How To Grow Oriental Poppies in Your Garden

a blue poppy
Oriental poppies are long-lived and easy to grow perennials. (SpencerWing, Pixabay)

When Oriental poppies bloom, it’s like having a Mardi Gras parade accidentally turn down your street. Suddenly there’s this awesome loudness, flamboyance, and brilliance, and just before you completely soak it all in, it’s over!

Oriental poppies are one of my favorite garden flowers, because they’re just over the top with “wow” appeal, with blooms upwards of 6” across in absolutely gorgeous shades of pink, red, purple, white, and orange, often with dramatic dark centers. The flowers pop out of a background of cool-looking grayish green foliage.

Oriental poppies are long-lived and easy to grow perennials, but they don’t behave quite like other garden plants. Here’s what you need to know to grow and enjoy Oriental poppies in your garden.

There are so many gorgeous varieties of Oriental poppies! (PeterDargatz, Pixabay)

Fast Facts about Oriental Poppies

As long as you know a couple of things that set Oriental poppies apart, you should have no trouble growing them in your garden:

  • Flash in the Pan: Oriental poppies bloom in late May and June. When they finish blooming, not only do the blooms wither, but the plants do too, turning yellow and dying back. This leaves you with some unsightly dead foliage (which you can cut off), along with a hole in your garden design. For this reason, poppies are often planted right behind later-emerging perennials, such as black eyed susans, perennial hibiscus, asters, or perennial baby’s breath. When the poppies are done, there are new plants popping up to take their place.
  • Long Taproot: Oriental poppies also have a long taproot, much like a carrot. For this reason, they can be difficult to transplant, so try to plant them where they can stay a while. And if planting container-grown or bare-root plants, be careful to disturb the roots as little as possible.

pink poppies
Poppy seed heads add interest after blooms fade. (NickyPe, Pixabay)

How to Grow Oriental Poppies

Overall, Oriental poppies are very easy to grow once they’re established. Here are some growing tips:

  • Light: Full sun.
  • Soil: Poppies hate to be soggy, so well-draining soil is a must! Heavy clay soils will need to be amended to improve drainage, and highly acid soils should be amended with lime.
  • Size: Poppy plants grow 2’ to 4’ tall, although dwarf varieties are available.
  • Climate: Oriental poppies grow in hardiness zones 3-9, although they will suffer in high heat and humidity.
  • Water: Poppies need regular watering while blooming but are moderately drought tolerant.

poppy flowers in field
A field of poppy flowers. (tuku, Pixabay)

How to Plant Oriental Poppies

  • Container-Grown Plants: Poppies grown in containers are easy to plant by gently settling them in the ground at the same depth they were in the pot. Take care not to disturb the roots when transplanting.
  • Bare-Root Plants: Bare-root poppies should be planted with the top of the tap root about 1” to 3” below the soil surface. Follow all directions that come with your bare-root plant.
  • Seeds: Poppy seeds can be scattered directly on the surface of the soil in spring or early fall, where they will receive the sunlight they need to germinate. Once the seeds sprout in a couple of weeks, thin seedlings to about 6” apart. Seed-grown plants will likely not bloom until their second growing season.

Oriental Poppy Care Tips

  • Conduct a soil test and amend soil with lime, if necessary, to bring close to neutral pH.
  • Apply a balanced organic fertilizer to soil in spring.

Further Information


  1. This is the most informative site I’ve accessed. Everything I wanted to know was right there in a concise but thorough description. Oriental Poppies are my favorite plant in my small but diverse perennial garden.

  2. When are bare root Oriental Poppies shipped by Nurseries? I would prefer to plant in the spring. I live in central NJ.

  3. I was given some oriental poppy seeds today October 22 can I still plaint them and expect the puppies to bloom in Southern California

  4. So does no one notice that those pictures are Not oriental poppies. The flowers in the pictures are the good old somniferum poppy or opium poppy. Just thought it was weird an article about oriental poppies but not a single picture of papaver orientale.

  5. You show a picture of large orange Oriental poppies. However, there is no mention of how at the end of their bloom time you can leave the pods to go to seed. The only question I have Is that from the time that they are done blooming how long is it until they are ready to seed? Pods become little pepper shakers full of seeds. Need to know approximately how long that is. Thank You!

  6. Dear friends.
    I seeded some Oriental Poppie seeds in June 2017.they now have large buds,ready to open.The plants are almost 24″ tall,I can’t wait to see them pop open,they will look like large Carnations. So,for sure they can bloom the first year.
    Art Bouwman
    Guelph Ont

  7. I had beautiful salmon and also bright orange poppys in my garden for
    years. Last year, not one came up. Is there a length of time that poppys grow? Mine were oriental poppys and they did not re-seed because I always cut off the seed pods. But the plants returned every year until last. Odd that both species stopped blooming at the same time????

    • Hi, Judy,

      Gardening questions can be tricky since the rules can change based on the region. We would suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association.
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.

      Thanks for your question!

      Xxxxx master gardener

  8. Can I please just clarify? After my poppies have flowered I can cut back the untidy leaves but should leave the seed pods – have I got it right?

    • Hi, Lynne,

      Gardening questions can be tricky since the rules can change based on the region. We would suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association.
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.

      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  9. SO want to grow poppies!
    Zone 3/4.
    Buying plants to reseed didn’t work…now want to plant seed.
    Do I need to prepare ground, or can one cast the seed on
    Mulch or…in bed of Lupine?
    Just a beginner?.

  10. HI ,
    My oriental poppies are growing in metal trough.
    Every year the flowers come up too short and barely rise above the foliage. What am I doing wrong?


    • Hi, Michelle!
      Conditions vary with geography, so we recommend seeking local advice.
      The nursery where you purchased the plant can provide information to ensure optimal care and growth.
      Good luck!

  11. Do you have to save the seeds or will it grow back again in the spring. I have several plants, many which the feral cats used as beds so they’re broken down, I want to cut them back to clean them up and them put support rings around then to discourage the cats next year. If I do cut them back now will they grow back next spring? Should I save the seed pods?

  12. I must have an odd oriental poppy… the leaves stay green all summer even well after the first frost. I will also get two sets of blooms if I remember to fertilize after the first blooms die off ??‍♀️


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