Common poppy

The common poppy adds some natural color accents to the garden. Here’s what you need to know about planting and caring for Papaver rhoeas.

Apr 09, 2021 02:51 pm
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Growth type
  • one year old
Growth height (from)
from 50 cm to 60 cm
Growth characteristics
  • upright
Flower color
  • red
Flowering time (month)
  • May to July
Flower shape
  • terminal
  • Shell Flowers
Leaf color
  • green
page format
  • feathered
  • sawn
Fruit shape
  • Capsule
Fruit characteristics
  • Self-seeding
  • sunny
Soil type
  • sandy
Soil Moisture
  • dry to moderately dry
Lime compatibility
  • lime-loving
Nutrient requirements
  • moderately nutritious
Decorative or utility value
  • Flower Decoration
  • Nectar or pollen plant
  • native wild plant
areas of life
  • FR1
  • FR2
  • Flowerbeds
  • flower meadows
  • Wilderness
  • Rebates
Garden style
  • Flower garden
  • natural garden
Bee Friendly
bee friendly plant

The common poppy is an annual herbaceous plant with a deep tap root. It grows upright, reaching an average height of 20 to 24 inches. However, there are also smaller varieties that grow to a height of 7.87 to 11.81 inches and look particularly good in pots. The strong, slender flowers stems of the common poppy are covered with bristly hairs.


The distinctive leaves of Papaver rhoeas are pinnately lobed with serrated margins. They are alternately arranged on the stems and have a coarse feel due to the bristly hairs.

Common poppy
The common poppy is a familiar sight in grain fields and along roadsides

The common poppy flowers from May to June/July with the individual flowers surviving on the plant for a maximum of three days, but new flowers are constantly generated. The wild plant adorns itself with striking red bowl-shaped flowers with a black center. Although rare, they sometimes have a natural pink or white color. The terminal flowers are up to 4.72 inches in size. The wafer-thin petals of Papaver rhoeas are reminiscent of crinkled silk. As a bee-friendly plant, the common poppy attracts plenty of insects during its flowering period.


The decorative seed heads of the common poppy are almost as well known as the flowers. After flowering, the plant develops ovate capsules, or to be more precise: “pore capsules” that contain a number of small, black seeds. In suitable locations, the common poppy self-seeds and comes back every year.


If you’re looking to plant the common poppy in a specific area, it’s best to choose a sunny and warm spot. Papaver rhoeas does not do well in the shade. Sheltered locations prevent the delicate petals from being blown away prematurely.


The common poppy has modest soil requirements: It grows best in dry, moderately nutritious soil, which should be loose and permeable thanks to a high sand content. Papaver rhoeas does very well in soils with a high lime content.

Common poppy seeds
The tiny poppy seeds are sown in early spring

The common poppy can be sown directly into open ground in March and April. The tiny seeds are light germinators and should therefore only be lightly pressed into the ground, not covered with soil. The stock should later be thinned out with a distance of 7.87 inches to 9.84 inches between the young plants.


The common poppy is very low maintenance when planted in the garden. If you want to prevent the plants from coming back the following year or spreading too much, cut the flowers off before they develop seeds. It is advisable to remove wilted flowers regularly from plants in both pots and flower beds. This stimulates and extends the flowering period. Potted plants should be watered daily, but you only need to worry about those in the garden during prolonged dry periods.


Due to its natural look and excellent suitability as a pasture for bees, the common poppy is practically made for or corners of the garden, flower beds, and borders that are close to nature. They look wonderful when sown over a large area, or as pops of bright red in mixed flower beds. Other arable plant species and native wild plants like the cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) or corncockle (Agrostemma githago) make good companions. Those who like variety in their garden combine the common poppy with other annuals, such as candytuft (Iberis umbellata). And short grasses provide a pretty frame around it all.

Common poppy and cornflower
A pretty pair both in nature and in the garden: Common poppy and cornflower

If you want to grow the common poppy on a balcony or patio, you should opt for smaller varieties and cultivars, many of which are now available in a wide range of attractive colors. The seed capsules of Papaver rhoeas can be dried and used as a natural decoration or for beautiful dried bouquets. The red flowers look pretty in wild flower bouquets in early summer.

The common poppy is no longer considered particularly relevant as a healing plant for colds, skin rashes, anxiety, or insomnia. Although Papaver rhoeas does contain healthy components like bitter compounds, tannins and anthocyanins, ingestion frequently leads to undesirable side effects such as vomiting or gastrointestinal complaints. And its medicinal properties are very limited compared to other poppy varieties.


There are a number of varieties of Papaver rhoeas available in stores. They mainly differ in flower color and shape. The single-flower varieties are similar to the wild species and are commonly grown in nature gardens. The more striking double-flowered varieties create colorful accents that captivate even in mixed flower beds. The variety ‘Pierrot’ is a real eye-catcher, every petal is adorned with an additional black spot. The variety ‘Mother of Pearl’ grows a good 25 inches tall with a wonderful dusty pink color and sometimes an elegant light violet: It joins an ever-increasing range of common poppies in pastel colors, which have been extremely popular among garden owners for several years now.

Common poppy variety ‘Mother of Pearl’
The common poppy variety ‘Mother of Pearl’ has soft dusty pink flowers

The common poppy is often included in seed mixtures for summer flowers, bee pastures, or colorful wild flower meadows. There are also some well-established pure common poppy seed mixtures. The Shirley series is particularly special: Instead of the black spot in the center of the flower, it has a white interior.


The common poppy is propagated from seed in spring. You can collect your own seeds in summer or use seeds from specialist stores.

Diseases and Pests

The common poppy is only affected by plant diseases in extremely wet conditions: Papaver rhoeas is then susceptible to mildew and poppy blight. The plant is occasionally infested by aphids.