bury them because they need light to germinate. Water in well and leave alone. You can thin the seedlings if you get a dense spot, but mostly you can leave them be.

Alys on… deadheading

Photograph: GAP

I went away for a week and came back to find a garden gone to seed. Most of this is good. The forget-me-nots, landcress and rocket will do the hard work for me. As the seedpods start to open, I uproot the plants, shake like mad in the spots I want them next year and don’t think much more about it. I would have preferred the radishes to hang on a bit longer – I’d eaten only three – but a spell of hot weather tricked them into thinking it was the end of summer, so they went to seed.
This all served to remind me that if you want a seamless display of flowers, you need to deadhead. Deadheading prolongs flowering, because the poor plant is desperately trying to set seed. If you remove the flower and don’t let it go to seed, it will try time and time again, resulting in more flowers for you (and the bees). Violas, pansies, marigolds, petunias, field poppies, roses, geraniums, delphiniums, valerian and sweet rockets are some of the many that will keep throwing them out as long as you nip off the old flowers (with roses, cut back to the first head cluster with five leaflets). But if you want to collect seed (or let nature do some selfseeding), you have to stop in time to allow the plant to set seed.

Hi, I’m Eric Allen from EdenBrothers.com, and today we will be growing California Poppy from seed.

California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica, are a small seed that packs a wonderful punch. In warm weather like its namesake California, it is a perennial, while in areas that have a winter season it acts like an annual. Most gardeners plant California poppy seed directly into the garden where they want them to bloom, so choose a good place with good soil, loosen the soil and just scatter the seed like this. Like most wild flowers, you don’t want to bury the seed, but you definitely want what is called seed-to-soil contact. Just tossing the seeds on the soil is not enough, you have to press them into the dirt. Again, don’t bury them, just press them into the soil like this. On larger plannings, this can be done with a lawn roller or even a piece of plywood and then watered until they sprout which should be in about a week.

Of course, the hybridizers have been at work on California Poppy, and at EdenBrothers.com we have many of the different colors that they’ve come up with. The natural wildflower, however, blooms mostly in orange and gold. It is an excellent edging plant or can be used wherever you need a patch of color. For height, California Poppy usually grows about a foot high. This picture shows the beginnings of the beautiful, silvery, fern-like foliage that each plant has. As for zones, California Poppy will grow in all of them. California Poppies are very easy to grow and you can plant them in spring or fall after frost. As the name would imply, California Poppy definitely likes sun, so whatever you do, don’t plant them in deep shade. This picture shows California poppy in its natural habitat of California alongside Arroyo Lupin, which is an annual. EdenBrothers.com has both of these species and so much more by the packet or by the pound.

I’m Eric Allen from EdenBrothers.com, the seediest place on earth.

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