How to Grow Yellow Wood Poppy

yellow wood poppies

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Are you looking for a colorful plant to fill the shaded space under your shrubs? Or maybe some ground cover around your trees? Fast-growing yellow wood poppies are a vibrant, hardy variety of poppy.

They boast bright yellow or yellow-orange flowers and fuzzy, toothed leaves. This easy-to-care-for perennial makes a fantastic addition to shade gardens and thrives in cooler regions. Yellow wood poppy seedlings should be planted in the spring.

Though delicate looking, it’s a hardy little plant and will winter through freezing temperatures. The yellow wood poppy is often confused for celandine, Ranunculus ficaria. Both bloom in the spring and produce small yellow flowers. A closer look at the characteristics of each plant can help you distinguish one from the other.

Botanical Name Stylophorum diphyllum
Common Name Yellow wood poppy
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 12-18 in. high
Sun Exposure Partial to full shade
Soil Type Rich, moist, well-draining
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring and summer
Flower Color Yellow to yellow-orange
Hardiness Zones 4-9 (USDA)
Native Area Canada, United States
Toxicity Toxic to humans and animals
yellow wood poppies

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

yellow wood poppies

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

closeup of yellow wood poppies

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Yellow Wood Poppy bud
Budding yellow wood poppy  Laszlo Podor / Getty Images

Yellow Wood Poppy Care

Yellow wood poppies make a great low-maintenance addition to the shaded areas in your garden. These plants are naturally found on forest floors, so nutrient-rich soil and dappled light are preferred.

Deadheading the old flowers will help encourage more blooms throughout the year.

This flowering plant is very easy to propagate by seed, and readily self-seeds. Yellow wood poppies also have no disease issues and don't have much in the way of pest problems, either. Occasionally, they will attract slugs, which are easily gotten rid of by placing saucers of beer nearby.

Light

Because the yellow wood poppy is commonly found in the forests of Canada and the northern United States, this flower likes dappled light that mimics the filtered sun in forests. Therefore, be sure to plant them in a shaded or partially shaded area.

Some great places for these poppies include under large shrubs or trees. They also make a beautiful ground cover in shaded rock gardens.

Soil

Yellow wood poppies need rich, nutrient-dense, well-draining soil—again mimicking the richness of the forest floor. Adding compost or humus will help give your poppy the nutrients and soil conditions it needs.

Water

Plenty of water is a must. Be sure to regularly water your poppy, especially if you are having a dry spell. If soil is too dry, these plants will go dormant. Putting a layer of mulch on top of the soil will help retain moisture.

Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. This can cause root rot and harm the plant.

Temperature and Humidity

Yellow wood poppies are very hardy. They handle freezing weather like champs and make perfect additions to northern gardens.

Fertilizer

With proper soil, yellow wood poppies may not need any fertilizer. Just be sure to add lots of rich, organic material such as compost and humus.

If you want, however, you can add liquid fertilizer monthly during the growing season to help promote more growth and blooming.

Are Yellow Wood Poppies Toxic?

All parts of yellow wood poppies are toxic if ingested, and the sap can be an irritant to the skin because it contains a number of poisonous alkaloids. Keep any curious pets (and children) away! However, this means that animals like deer and rabbits won’t be munching on your poppies which makes them a fantastic choice if you searching for a deer-resistant flower.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Touching yellow wood poppies can cause contact dermatitis in both humans and animals, because of the sap. Ingestion is even more dangerous for humans and pets. If you or your animals have any kind of contact with yellow wood poppies, call your veterinarian or poison control immediately.

Pruning

Yellow wood poppies require little to no pruning. But if you trim back the branches after they've bloomed, this will stop your plants from self-seeding. (Just be sure to rake away the debris!)

Propagating Yellow Wood Poppies

Yellow wood poppies propagate best by division. This includes uprooting your original plant and creating multiple plants from the one.

In the spring, gently dig up your yellow poppy with a garden shovel. Loosen the roots a bit with your hands. Try to keep as much soil in the roots as possible.

Using clean, sharp garden shears, cut the root system into multiple parts. Be sure you keep growing points in each of the cuttings. Plant each new plant in the desired location, and after division be sure to give your poppies a good watering.

How to Grow Yellow Wood Poppies From Seed

Propagating yellow wood poppy from seeds is easy. When seeds are available in fall or late summer, place the seeds where you would like your new poppies to grow and cover them lightly with rich soil. Keep the soil moist with regular watering. Seeds planted in the fall will germinate in the spring. Therefore, let them winter in the ground, and in the spring you will have little poppy seedlings.

Once your poppies are 4- to 6-inches tall you may need to thin them out or move the seedlings away from each other. If you would like to move them to new locations, be sure they are 10- to 12-inches apart so as not to steal nutrients from their neighboring poppies.

Potting and Repotting Yellow Wood Poppies

Potting requirements for yellow wood poppies include giving them soil that is rich in organic material. Then, place them in a shaded area and keep them well-watered.

Make sure your container has drainage holes too. This helps the water drain out and keep away problems like root rot. Because of a smaller growing space, you may need to water your poppies more often to keep them moist.

Celandine blossom and buds
The celandine produces yellow blossoms, but with narrower petals than yellow wood poppy plants  AGEphotography / Getty Images