Poppies are flowering plants grown primarily for their colorful blooms. Depending on the cultivar, poppies grow from U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 2 to 9. Poppies offer a variety of foliage and flower styles. The ornamental plants range in heights from 4 inches to 4 feet tall. Poppies flower in spring to midsummer. Easy to grow, poppies bring color to gardens before most flowers and shrubs blossom.
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Poppies are cool-season bloomers. They tolerate frost and bloom profusely in cool spring and early summer weather. Poppies propagate from seed. They are easy to grow in any well-drained soil. The seeds are so small and lightweight that they are often mixed with sand for easier planting. Scatter them lightly in the desired location, as they are not reliable transplants. Cover the tiny seeds with a thin layer of soil. Poppies need daily sun, preferably six or more hours of sunlight in temperate zones or filtered sunlight in arid or hot regions. They are often sown in autumn for flowers the following year.
AAnnual poppies, such as California poppies and Shirley or corn poppies, are showy, one-season flowers. The California poppy is prolific and thrives in semiarid conditions. It blooms in the spring as one of the earliest flowers. With lacy blue-green foliage up to 1 foot tall and 2-inch, bright-orange or yellow flowers, these poppies blanket hills and roadsides. Shirley poppies grow 2 to 4 feet tall and yield flowers in shades of pink, red, orange and white. The flowers may be bicolor and ruffled, blooming from late spring to midsummer.
Perennial poppies offer yearly flowering from late spring through summer. Their low-growing foliage may die back but reappear the following autumn or spring. The low-growing Alpine poppy, from 5 to 10 inches tall, is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8. Its flowers are colored white, pink, yellow or salmon. Another perennial, the Iceland poppy, grows 1 to 2 feet tall with flower shades from bright red and orange to apricot and white. Hardy in zones 2 to 8, it easily reseeds. ??The Oriental poppy grows from seeds but a mature plant is divided in autumn and split into additional plants. The Oriental poppy grows to 4 feet tall. Its flowers open up to 5 inches wide with black or dark centers contrasting with the red, orange or pastel petals. Hardy in zones 4 to 9, the Oriental poppy has coarse, hairy foliage.
Poppy flowers die after a few days. Plant the seeds a few weeks apart for longer bloom periods. Many poppies contain a milky sap that is irritating to skin. Wash the skin with soap and water after contact.