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Papaver

Papaver (pap-pay-ver), poppy, Papaveraceae Family. Clump-forming herbaceous perennial, papaver are some of the loveliest and most exciting perennial flowers for borders belong to this genus. Native to Europe, Asia and North America, the various species range for 6 inches to 4 feet tall. The basal leaves of poppies are generally hairy and die down soon after flowering. The flowers have shimmering silky petals in shades of white, cream, pink, yellow, orange and red. The most popular species are the dramatic and strongly colored perennial Oriental poppies, Papaver orientale.

Poppies will perform best if grown in organically rich, fertile, medium moisture, well-drained soil. They will grow in average soils with good drainage. Wet, poorly-drained soils may cause root rot, particularly in winter. Once established poppies should need additional water only when the weather is hot and dry.

A cold weather plant, Papaver orientale needs a period of winter dormancy. Intolerant of the high heat and humidity, they generally will not grow well south of zone 7. Self-seeded plants of this cultivar may not come true. Propagation by root cuttings is relatively easy, but plants should otherwise be left undisturbed. Long tap roots make transplanting them a little challenging. Plant divisions are best made in late summer or early fall.

Attributes: border plant, cut flower and dried flower. Poppies are prized cut flowers. They should be cut just when buds start to break and their ends should be seared to prevent sap leakage from their stems. Attracts hummingbirds. Deer and rabbit resistant.

PLANTING: Set plants 15 to 18 inches apart, and in full sun. Plant poppies so that the crowns are at soil level. Make sure water never stands over the crown, so cultivate the soil accordingly; well-drained, good garden soil is best. Good drainage and adequate winter protection against frost heaving are most important. In early winter, apply a 2 inch layer of straw or marsh hay over plants in the landscape.  Remove this mulch in late spring. We recommend winter mulch for at least the first year.

MAINTENANCE: Water during periods of drought. Seed pods should be removed after the flowers are spent, and foliage should be cut back as it turns brown in midsummer. In planting, remember that the Oriental poppy dies back in midsummer and their foliage will reemerge in the late summer. A companion plant such as Gypsophila can fill the gap. Plants dislike being disturbed after planting.

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