The 11 Best Garden Poppies to Grow in Every 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 eleven of the most beautiful garden poppies, and choose the one best suited for your...MORE region.

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    Alpine Poppy

    Alpine Poppy
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    Those cultivating zone 4-9 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.

  • 02 of 11

    Arctic Poppy

    Arctic Poppy
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    The yellow Papaver radicatum, 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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    Breadseed Poppy

    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 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.

  • 04 of 11

    California Poppy

    California Poppy
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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 3-9. 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.

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  • 05 of 11

    Carnation Poppy

    Carnation Poppy

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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...MORE seedpods to your floral arrangements. 

  • 06 of 11

    Flanders Poppy

    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 F, and blooming occurs most heavily in April and June.

  • 07 of 11

    Iceland Poppy

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

    Although native to subpolar regions, you can grow Papaver nudicaule as a cool season annual in zones 2-7. 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. 

  • 08 of 11

    Meconopsis Poppy

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

    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.

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  • 09 of 11
    Oriental Poppy
    Photo © Roger Smith/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

    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 gives 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 4-8 garden.

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    Peony Poppy

    Peony Poppy
    Photo © Howard Rice/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    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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    Spanish Poppy

    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 to about two feet in height, and are resistant to deer, like all poppies.