Either annual or perennial: Various types and varieties of Poppies enthrall us in summer with their delicate flowers. How to plant and care for Poppies properly.


The plant genus Poppy (Papaver), which includes up to 120 species, belongs to the poppy family (Papaveraceae). The genus name Papaver is the old Latin name for the plant. It was described for the first time in 1752 by Carl von Linné. The genus name goes back to the Latin word "pappare", which means "to eat". The reason for this name: The ancient Romans gave their children porridge with Poppy seed juice to get them to sleep. The Poppy plant is one of the oldest cultivated plants and was cultivated and planted for over 5,000 years.

Appearance and Growth

The Poppy genus includes annual, biennial and perennial species. All species have one thing in common: they contain a white or yellow milky sap that is toxic. The upright stems are often hairy, seldom hairless and can be both, with or without leaves. The leaves are alternately arranged and can either be stalked or sessile. The flowers, which appear from mid/late May to early July depending on the variety, are mostly solitary, hermaphroditic, have a calyx and a crown. Usually the species have four petals that fall off when the flower opens. The flowers are deep red, orange-red, purple or even pink and white, depending on the variety. Poppy forms capsule fruits that are partially or completely hairy, so-called "pore capsules", with numerous black seeds.

Pore capsules of the Poppy

The fruits of the Poppy seeds are pore capsules, a type of capsule fruit. The seeds sprinkle out of the pores due to the wind, just the way a saltshaker sprinkles salt.

Location and Soil

Poppy prefers a sunny and warm location with a well drained and nutrient-rich, moderately dry and loamy soil.


You can sow Poppy seeds in March and April and then, depending on the variety, thin them out to a distance of 7.87 to 11.81 inches. In case of fall crops, flowering happens earlier. Prior to sowing, you can enrich the soil with a bit of compost. Keep the seeds uniformly moist after sowing.

Care Tips

In general, Poppy seeds are extremely easy to care for. You can water Papaver regularly during longer dry periods. You should also remove withered leaves regularly and prevent some species from self-sowing. Fertilizing is not necessary, however, the Turkish Poppy variety will be happy with an addition of compost before flowering.

Where to plant

The Turkish poppy (Papaver orientale), for example, goes well with species that bloom at the same time, such as steppe sage, bearded iris and ornamental alliumium. If you love flower beds with natural charm, you can even add different columbine varieties to the Poppy seeds. Since the leaves of the Turkish Poppy seeds wither quickly after the seeds ripen, it is best to surround them with plants that cover the ground to hide the gaps. The lush cushions of various cranesbills varieties are ideal for this, such as the long-flowering hybrid “Rozanne”. The Turkish poppy plant goes well with the late sprouting gap fillers such as the Coneflower.

Other types of Poppies are also suitable for natural looking gardens, above all the annual Poppy (Papaver rhoeas). Earlier, it used to be a constant companion of the bluebottles, nowadays, the wild plant has become rare in fields. The bright red flowers look particularly beautiful when sown over a large area, but the Poppy is also a feast for the eyes in a sunny gap in the shrub bed or in a pot. You can sow Poppy seeds from March; if you miss this date, you can plant several specimens of the Spanish poppy (Papaver rupifragum) in flower beds or pots instead.

Common poppy and cranesbill

The red flowers of the common Poppy look radiant when planted between white lupine and cranesbill

important species

It is one of our most beautiful garden perennials: the (Papaver orientale). The first plants that were brought to Paris from Eastern Turkey over 400 years ago probably bloomed in bright red, similar to its annual relative, the Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas). At the beginning of the 19th century, different varieties were created whose large bowl-shaped flowers delight us today with their delicate pink or white tones. Depending on the color, they give the Turkish Poppy a splendid, sometimes romantic appearance. It is always an eye-catcher in the sunny flower bed.

The development from the flower bud to the seed pods is a fascinating natural spectacle in the Turkish poppy. The flower blooms from two enclosed hairy sepals. The protective cover opens and soon falls off completely, allowing the initially wrinkled petals to unfold. After fertilization, the seed capsule ripens, opens and spreads the delicate seeds.

In our image gallery you can see the diverse variety of Turkish Poppy:

In the 20th century, after the Turkish poppy, other shrub poppy species came to Europe: The first was the Armenian poppy or medicinal poppy (Papaver bracteatum), which was introduced to Europe in 1818 by an employee of the Botanical Garden in St. Petersburg and described for the first time in 1821.

The Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum) is a medicinal plant from the eastern Mediterranean that has been cultivated for thousands of years. If you scratch their unripe seed pods, white milky sap emerges, which contains various alkaloids, including the intoxicating morphine and codeine. When the capsules mature, they give us the popular black seeds that are traditionally used for baking, for example. The consumption of poppy seeds from the Turkish Poppy and other shrub poppy species is just as inadvisable as eating the poppy seed capsules.

Turkish Poppy (Papaver orientale)

The Turkish Poppy (Papaver orientale) is one of the most popular poppy species

There are also numerous attractive ornamental varieties of the annual plant with single or dense double flowers. The seeds are available from plant dealers. However, it is not permitted in Germany to plant these varieties without official approval, as they, like the real species, fall under the Narcotics Act (BtMG).

The annual Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) grows mainly on grain fields and farmlands, paths and debris and is suitable for near-natural planting in the garden. Flowers appear from May to June. Common poppy is a good bee pasture and attracts numerous insects. The morphine contained in the Opium Poppy is not found in the Common Poppy. The Common Poppy got its German name because its flowers clap against each other in wind and rain.

Common poppy

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

The Armenian Poppy is similar to the Turkish Poppy, but is more robust and stable. The Icelandic Poppy (Papaver nudicaule) originates from the arctic and sub-arctic regions and loves a sunny place in the stone garden.

The hairy poppy (Papaver pilosum) was introduced to Europe in 1852, even the Moroccan poppy (Papaver atlanticum) in 1889. The Spanish poppy (Papaver rupifragum) is a perennial shrub that strongly resembles the Common Poppy and blooms wonderful orange-red flowers from May to September.

y (Meconopsis) also belongs to the poppy family, but to a different genus of plants. In contrast to Papaver species, it has a stylus and a cephalic scar.

Opium poppy

Beautiful, but dangerous: Sowing of opium poppy


The best way to propagate Poppies is to sow them in spring, and the plant can easily self-sow. Some species can also be propagated through root strips. This propagation technique is mainly used for the Turkish poppy varieties.

Diseases and Pests

If the planting location is too wet, fungal diseases such as downy mildew or poppy blight can infect the poppy plant. As a preventive measure against, you can use herbal manure, such as nettle manure. Otherwise, Poppy seeds are relatively insensitive.

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