11 Garden Poppies: One for Any Region

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 11 of the most beautiful garden poppies, and choose the one best suited for your region.

  • 01 of 11

    Alpine Poppy (Papaver alpinum)

    Alpine Poppy

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    Those cultivating rock gardens in moderate climates should not pass up the chance to grow this hardy little wildflower in the landscape. Papaver alpinum is short-lived perennial, 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, rarely exceeding 1 foot in size.

    Native Area: Alps, Carpathians, Pyrenees

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–6

    Height: 6–12 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 02 of 11

    Arctic Poppy (Papaver radicatum)

    Arctic Poppy
    Photo © Wayne Lynch/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

    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 regions 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.

    Native Area: Arctic regions of Northern Hemisphere

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–6

    Height: 3–6 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 03 of 11

    Breadseed Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

    Breadseed Poppy
    Photo © David Q. Cavagnaro/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    The same Papaver somniferum that yields the tiny gray seeds that adorn our muffins and bagels also happens to be a lovely annual garden flower. The flowers grow in shades of pink, purple and red on 2- to 4-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.

    Note: this is also the species from which opium and derivative drugs are obtained—it is also known as the opium poppy. While it is technically legal to grow P. somniferum as for culinary or ornamental purposes, it is a controversial plant to include in your garden. Any suspicion that you are growing it for illegal purposes can create serious problems with law enforcement agencies. It is wise to first consult state authorities if you wish to grow this plant.

    Native Area: Eastern Mediterranean; now naturalized widely across Europe and Asia

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Height: 2–4 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 04 of 11

    Carnation Poppy (Papaver laciniatum)

    Carnation Poppy

    Gail Shotlander/Getty Images

     

    The shaggy petals of Papaver laciniatum add texture and personality to the vase and the border. Known as carnation poppies or feathery poppies, these frilly cool-weather annuals should be grown from seed in a sunny area with rich, loose soil to encourage the tap roots to develop. Some authorities consider this plant a subspecies of the breadseed/opium poppy, assigning it the formal name of P. somniferum  var.  laciniatum.

    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. 

    Native Area: Eastern Mediterranean

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Height: 2–4 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

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  • 05 of 11

    Peony Poppy (Papaver paeoniflorum)

    Peony Poppy
    Photo © Howard Rice/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Named for their fluffy, peony-like blooms, Papaver paeoniflorum plants are a variety of breadseed poppies, sometimes categorized as Papaver somniferum var. paeoniflorum. 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.

    Native Area: Eastern Mediterranean

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Height: 2–3 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 06 of 11

    California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

    California Poppy
    Photo © Richard Cummins/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

    The California poppey, 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 roadsides in the southwest U.S., and they also make a statement in water-wise flower gardens anywhere. 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.

    Native Area: Western U.S.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–10 (perennial in zones 6–10)

    Height: 12–18 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 07 of 11

    Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

    Flanders Field Poppy
    Photo © Frank Krahmer/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images

    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 Fahrenheit, and blooming occurs most heavily in April and June. This annual plant will readily self-seed, creating a sustaining bed of flowers.

    Native Area: Europe and Asia

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–10

    Height: 9–18 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 08 of 11

    Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)

    Iceland Poppy
    Photo © G. Merrill/Moment/Getty Images

    Like P. radicatum, the Iceland poppy, (P. nudicaule) sometimes carries the common name "arctic poppy" thanks to its tolerance for extremely cold temperatures. 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.

    Although it is native perennial in sub-polar regions, you can grow Papaver nudicaule as a cool-season annual in zones 2 to 7. The variation croceum produces orange-red flowers.

    Native Area: Sub-polar regions of Northern Hemisphere

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–7

    Height: 1–2 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

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  • 09 of 11

    Meconopsis Poppy (Meconopsis spp.)

    Blue Poppy
    Photo © Nigel Hicks/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

    Not all poppies fall into the Papaver genus of the Papaveraceae family. Another genus is Meconopsis, which includes the beloved Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis baileyi), Meconopsis cambrica (Welch poppy), and Meconopsis betonicifolia (blue poppy). These short-lived perennials will readily self-seed and establish themselves as an ongoing presence in the garden.

    All Meconopsis poppies grow best in cool, moist climates; conditions 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. This genus also prefers part shade conditions, not the full sun preferred by most poppies.

    Native Area: Himalayas

    USDA Growing Zones: Hardy in zones 6–8 (depends on species); grown as annuals elsewhere.

    Height: 1–4 feet (depends on species)

    Sun Exposure: Part shade

  • 10 of 11

    Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale)

    Oriental Poppy
    Photo © Roger Smith/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

    Papaver orientale plants like the ‘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 garden. These are short-lived perennials, but frequent division of the root clumps will keep them producing indefinitely.

    Native Area: Caucasus, northeastern Turkey, northern Iran

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Height: 2–3 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 11 of 11

    Spanish Poppy (Papaver rupifragum)

    Spanish Poppy
    Photo © Mark Bolton/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    A later bloomer than some others, the bright orange flowers of Papaver rupifragum will attract butterflies and bees to your garden from May through August. The double flowers grow 1 to 2 feet in height and are resistant to deer, like all poppies. Like many poppies, this is a short-lived perennial that freely self-seeds to establish itself in the garden.

    Native Area: Morocco, Spain

    USDA Growing Zones: Hardy in zones 6–10; grown as annuals elsewhere.

    Height: 1–2 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun