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Plant Oriental Poppies In Fall For A Flash of Spring Brilliance

Oriental Poppy Royal Wedding_-_Sandra_Louise_Glaneuski_White

Royal Wedding Oriental Poppy

by David Salman

Few flowers can match the fabulous spring display provided by Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale). While not a long blooming perennial (the plants are in flower for about 10 to 14 days), their floral display is a highly anticipated event in the garden. Huge, silky textured flowers can sometimes reach over 6 inches in diameter. They come in an array of colors, almost always with a distinctive shimmering black eye at the center that gives their appearance added drama.


Beauty of Livermere Oriental Poppy

About Oriental Poppies - The Colder, The Better!

The genus, as we know them, are actually the result of complex hybridization of three different species, all native to western Asia (the southern Caucasus Mountains, northeastern Turkey and the high mountains of Iran). Oriental poppies are best grown in colder climates (USDA zones 3 to 7) and aren not a good choice for mild-winter regions. In fact, the colder the better! Gardeners in zones 3 and 4 who struggle to find perennials that survive the winters will love these long-lived beauties. Like peonies, a poppy can live for generations coming back year after year from their deep roots. Once established, they are there to stay, so we recommend taking some time to decide where they should be planted in your yard.


Coral Reef Poppy Papaver orientale.

Coral Reef Oriental Poppy

Planting Oriental Poppies in the Fall

Fall is the best time to plant Oriental Poppies. They can establish their roots and get the winter chilling they need to bloom the following spring. Spring planted Oriental Poppies often will not bloom until the following year. Because they are so cold hardy, they are also recommended for beginning gardeners who don't have much fall planting experience.

  • Site poppies in full sun. 
  • They do well in all types of soils, including clay. 
  • Avoid spots in your landscape that stay wet or puddle after a rain. 
  • Adequate drainage is key.
  • Other than that, these resilient plants are exceeding easy to grow.


'Fireworks' Goldenrod

Companion Plants For Oriental Poppies

Oriental poppies behave much like spring blooming daffodils and tulips, as they go dormant in summer, losing their foliage by late June. Come fall, they re-sprout the leaves that stay evergreen through the winter. It's important to select companion plants to mix in with your poppies to camouflage the dying foliage and provide more flowers with different bloom times. The best arrangement is to interplant your poppies in between other tall growers that come into bloom in early summer. Plant the poppies and companions on 18 inch centers and put the poppies in the middle.

Recommended Poppy Companions include:

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