Oriental Poppies bring stunning brilliance to the late-spring garden. Luminescent, crepe-paper like flowers open wide to three-or-four-inches and “wow” the garden on thirty-inch stems. A Poppy’s huge bowl-shaped flowers are made more dazzling by their hot array of orange, red, plum, pink, salmon and white colors accented by a dark blotched spot in the center of the blooms.
Poppy lovers have only one complaint concerning this perennial: it goes dormant after blooming, which is disappointing after such a provocative showing. But this isn’t really a problem. The bristly leaves turn brown, and with a slight tug on the plant’s stem, a gardener can remove the enormous clump of foliage at no real cost to the perennial or the gardener.
Harvested poppy seed reverts to the rhoesa or original orange wildflower. By the end of August, the Poppy foliage will again push up, breaking the Poppies’ pre-determined weeks of summer dormancy. Oriental Poppies require two dormancy periods, one in summer and one in the cold chilling winter dormancy that ensures the flowers will bloom. A gardener will soon learn to fill in the blank spots left by the dormant Poppies with shallow rooted annuals like Cosmos or with a late breaking, late season Hibiscus, which is similar in height and size to the Poppy. Match the camouflaging plant’s requirements to the Poppies of full sun, well-drained soil with an alkaline soil base.
As wildflowers, Poppies have been the favorite early color-makers worldwide for hundreds of years. Seeds for these classic orange Poppies can be purchased in package or bulk and broadcast in fields and meadows. These Poppies will bloom in their ancestral orange, growing up to thirty inches in height. Sow the seed in spring or fall. Germination depends on the amount of snowfall covering the seeds over winter. If the seeds do not germinate the first year, don’t worry. Poppy seeds stay viable. The first year following germination, only green growth will appear. The plants will not bloom until the next season. The Poppies compete successfully with other plantings like grasses or weeds, can be mowed easily, and will increase rapidly.