How to Grow and Care for the Common Poppy

Common poppy field with red and pink flowers and buds in between

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The common poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is an annual wildflower characterized by striking red blooms. The seeds of the common poppy can lie dormant for up to 80 years, germinating once the soil is disturbed. This led to it being coined as a symbol of remembrance after World War I when flushes of poppies grew in churned-up battlefields.

The common poppy typically flowers in late spring through early summer. While the flowers are often scarlet red, hybridization and selective breeding have led to several cultivators with blooms in shades of yellow, orange, pink, and white.

These poppies require almost no maintenance when they are planted in their hardiness zones, and they are great for naturalizing. They also work well in garden beds, cottage gardens, borders, and pollinator gardens.

Note that all parts of the poppy plant are toxic to dogs and cats.

Common Name  Common poppy, corn poppy, corn rose, field poppy, Flanders poppy, red poppy 
Botanical Name Papaver rhoeas 
Family Papaveraceae
Plant Type  Annual
Mature Size  28 in. tall 
Sun Exposure  Full, partial 
Soil Type Well-drained 
Soil pH  Neutral to acidic 
Bloom Time  Spring, summer 
Flower Color  Red, yellow, orange, pink, blue, purple, white 
Hardiness Zones  1-10 (USDA)
Native Area  Europe, Asia, Africa 
Toxicity  Toxic to pets

Common Poppy Care

As a wildflower, the common poppy is a great low-maintenance addition to your yard. They require very little water, are not picky about their soil conditions, don’t require pruning, and self-seed readily.

Deadheading the spent flowers regularly throughout the blooming period can help extend the bloom, but this is optional.

Choose a bright, sunny location to grow the common poppy and enjoy its gorgeous blooms for months.

Common poppy with red flowers with white tips closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Common poppy with red-orange flowers with buds in between

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Common poppy with orange flowers and buds in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Common poppy with red flowers and white tips next to bud closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Common poppy with red flowers next to blue and light purple thistle in garden

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


The common poppy prefers full sun conditions with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. If necessary the common poppy can also adapt to partial shade where it receives less than 6 hours of sun, but the growth will not be as vigorous and bloom time may be reduced.


Papaver rhoeas is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions as long as the soil is well-draining. They can grow in poor quality, low-nutrient soil and have even been found to crop up and grow in notoriously challenging locations such as cracks in a driveway. However, if you are planting the common poppy in a garden bed or border, provide it with rich, well-draining soil for optimal growth.


Once established, the common poppy has minimal water needs. Too much water can result in leggy, overgrown stems. If you live in an area that receives frequent rainfall in the spring and summer, these poppies likely won’t require any additional watering. However, in extended periods of drought supplemental watering can help extend bloom times.

Temperature and Humidity

The common poppy is an annual wildflower that grows well in USDA zones 1 through 10. While the plants and flowers themselves are not frost-tolerant, their seeds can withstand cold winters and germination occurs in soil temperatures that are between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.


Poppies do not require fertilization throughout the growing season, however, if you notice an abundance of foliage and very few flowers this could be a result of a lack of phosphorus and too much nitrogen in the soil.

To balance out the soil pH and encourage blooms, amending the soil with a phosphorus-rich fertilizer can be beneficial.

Types of Common Poppy

There are several cultivators of the common poppy that are collectively known as the ‘Shirley poppy'. Through selective breeding and hybridization, Shirley poppies are available in colors ranging from pale pink, to white, to red, to blue, and many others. Some of the most popular and commonly grown varieties in the United States include:

  • Papaver rhoeas Shirley ‘Amazing Grey’
  • Papaver rhoeas Shirley ‘Mother of Pearl’
  • Papaver rhoeas Shirley ‘Angels Choir’
  • Papaver rhoeas Shirley ‘Fairy Wings’
  • Papaver rhoeas Shirley ‘Falling in Love’
  • Papaver rhoeas Shirley ‘Pandora’
  • Papaver rhoeas Shirley ‘Double Mixed’

How to Grow Common Poppies From Seed

The common poppy self seeds readily as long as it is grown in suitable conditions, and its seeds can also be sown directly in the garden with success.

For summer blooms, sow seeds in the early spring once the ground has thawed. Cover the sown seeds with a light dusting of topsoil. Common poppy seeds can also be sowed in the fall if you want plants that will flower earlier in the year.

This poppy can be difficult to transplant, so although starting seeds indoors is an option, it is usually easier to start the plants directly in the garden.

How to Get Common Poppies to Bloom

Poppies are enthusiastic bloomers that require little encouragement, but deadheading will prolong flowering.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Aphids can be a problem for the common poppy, along with powdery mildew.

  • Treat aphid-infested plants with an insecticide such as neem oil, insecticidal soap, or homemade remedies such as garlic spray or an essential oil spray. If the infestation is mild, a strong spray from the garden hose can dislodge the pests and may be able to cure the problem.
  • To treat powdery mildew, a fungicide such as potassium bicarbonate is effective in controlling and eliminating the fungus.
  • Do common poppies smell good?

    The flowers don't have much of a fragrance; they are prized for their exuberant colors.

  • Can common poppies grow in the shade?

    Poppies thrive in full sun but can also grow in partial sun where they receive about 6 hours of sunlight during the day. In full shade, poppies will be less likely to bloom.

  • Are common poppies invasive?

    Although common poppies are not native to the United States and seed well without intervention, they are not vigorous spreaders and are not considered invasive.

Article Sources
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  1. Poppy. Pet Poison Helpline.