Everything You Need to Know About Oriental Poppies

Oriental poppies

There are a wide variety of both traditional and new species of poppies. It seems that each year, we see new species that are lovelier than the year before's were. It may be because more people are including poppies in their gardens. Another reason may be that gardeners are learning the secret of these delicate, silk-like flowers. Oriental poppies against a backdrop of evergreens or shrubs are absolutely stunning, and believe it or not, they are easy to grow.

Oriental Poppy Colors

Colors of Oriental poppies range from silvery white, pink, peach, salmon, rose, and crimson. They bring color into a otherwise drab yard or garden when planted in a mass. Their long, slender stems sway in the breeze, as colorful flower heads nod in the breeze. No matter what color of poppy you prefer, you can create a stunning display.

Scarlet or crimson poppies surrounded by large, leafy bracts are especially lovely and make a fantastic border when planted with golden, purple, or white Alyssum. Carefully consider the color choice of your plants when planting Oriental poppies to create a perennial border. Be sure to choose colors that compliment each other.

Plant the poppies to cause the viewer's eye to move around the garden, pulling it from one place to another. Red poppies look absolutely gorgeous against blue, yellow, or dark green backdrops. Pink and white poppies work well in borders or combined with iris. Plant pastel colored poppies with asters, phloxes, or delphiniums. These flowers provide a beautiful backdrop, and once the poppies die back, they move in to the area that is left when the poppy goes into dormancy. This ensures that your garden blooms continually.

Blooming and Size

Oriental poppies bloom during the months of May and June. They reach heights of 2-4 feet. Flowers can measure 5-9 inches in diameter. The entire Oriental poppy plant makes a majestic showing. From the lush, fern-like leaves to the large blossoms, purplish black stamens, and unique pod seeds, these plants bring spectacular beauty and color into your personal space.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin suggests, "Oriental poppies have a very short bloom time. In order to extend the poppy blooms throughout late spring, choose several different cultivars to plant in your landscape.


After Oriental poppies have bloomed and moved into the dormant stage, a seedpod will appear. Allow it to ripen until it turns a papery brown. At this time you may harvest seeds, cut back the poppies, or leave them be to create decoration in your garden during the winter months. If you decide to leave them, the seedpods will attract winter birds to your yard to feast on the seeds.


Oriental poppies will grow in any area that has rich, loamy soil and gets lots of sun. They are easy to grow and require a limited amount of care.

TIP: Kathy adds, "Oriental poppies thrive in well-drained soils, and fail quickly in soggy ground. Make sure your garden bed is loamy and well-drained for these flowers.


Oriental poppies require very little water. If spring is unusually dry in your area, water them occasionally. However, when they reach the dormant stage, they require no water. These beautiful plants seem to thrive when their roots are baking under the hot, summer sun. When fall rains begin, the roots of the poppies will show some signs of growth. This is when the plants can be easily divided.


Oriental poppies can grow in gardens in almost any climate if mulched before a deep frost sets in. Mulch doesn't have to be removed the following spring. Keep mulch away from the stems to prevent rot from setting in.


Oriental poppies are best divided in the fall after they've been dormant through the hot summer months. They may also be divided in spring. Cut roots approximately 2 inches in length and plant in sandy soil. New plants will grow using this method.

They can also be propagated from seed, though they require much more care than if the root is divided. Seeds have to be gathered as soon as the seedpods ripen and begin to open. Sow thinly and winter in a coldframe, since Oriental poppies need frost in order to germinate. When new shoots appear in the spring, place them in pots. After they've grown to approximately 4 inches in height, transplant them into your flower garden.

Beneficial Attributes

Oriental poppies will attract bees, butterflies and ladybugs, as well as other beneficial insects, which will help your garden to thrive. Harvest seed when ripe to use in baking and cooking. Oriental poppies have been harvested for centuries for their medicinal properties.

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