Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Poppy Angst

Oh, those poppies.  They just confuse me.  First, I can't grow them.  Secondly, I can't grow them.  And thirdly, I can grow them.  Sort of.  You're confused now, too, right?  Well, if you follow this blog closely, you know that I have a love/hate relationship with poppies.  I love them - they hate me.

I've lost count of the number of times that I've tried to grow poppies from seed or by plant.  Their papery frilliness has kept me coming back for more disappointment each time I fail at getting them to grow here.  Even the annual poppies, which will germinate for me, fail to grow much larger than 6-12" in height and the blooms are a mere 1-2" in diameter.

But I did have some measure of success this year, when two different ones that I planted last year survived the winter and went on to bloom this spring!

 Papaver orientale 'Carnaeum'

Papaver orientale 'Carnaeum'

 Papaver orientale 'Queen Alexandra'

Oriental poppy 'Carnaeum' bloomed in May, as did 'Queen Alexandra.'  They were exactly the same color and the only way I could tell them apart was by their centers.  Both poppies now have seed pods that are close to spewing their tiny granules, which I'll welcome, so that eventually I'll have more poppies.

I also grew 'Lauren's Grape' last year, which is an annual poppy (Papaver somniferum), from seed and all I got were a few puny plants with equally puny blooms about an inch across. I pretty much ignored them since they were so insignificant and let them go to seed.  Imagine my surprise when I got one beautifully large plant this spring with the most gorgeous grape blooms on it!

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'

So what did I do differently? For the perennial oriental poppy, I provided better drainage than I had before.  I mixed orchid mix into the soil when I planted them and I set them higher than the surrounding ground.  I will say this method didn't work for 'Harlem.' I lost that one.

With the annual poppies, I'm guessing I haven't been getting the seeds sown early enough.  This year's 'Lauren's Grape' came up from last year's seeds that fell from the ripe pods in July. They were there in the ground, just waiting to germinate when nature's conditions were right the next spring.  Very early spring. 

I planted several other annual poppies this spring, but I'm only getting those puny things from those.  I'll let them go to seed and perhaps I'll get beautiful poppies next year from those, too!


Darla said...

They are gorgeous no matter the size...I have some Red Breadseed Poppy seeds that I have saved this year, originally from Catherine over at if you would like to try them. Mine grew 4 ft or more, I planted them in the fall.

Joseph said...

After much frustration with annual poppies in the midwest (Originally Cleveland area, then Columbus, now Lansing Michigan) I've found the secret is to sow the seeds in the fall or VERY early spring (before the ground is even thawed). And once you get them to bloom, just don't deadhead a few, and you never have to plant them again.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Hmmmmm, maybe my soil is too wet. Hmmmm. Good for you that you have figured out how to grow them, sort of. ;)

Becca's Dirt said...

And your poppies did remarkable well. Those are such beauties you have there. This was my first experience this year with poppies. I planted the same Red Breadseed Poppies from Catherine and they did beautifully. They grew about 3-4' tall. My only problem is that the flowers didn't last but a day I guess because they are so delicate. Hope you have a great day. Becca

Lona said...

Oh, Kylee the Grape, Caraeum and Queen Alexandra are just so beautiful. I do not have luck planting seeds outdoors and hit miss on the ones indoors too LOL! I sowed some Poppy seeds in February and they started up. Now they are all gone. Maybe I will sow some this fall to see if that helps. My zinnias are about 9 inches tall and starting to bloom. Strange. LOL!

Kathy Green said...

Beautiful! I feel your pain, I can't grow annual ones to save my life but I do OK with perenniel varieties. I have a Red one that I have moved with me to different houses 3 times now. I think I got lucky last year with some seeds a friend gave me of her pink perenniel one - it came up but no flower this year. I'm babying that one till next year!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I thought I got my seeds planted early enough, but I've got only one annual Poppy this year. Too depressing. I don't think any of the 'Lauren's Grape' I sowed sprouted. It looks lovely.

Unknown said...

Aw, Kylee, I feel your pain, as there are plants that I love which hate me. Poppies are never a problem here, but I'm still weeks from annual poppies; the orientals are just now starting to flower. They do like good drainage and I wonder if you just get more heat & humidity than they can tolerate. I remember others having similar challenges with them, so you're not alone.

F Cameron said...

Kylie - I sow poppies in November here. They sprout by Christmas and are green, even through rain and snow. Then they start blooming like crazy in May.

I'm in love with the California poppies -- still repeat blooming since early May! I'm through with all of the other varieties now.


Muhammad khabbab said...

Congrats you finally made them bloom. Very beautiful poppies.

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