How to Plant and Grow Poppy

Poppies are recognized by their papery petals and clear, bright colors. There are over 120 types of poppies in the perennial papaver genus, the types most commonly recognized and planted. Hardy in Zones 2-8, poppy is grown as an ornamental garden flower, blooming in the cooler months of April to June. Sometimes they'll bloom longer where evenings remain cool during summer months. Their short flowering time of two weeks makes them a brief but colorful addition to a garden. They're deer resistant, so won't get eaten when they flower.

Many species of poppy are toxic to cats and dogs. While not toxic to humans in small amounts, ingesting large amounts can be dangerous.

Poppy Overview

Genus Name Papaver spp.
Common Name Poppy
Plant Type Perennial
Light Sun
Height 6 to 12 inches
Width 4 to 36 inches
Flower Color Blue, Orange, Pink, Red, White
Foliage Color Chartreuse/Gold
Season Features Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Cut Flowers, Low Maintenance
Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant

Where to Plant Poppy

Poppies grow best in cool climates. They're not tolerant of the high summer heat and humidity and generally struggle to thrive beyond Zone 7.

How and When to Plant Poppy

Since there are so many types of poppies, check with your garden center expert to understand when and how to plant the poppies you choose for your garden.

Poppy Care Must-Knows

Poppy needs lots of sun, not too much water, and vigilant removal of seeds and seedling to prevent invasive growth.


Poppies grow best in bright, full sun that's not too hot.

Soil and Water

Poppies need well-drained, light, sandy soil. They don't tolerate clay or soggy soil. Poppies are drought tolerant, so only water seedlings in container-grown plants. However, if there's an extended period of drought, poppies will need watering. Poppies planted in containers may need a bit of additional water, but should dry out between waterings.

Temperature and Humidity

Poppies do best in cool temperatures and low humidity. Temperatures over 65ºF can inhibit their growth, so plant them early in the spring.


Poppies don't need fertilizer, except if there's too much nitrogen in the soil. If so, fertilize with a phosphorous-rich fertilizer, following product manufacturer's instructions.


If your plants are too crowded, they'll become weedy. Remove seeds and seedlings regularly so established plants have the room they need to grow. Cut plants back to the ground after they flower. This will encourage healthy foliage and may allow for a second flowering later in the season if the weather is right.

Potting and Repotting Poppy

The most important thing to do to grow poppies in pots is to have the correct size pot. They have long taproots that need room to grow. Use high-quality potting soil, and place pots in a sunny location. Some varieties will grow better in pots, whether inside or outside, than others, so make sure the type you choose is good for containers. Poppies don't like to be moved once they're planted, so give them plenty of space, and plan to keep them where they are.

Pests and Problems

Poppies may develop fungi like powdery mildew, gray mold, or root rot if they're waterlogged. Try to wash the mildew from the leaves, or treat with an antifungal if needed.

Aphids and thrips suck the sap from poppies and will damage them.

How to Propagate Poppy

All poppies have a long taproot that makes them challenging to grow in the garden center and tricky to transplant. Once poppies are established in the garden, don't transplant them. Instead, let the clump expand naturally and allow seeds to ripen. If necessary, transplant seedlings in early spring or fall.

Types of Poppy

'Helen Elizabeth' Oriental Poppy

'Helen Elizabeth' Oriental poppy Papaver orientale

Papaver orientale 'Helen Elizabeth' has bristly stems and lobed, toothed foliage. A central boss of black stamens accents the bright salmon-color flowers. It may reach 2-1/2 feet tall. Zones 3-9

'Coral Reef' Oriental Poppy

Coral Reef Oriental Poppy Papaver orientale

This cultivar of Papaver orientale bears big coral-pink flowers on rugged plants that grow 3 feet tall. Zones 3-9

'Allegro' Oriental Poppy

'Allegro' Oriental poppy Papaver orientale

Papaver orientale 'Allegro' is a dwarf form that stays only 20 inches tall and bears strong stems with bright red-orange flowers. Zones 3-9

'Prince of Orange' Oriental Poppy

'Prince of Orange' Oriental poppy, Papaver orientale

Papaver orientale 'Prince of Orange' has full orange-scarlet flowers on 30-inch-tall stems. It doesn't have the big black blotches at the base of the flower that most Oriental poppies do, but it's centered with black stamens and seedpod. Zones 3-9

'Patty's Purple Plum' Oriental Poppy

Papaver orientale 'Patty's Purple Plum'

This Papaver orientale variety bears unique burgundy-purple blooms on strong 3-foot stems. Zones 3-7

Poppy Companion Plants


switchgrass detail with wispy seedheads
Peter Krumhardt

After a shower, switchgrass seed heads are spangled with raindrops that glisten in the sun. These mostly upright grasses are beautiful in the slanting sun in dry weather, highlighting their green, purplish, or bluish leaves. In late summer, lightly branched panicles of spikelets (flowers) appear above the foliage, presenting an airy picture. In fall, the foliage often takes on dramatic red, yellow, or gold tones; then, it turns buff in winter. Zones 4-9

Shasta Daisy

Leucanthemum superbum Shasta Daisy flowers
Peter Krumhardt

Shasta daisy is easy, always fresh, and eye-catching. All cultivars produce white daisy flowers in various degrees of doubleness and size. The sturdy stems and long vase life make the flowers unbeatable for cutting. Zones 5-8


veronica purplicious flowers
Marty Baldwin

Easy and undemanding, veronicas look great in sunny gardens over many months. Some have mats with loose clusters of saucer-shaped flowers, while others group their star or tubular flowers into erect tight spikes. A few veronicas bring elusive blue to the garden, but more often, the flowers are purplish or violet blue, rosy pink, or white. Zones 3-11


Blue Salvia
Stephen Cridland

There are hundreds of salvias, commonly called sage, but all tend to have tall flower spikes and attractive, often gray-green leaves. Countless sages (including the herb used in cooking) are available to decorate ornamental gardens. They have a very long blooming season, right up until frost. Not all are hardy in cold climates, but they're easy to grow as annuals. Sages carry dense or loose spires of tubular flowers in bright blues, violets, yellow, pinks, and red that mix well with other perennials in beds and borders.

Garden Plan For Poppy

Late-Summer Garden Plan

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does the poppy symbolize?

    The poppy flower is considered special because of its meaning. Specifically, the red poppy symbolizes remembrance, resilience, and peace. Many people wear poppies on remembrance days for fallen soldiers. 

  • Do poppies attract polinators?

    Yes, poppies are very attractive to bees, birds, and butterflies. Their bright colors make them irresistible.

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