From an Impressionist painting right into your garden: the tissue paper petals and luscious hues of annual and perennial poppies add a sense of history and vibrancy to the garden that few other flowers can match. Some poppies have a reputation of being difficult to cultivate, but one glance at a field of Alpine poppies in full bloom tells us that poppies are hardier than we give them credit for. Learn about eleven of the most beautiful garden poppies, and choose the one best suited for your region.
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Those cultivating zone 4 to 9 rock gardens in mountain regions should not pass up the chance to grow this hardy little wildflower in the landscape. As a perennial, Papaver alpinum is short-lived, but it will self-seed readily in areas with good drainage, producing late spring flowers in red, orange, yellow, and white shades. These poppies are much more compact than others, maxing out at 10 inches.
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The yellow arctic poppy, like the alpine poppy, has evolved to be a short plant that can survive blasting winds. Less commonly, pink or white flowers may be seen. The poppies grow wild across northern Canada, Norway, and Sweden in rocky soils. Although rare in comparison to other poppies, their hardiness endears them to residents of these arctic zones, where few other plants thrive.
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The same Papaver somniferum that yields the tiny gray seeds that adorn our muffins and bagels also happens to be a lovely garden flower. The flowers grow in shades of pink, purple and red on two to four-foot-tall stalks. Rake the seeds lightly into the soil in the fall for early summer blooms. If you wish to save seeds from the dried pods, try ‘Elka,’ an heirloom variety that produces white seeds completely free of bitterness.
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The Eschscholzia Californica was named in honor of J.F. Eschscholtz, a surgeon aboard an exploratory ship that made note of the cheerful golden flower when spotted in 1816. The plants grow happily on California roadsides, and they also make a statement in water-wise flower gardens in zones 3 to 9. Most gardeners grow California poppies as annuals, relying on self-seeding for future blooms, but the plant may come back as a perennial in frost-free areas.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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The shaggy petals of Papaver laciniatum add texture and personality to the vase and the border. Grow these frilly cool weather annuals from seed in a sunny area with rich, loose soil to encourage the tap roots to develop. Sow outdoors two weeks before the last frost, and press the seeds lightly into the soil, as light enhances germination. Expect to see germination in about five days, and blooming in late June. Leave seed heads in place to allow flowers to self-sow, or add the attractive seedpods to your floral arrangements.
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A European native that was once considered a weed, the Papaver rhoeas now symbolizes Remembrance day, which recognizes the fallen soldiers of World War I. Sow this annual poppy thickly for the most brilliant spring show of red flowers. Seeds will germinate at 60 degrees F, and blooming occurs most heavily in April and June.
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Although native to subpolar regions, you can grow Papaver nudicaule as a cool-season annual in zones 2 to 7. The plants are actually short-lived perennials, but may self-seed enough to keep a modest colony going. The frost tolerant flowers require full sun and moist soil, and in return will reward you with delicate blooms in sherbet hues of peach, gold, white, and salmon. Blooms and plants are on the petite side for poppies, topping out at about 12 inches.
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The beloved Himalayan blue poppy is included in the Meconopsis cambrica, but the genus includes red and white cultivars as well. All Meconopsis poppies grow best in cool, moist climates; those that we would consider downright dreary are ideal for blue poppies. Think foggy, cold, and damp, i.e., Scotland, Great Britain, and the Pacific Northwest. Hot, dry gardens spell death to these plants.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Papaver orientale plants like this ‘Patty’s Plum’ variety will come back each year in the garden if you provide them with excellent drainage, full, sun, and adequate moisture. The black centers of the blooms give them an avant-garde appearance as cut flowers. The plants produce a taproot that makes transplanting tricky, so direct sow the seeds in your zone 4 to 8 garden.
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Named for their fluffy, peony-like blooms, Papaver paeoniflorum plants are a variety of breadseed poppies. Unlike true peonies, which can take a few seasons to get going, peony poppies will bloom the summer after a fall or winter sowing. The bluish-green foliage and giant seedpods add to the plant’s interest.
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