As the state flower of California, California poppies grow wild in many meadows and prairies there and elsewhere. In a home garden setting, they are typically treated as an annual flower, but California poppies are actually short-lived perennials where they are hardy. They will easily reseed in the garden for years to come. Even when not in bloom, these plants feature soft foliage tufts that add pleasing texture to the landscape.
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California poppies are often found in bright sunset tones, with the most common color being bright orange. The four-petal blooms almost shimmer in a certain light. There are also varieties that bear eye-catching bicolor blossoms. Many of these blend ivory with flushes of pink, purple, and even yellow. Some varieties exhibit a second row of petals for a lovely double-flower effect, and others feature twisted petals. The flowers of the California poppy will close at night and on overcast and windy days. The blue-gray foliage makes a pretty statement against plants with darker leaves.
California Poppy Care Must-Knows
Being native to hillsides, sandy plains, and other open areas of the mountainous regions of western North America, California poppies require well-drained soil. Sandy or rocky soils are best, and anything that remains too wet can kill off poppies. Being native to sandy, well-drained soils also means that California poppies do not require a lot of added nutrients or even nutrient-rich soil to thrive.
For best results, grow California poppies in full sun. This placement will ensure plants put on the best display of blossoms, as well as the densest growth possible. In their native areas, California poppies are often seen as cool-season annuals because they will put on their primary display of blooms in spring, and possibly a second show in fall. In very warm climates, they may not survive in the full heat of summer. In these situations it may be best to provide some shade—especially from the hot afternoon sun.
Sow California poppy seeds directly in the ground. If California poppies are happy where you've planted them, there is a good chance they will seed the ground on their own and sprout up year after year. If this is your goal, be sure to leave spent blossoms on plants so they can disperse their seeds.
More Varieties of California Poppy
'Sunset' California poppy
Eschscholzia 'Sunset Mixed Colors' bears a variety of warm shades on 1-foot-tall plants.
'Summer Sorbet' California poppy
Eschscholzia 'Summer Sorbet' grows to 10 inches tall and offers ruffled, rose-pink blooms.
'Carmine King' California poppy
Eschscholzia 'Carmine King' boasts deep rose blossoms that shine in the sunlight; some have a light ivory blush.
California Poppy Companion Plants
Globe amaranth is an all-time flower-gardening favorite. It seems to have it all—it thrives in hot conditions, it blooms nearly nonstop, the interesting pom-pom flowers are great for cutting and drying, and it attracts butterflies. Plant globe amaranth and then step back to watch it thrive and add continual beauty until frost. It's great in beds, borders, and containers. Plant established seedlings outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed. It tolerates a variety of soils and moisture levels. It isn't fussy about fertilizer, but be careful not to overfertilize.
Lisianthus flowers make people ooh and ahh. Some varieties of this annual look like a blue rose. It's such an elegant flower you'd never guess it's native to American prairies. And lisianthus is one of the best cut flowers—it will last in the vase for 2 to 3 weeks. Lisianthus can be challenging to grow. They're extremely tricky to grow from seed, so start with established seedlings. Plant them in rich, well-drained soil in full sun after all danger of frost has passed. Keep moist but do not overwater. Taller varieties of lisianthus often need staking to keep their long stems from breaking, but newer dwarf varieties are more carefree.
Want fast color for just pennies? Plant zinnias! A packet of seeds will fill an area with gorgeous flowers in an amazing array of shapes and colors—even green! And it will happen in just weeks. There are dwarf types of zinnias, tall types, quill-leaf cactus types, spider types, multicolor, special seed blends for cutting, special blends for attracting butterflies, and more. Zinnias are so highly attractive to butterflies that you can count on having these fluttering guests dining in your garden every afternoon. But to attract the most, plant lots of tall, red, or hot pink zinnias in a large patch. 'Big Red' is especially nice for this, and the flowers are outstanding, excellent for cutting. Zinnias grow quickly from seed sown right in the ground and do best in full sun with dry to well-drained soil.