Papery petals and clear, bright colors make poppies a favorite of flower-lovers. Even though the flowers last only a couple of days, most poppy plants send up several blossoms for a two-week-plus show. Their lesser-known and more refined relatives—Iceland, alpine, Atlantic, and corn poppy—have diminutive blooms and flower in spring or summer, depending on the variety.
Garden Plans For Poppy
The showy Oriental poppy has an unappealing habit of dying back to the ground in summer heat. The theory is that this characteristic is an adaptation to the oppressive heat of its native climate. Plan for poppy's disappearing act by planting late-season perennials and long-blooming summer annuals nearby. These plants will quickly fill in the void left by the poppy in June or early July.
The best perennial companions for the Oriental poppy include dahlias, Russian sage, daylily, goldenrod, black-eyed Susan, hibiscus, catmint, and agastache. Count on each of these easy-to-grow perennials to thrive in the same growing conditions as the Oriental poppy. Easy-to-grow annual companion plants for poppies include petunias, salvia 'Victoria', flowering tobacco, gomphrena, and celosia. Iceland, alpine, Atlantic, and corn poppies all thrive in mixed borders. Allow them to self-sow, and they will pop up between established perennials to create a quick cottage garden appearance. These poppies all have small gray-green leaves that blend well with other perennials. Like Oriental poppies, these small poppies often die back in summer heat.
Poppy Care Must-Knows
Poppies grow best in bright, full sun and well-drained soil light, sandy soil. They don't tolerate clay or soggy soil. Poppies grow best in cool climates. They are not tolerant of the high summer heat and humidity in the deep South and generally struggle to thrive beyond Zone 7. 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, do not transplant them. Instead, let the clump expand naturally and allow seeds to ripen. If necessary, transplant seedlings in early spring or fall.
More Varieties of Poppy
'Helen Elizabeth' Oriental poppy
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
This cultivar of Papaver orientale bears big coral-pink flowers on rugged plants that grow 3 feet tall. Zones 3-9
'Allegro' Oriental poppy
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
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
This Papaver orientale variety bears unique burgundy-purple blooms on strong 3-foot stems. Zones 3-7
Plant Poppy With:
Come rain or come shine, this is one gorgeous grass. After a shower, the delicate clouds of switchgrass seed heads are spangled with raindrops that glisten in the sun. In dry weather, these mostly upright grasses are beautiful in slanting sun, which highlights 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. Some self-seed freely. Provide average, well-drained soil in sun or very light shade for best results.
Easy, always fresh, and always eye-catching, Shasta daisy is a longtime favorite. 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. Shasta daisy thrives in well-drained, not overly rich soil. Taller sorts may need staking.
Easy and undemanding, veronicas catch the eye 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. Provide full sun and average well-drained soil. Regular deadheading extends bloom time.
There are hundreds of different types of salvias, commonly called sage, but they all tend to share beautiful, tall flower spikes and attractive, often gray-green leaves. Countless sages (including the herb used in cooking) are available to decorate ornamental gardens, and new selections appear annually. They are valued for their very long season of bloom, right up until frost. Not all not hardy in cold climates, but they are easy to grow as annuals. On square stems, clothed with often-aromatic leaves, 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. Provide full sun or very light shade, in well-drained average soil.