10 Types of Poppy Flowers & Growing Tips

These unique blooms can bring a rainbow of colors to your garden

Bright red Shirley poppy blooms in a flower bed

The Spruce / David Beaulieu

The common name poppy refers to many species in at least 12 genera. They're in the subfamily Papaveroideae, within the plant family Papaveraceae. Despite the confusing genetic lineage, poppy flowers are familiar to most people, recognizable by their tissue paper-like blossoms. Poppy flower colors range from white to vivid reds and oranges. There are cream, yellow, blue, and purple poppies as well.

Here are 10 poppy flower varieties to know about, including some that are easy to care for and others that are trickier to grow.


Most poppies are toxic to humans and pets due to their alkaloid compounds.

Symbolism of Poppies

The poppy flower is considered special because of its meaning. Specifically, the red poppy symbolizes remembrance, resilience, and peace. Many people wear poppies on remembrance days for fallen soldiers. 

  • 01 of 10

    Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale)

    Red Oriental poppy flowers
    David Beaulieu

    One of the most familiar of all poppies is the Oriental poppy native to Asia. This perennial garden plant is a common feature of northern gardens, with its feathery foliage and orange, red, or salmon flowers that bloom in June and July. Some popular cultivars include 'Allegro' (a dwarf form that grows to 18 inches), 'Beauty of Livermere' (blood-red flowers, growing 2 to 3 feet), 'Fatima' (white flowers edged with pink), 'Patty's Plum' (plum-pink flowers, growing to 30 inches), and 'Princess Victoria Louise' (pink flowers, growing to 36 inches).

    While people typically grow Oriental poppies for their magnificent blooms, their feathery foliage is also attractive. The foliage disappears in summer as the plant goes dormant, but a new set of basal leaves emerges in the fall. These leaves will overwinter, affording winter interest in areas that receive only light snowfall.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9 (depends on variety)
    • Mature Size: 20-36 in. tall
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
  • 02 of 10

    Flanders Poppy, Shirley Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

    Flanders or Shirley poppy in a field
    David Beaulieu

    Known as the common poppy or Flanders poppy, this species grew wild on World War I battlefields, becoming a symbol of the war thanks to its mention in the famous poem "In Flanders Fields." Citizens of the United Kingdom don this bright orange-red bloom to honor Remembrance Day each Nov. 11. One of its equally well-known cultivars, the Shirley poppy, is a more popular landscape plant, available in orange, pink, violet, white, and yellow. It's native to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

    Although the Flanders poppy and its cultivars are annuals, they self-seed so freely that they naturalize in a manner that makes them perform as perennials. This can be a good choice for gardeners in the South who have trouble with the cold-loving perennial species. In warm climates, the seeds can be sown in fall or winter.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 1-10
    • Mature Size: 9–18 in. tall
    • Light: Full, partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 03 of 10

    Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

    Green Opium poppy seed pods

    Lex20 / Getty Images 

    Though found in the same genus as many popular garden poppies, you might want to steer clear of this one: the opium poppy, from which heroin and other opiate drugs are derived. This poppy from Turkey has striking pink, red, purple, or white flowers; has distinctive gray-green foliage; and is taller than most poppy flowers.

    Growing Papaver somniferum in the United States is legal for garden and seed production purposes only; it is illegal to manufacture opium from the poppies. Most major seed retailers sell poppy seeds and few mention legalities. Before growing this plant, check with local and state authorities to see if there are any restrictions in your area.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
    • Mature Size: 3 to 4 ft.
    • Light: Full, partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
  • 04 of 10

    Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)

    Yellow Iceland poppy flower
    David Beaulieu

    Not all poppies are as easy to grow as the Oriental poppy. A case in point is the Iceland poppy, also known as the Arctic poppy. This is a short-lived perennial, but it performs as a perennial only in northern climates. Elsewhere, it's usually grown as an annual, but it might not grow at all in any region with warm, humid summers.

    Iceland poppy cultivars are available with bright yellow, white, salmon, rose, and pink flowers.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-7
    • Mature Size: 12-24 in. tall
    • Light: Full, partial
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Himalayan Poppy (Meconopsis grandis)

    Blue Himalayan poppy flower
    David Beaulieu

    Himalayan poppies are technically poppies because their genus is within the Papaveraceae family, but they're not members of the Papaver genus that comprises most garden poppies. Although the papery blooms have that familiar poppy flower look, they're an unusual sky blue hue and are quite large—up to 5 inches across.

    Make no mistake about it: These are difficult plants to grow from start to finish. The seeds can be difficult to germinate, and the plants require constant moisture (but detest being waterlogged) as well as moderate temperatures in both summer and winter (not too hot, not too cold). Unless you're able to mimic the conditions of their native Himalayan environment—woody terrain shrouded in cool mist—your chances of success are slim. If you succeed, though, you have earned notable bragging rights.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-7
    • Mature Size: 3-4 ft. tall
    • Light: Partial
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
  • 06 of 10

    Plume Poppy (Macleaya cordata)

    Plume poppy shrub with red flowers in garden

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The plume poppy is another uncharacteristic poppy flower. Its flowers aren't the common cup shape but instead form in long panicles (plumes) of white blooms, alongside large scalloped leaves.

    Rather than being beautiful and difficult to grow like the Himalayan poppy, it's less attractive and quite easy to grow—so easy, in fact, that it crosses over into the invasive category. This perennial from Asia spreads aggressively through rhizomes and self-seeding (if not deadheaded). So, for many, the plume poppy turns out to be one of those beautiful barbarians—a lovely but dangerous plant that ends up being an unwelcome plant in your garden.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-8
    • Mature Size: 4-9 feet tall
    • Light: Full, partial
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
  • 07 of 10

    Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus)

    Greater celandine plant with yellow blooms
    David Beaulieu

    A common roadside poppy, the greater celandine is rarely planted deliberately. This somewhat compact biennial blooms with yellow flowers from May to August, and it self-seeds so aggressively that it can be hard to eradicate, even in a closely tended garden. Across much of the Midwest and the Northeast, it's dangerously invasive and outcompetes native species as well as being toxic.

    But don't confuse this species with the lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), which is a member of the buttercup clan, not the poppy family. It looks somewhat like a marsh marigold and generally should be avoided, too, though some cultivars are bred to behave better.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
    • Mature Size: 12-24 in. tall
    • Light: Full, partial
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained
  • 08 of 10

    Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

    Bloodroot plant with white blooms
    David Beaulieu

    Wildflower watchers are sometimes surprised to learn that bloodroot is a member of the poppy family. This is a low-growing, stemless plant whose leaves and flower stalks emerge directly from the ground. It blooms with white flowers, sometimes tinged with pink, in early spring.

    Unlike most poppies, which love the sun, this species prefers shady conditions, making it a great choice for gardeners seeking a native species for a shady location. The common name derives from the reddish-orange color of its sap when the roots are cut.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
    • Mature Size: 12-14 in. tall
    • Light: Partial, shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

    California poppies

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Unlike Oriental poppies, the California poppy is an annual in most regions, completing its life cycle in one growing season. These floral beauties can be found blanketing large areas with their bright, silky petals and blue-green, fern-like foliage in early summer. These North American natives are drought-tolerant, inexpensive to grow, and can grow in poor soil, making them excellent candidates for wildflower gardens.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-10
    • Mature Size: 12-18 in. tall
    • Light: Full
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 10 of 10

    Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri)

    Matilija poppy with large white flower with yellow stamen center surrounded with large buds

    The Spruce / Randi Rhoades

    The Matilija poppy is also called a tree poppy. Its name is derived from Chief Matilija, a head of one of the Indigenous tribes in the 1800s that lived in the California and northern Mexico region where the plant grows. It is a white flower with six wrinkly petals and bright yellow stamens that attracts bees in spring. It is an aggressive grower and spreads underground by rhizomes. It grows in dry, desert-like climates and is drought-resistant. These tall beauties can make a beautiful addition to your garden, but consider using containers to keep their spread under control.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 8-10
    • Mature Size: 6-10 ft. tall
    • Light: Full
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining

Poppies come in various showy flower colors and are popular ornamental plants. They have been cultivated for over 5,000 years, grown by ancient civilizations for their medicinal properties, beautiful flowers, and poppy seeds. Depending on the type and your growing zone, poppies can be annuals (dying after one growing season), perennials (coming back each year), or biennials (completing their life cycle in two growing seasons). Some even die after flowering, and most will wither upon cutting, not making them a good flower for a vase.


  • Sow in the spring; many types readily reseed themselves
  • Plant in full sun and well-draining soil
  • Keep the soil lightly moist
  • Deadhead to encourage more blooms

If you're interested in poppies and want to find other flowers that resemble them, check out anemones.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Papaver somniferum. North Carolina State Extension.

  2. Opium. Drug Enforcement Administration.

  3. Culinary poppy. Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center. Washington State University.
  4. Celandine. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

  5. Stories behind a few favorite flower names. Agricultural and Natural Resources. University of California.