by David Salman
Plant Poppies In Fall For A Flash of Spring Brilliance
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 much anticipated event in the garden. The huge, silky textured flowers (sometimes over 6 inches in diameter) come in an array of colors and they almost always have a distinctive shimmering black eye at the center of the flowers that gives their appearance added drama.
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 to7) and aren't a good choice for mild-winter regions. In fact, the colder the better. Gardeners in zones 3 and 4 who struggle to find a wide array of 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, fleshy roots. Once established they are there to stay, so take some time to decide where they should be planted in your yard.
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. But 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.
Enjoying Oriental Poppies in the Garden
Oriental poppies behave much like spring blooming daffodils and tulips, as they go summer dormant, losing their foliage by late June. Come fall, they re-sprout the leaves that stay evergreen through the winter. So it's important to select some companion plants to mix in with your poppies to camouflage the dying foliage and provide more flowers. 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:
- 'Coronation Gold' Yarrow (Achillea fillipendulina)
- 'Fireworks' Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)
- Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber )
- 'Professor Kippenberg' Tall Aster (Aster)
- Tall Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
- 'Walker's Low' Catmint (Nepeta hybrid)
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