Home gardeners growing California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) from seed are rewarded with their wispy, fern-like foliage and lively orange, red and yellow flowers. Spectacular, drought-tolerant plants are a favorite for use in container gardens, mixed beds, rock gardens and water wise (xeric) landscapes. Provides a long-lasting, easy to maintain display of colors. Very reliable.
First noted on the Pacific coast by Dr. Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, who was the leader of a Russian expedition in 1815. This West Coast wildflower was officially designated the state flower of California on December 12, 1890. Even though this flower is from sunny California, it’s a cool-season annual, 4-12 inches tall.
We carry both Oriental (perennial) and annual types of this colorful favorite.View all
All the heirloom flower seed offered by Planet Natural is non-treated, non-GMO and NOT purchased from Monsanto-owned Seminis. Planting instructions are included with each packet and shipping is FREE!
Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Caring for California Poppies
- Perennial in warm climates that self-seeds easily
- Direct-seed outdoors in rich soil; needs full sun
- Minimal watering, no fertilizer
- Blooms early summer to early fall
- To use as cut flowers, harvest before bloom opens
Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 55-75 days from seed to flower
Height: 4 to 12 inches
Spacing: 4 to 8 inches apart in all directions
California poppies like rich, fast-draining soil, ample water and plenty of sunshine. However, they are adaptable and will tolerate poor soil conditions and some drought. Work a shovelful or two of well-aged manure or organic compost into the soil prior to planting to improve soil conditions and help promote abundant blooms. Read our article on how to prepare soil for planting here.
How to Plant
Direct seeding is preferable, as poppies do not like to have their roots disturbed. Sow in early spring when the soil is still cool and light frost is possible (watch Flower Gardening from the Ground Up – video). May also be sown in the fall just before the ground freezes. Seeds will germinate in 10-15 days.
Poppy plants are not heavy feeders. Too much fertilizer will cause plants to produce excessive leaf growth at the expense of flower production.
Remove the spent blossoms, or use them as cuttings in flower arrangements, to extend the flowering season. Make sure to leave some faded flowers on the plants, especially later in the year, as poppies are self-seeding year to year.
Tip: For long-lasting blooms for cut flowers, snip stems and then seal the end using a lighter or match before putting them in an arrangement.
Insect & Disease Problems
Poppies have few pest problems. However, aphids and thrips can sometimes appear almost overnight. Watch closely for these soft-bodied, sucking insects and release ladybugs to reduce pest numbers. Apply insecticidal soap with pyrethrin if plants are badly infested.
Foliage and flowers are susceptible to moisture-related diseases, such as gray mold, downy mildew and powdery mildew, which can disfigure plants if severe. To reduce and prevent common plant diseases:
- Avoid overhead watering whenever possible (use soaker hoses or drip irrigation)
- Properly space plants to improve air circulation
- Apply organic fungicides to prevent further infection
Seed Saving Instructions
Extremely easy for seed savers. When the blooms fade a long narrow seedpod is formed, turning from green to brown. Once the seedpod turns brown, simply cut off and allow to completely dry before cracking open and removing the hundreds of small sand-like seeds. Store seeds in a cool dry area. Read more about saving heirloom flower seeds here.
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