How to Grow Oriental Poppy — Papaver

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Oriental Poppy, Papaver oriental, produces solitary saucer-shaped blooms in summer. The flowering season is short but colorful. The

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The Oriental poppy is an upright perennial with divided mid-green leaves.

Oriental poppies are spectacular additions to mixed borders, cottage, and meadow gardens.

Oriental poppy , Papaver orientale
Oriental poppy , Papaver orientale

Get to know Oriental poppy–Papaver

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: 3-9
  • Hardiness: Hardy to -40°F (-40°C)
  • Height and width: 24 to 36 inches (61-91cM) tall and wide
  • Foliage: Simple and toothed or pinnate leaves are bristly or smooth and gray-green or light to dark green
  • Flowers: Bowl-shaped crepe-papery blooms up to 8 inches across
  • Flower colors: Rich hues of orange, red, pink, and white with black centers
  • Bloom time: Late spring and early summer
  • Uses: Mixed flower borders, cottage garden
  • Garden companions: peonies, bearded iris, baby’s breath, cosmos, sunflowers, African marigolds
  • Common name: Oriental Poppy
  • Botanical name: Papaver orientale
  • Family: Papaveraceae
  • Origin: Europe to East Asia and in Western North America

Where to plant Oriental poppy–Papaver

  • Plant oriental poppies in full sun in cool-summer areas and in Zones 2-6; plant in partial shade in warm areas in Zones 7-9.
  • Grow oriental poppies in humus-rich, average, well-drained soil.

Oriental poppy–Papaver uses and companions

  • Use oriental poppies in a mixed or herbaceous border.
  • Use oriental poppies in cottage gardens and informal plantings.
  • Good companions for oriental poppies include Achillea, Artemisia, Coreopsis, Euphorbia corollata, Gypsophila paniculata, Iris, Verbena rigida.
Oriental poppy flowers
Oriental poppy flowers

When to plant Oriental poppy–Papaver

  • Set oriental poppies into the garden in spring when the danger of frost has passed.

Planting and spacing Oriental poppy–Papaver

  • Space oriental poppies 2 to 3 feet apart.

How to Water and Feed Oriental Poppy–Papaver

  • Oriental poppies need moderate water; keep the soil evenly moist. Oriental poppies are somewhat drought-tolerant.
  • Fertilize oriental poppies occasionally with an all-purpose fertilizer or work a slow-release fertilizer into the soil in spring.

Oriental poppy–Papaver care

  • Mulch around oriental poppies to conserve soil moisture.
  • Remove faded flowers unless you want to harvest seedpods.
  • Keep faded flowers picked to prolong blooms.
  • Oriental poppies lose their foliage in midsummer; the foliage will reappear in autumn. Fill the blank spots in the garden with other annuals until the oriental poppies reappear.
  • Avoid overwatering; roots that are too wet can rot or become diseased.

Oriental poppy–Papaver pests and diseases

  • Powdery mildew, leaf smut, gray mold, root rot, and damping off can occur.
Red and white oriental poppy
Red and white oriental poppy

Oriental poppy–Papaver propagation

  • Oriental poppy seeds germinate in 14 days at 55°F (13°C).
  • Sow seed in the garden in spring for annuals and biennials.
  • Sow perennials in containers in autumn or spring.
  • Divide perennials in spring or take root cuttings in late autumn or early winter.

Oriental poppy–Papaver varieties to grow

  • Papaver orientale, Oriental poppy: clump-forming perennial, spreading by runners; has erect, white-bristly stems, and mid-green leaves that are lance-shaped and toothed; bears solitary, cup-shaped orange-scarlet flowers 4 to 6 inches across; petals have large bluish black or white basal spots. Cultivars include:
  • ‘Allegro’ has bright orange-scarlet flowers with black basal marks.
  • ‘Beauty of Livermere’ has crimson-scarlet flowers.
  • ‘Black and White’ bears white flowers with crimson-black marks at the base of each petal.
  • ‘Carnival’ has frilled petals, white at the base and orange-red above.
  • ‘Helen Elizabeth’ bears salmon-pink flowers.
  • ‘Indian Chief’ has mahogany-red flowers with no spots.
  • ‘Maiden’s Blush’ has ruffled white flowers.
  • ‘May Queen’ had double orange-red flowers with slight quilled petals.
  • ‘Mrs. Perry’ has pale salmon-pink flowers.
  • ‘Perry’s White’ has white flowers with maroon-purple centers.
  • ‘Picotee’ has white flowers with orange-pink margins.
  • ‘Pinnacle’ has bicolored white and scarlet flowers.
  • ‘Prince of Orange’ has orange-scarlet flowers.
  • ‘Princess Victoria Louise’ bears salmon-pink flowers with a black basal blotch on each petal.

Oriental poppy frequently asked questions

Q: I see Oriental poppies growing where I didn’t sow seeds. What’s happening?

A: Oriental poppies reseed themselves and plant voluntarily come the following spring. Sometimes seeds fall where they haven’t been sown.

Q: When is the best time to sow poppy seeds?

A: Poppy seeds can be sown in the fall for germination and growth the following spring. The seeds should be covered; they require darkness to germinate.

Q: Can I start poppy seeds indoors in spring?

A: Poppy seeds will have a difficult time germinating indoors. They require cool temperatures to germinate. They also do not like to be transplanted.

Q: How can I make poppies bloom last through the season?

A: Poppies do not have a long blooming period. Sow seeds every two weeks during spring and early summer for continual flowering. They will not do well in hot weather. Do not overwater poppies.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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