Oriental Poppies

Ilona Erwin

 

Oriental Poppies, Sumptuous Silky Blooms

Papaver orientale

Papaver orientale

Oriental poppies are cold climate plants which need a sunny spot, with well-drained, moderately fertile, soil. The kind of conditions found in most perennial garden beds.

They live for a long time, and you can sometimes see stands where the homes have disappeared into the past.

Papaver Orientale

Heights of 2 1/2 to 4 feet tall, these plants will go dormant in the middle of summer, but they star in the  show during the time when the rest of the garden is transitioning. They hold center stage at that time with lots of pizzazz: late May to early June.

Their dormancy means they put up with summer dry conditions, like their other garden friend from Grandma’s perennial beds, the German Iris. Such vintage gardens often had the two paired with peonies, presenting an early summer bounty of blossom.

Quick Facts

  • Height:2 1/2 to 4 feet tall
  • Moisture:Average, drought tolerant
  • Soil: Average loamy, well drained
  • Light: Full sun to Part Sun
  • Hardy: Zones 3-7

To avoid a blank spot left by their summer disappearance, neighbor them with Boltonias or Chrysanthemums which will fill in nicely and bloom late in the season. Gypsophila is another filler plant to pair with poppies.

Old fashioned garden favorites, they were also loved by artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

A Bit of History:

Cultivated for centuries, they were introduced to France from Armenia in Asia Minor, and then to Britain around the beginning of the eighteenth century. (Some say from Turkey, but that is due to changing borders, I think)
RHS plant profiles for Papaver orientalis.

Good Garden Soil

Although not picky, this is a plant that appreciate a soil amended with humus. Enriching it with some compost will produce rewarding bloom. Not tolerant of heavy soils, if too wet, the plants are prone to rot or sulk.

The poet Goethe: “On the 19th of June 1799 late in the evening when the twilight was deepening into a clear night as I was walking up and down the garden with friend we very distinctly observed a flame like appearance near the oriental poppy the flowers which are remarkable for their powerful red colour “

Poppies In Your Garden:

With flowers stretching 5 to 9 inches in diameter they make a big splash of vibrant color. Bronze fennel is an attractive companion with the most pleasing harmony of color and contrast of texture, it will also fill in when the poppies are gone. One of my favorite garden pictures consisted of the bright orange oriental poppies with a background of the purple sand cherry shrub. It is a similar color harmony of the type seen in “red” gardens, like that at The Garden at Hidcote in England.
Some of the most beautiful: ‘Cedar Hill’,‘Prince of Orange’,’Turkish Delight‘,’Mrs Perry‘ , and ‘Perry’s White‘.

Papaver Orientale Care

Divide perennial poppies in the spring or fall, take 2″ length of roots and plant in sandy or cultivated soil. Divide regularly (3-4 years) to keep plant true to type. They may take time to settle in after disturbance.

You may also grow from seed gathered from the flower pods.

These perennial poppies do require a period of cold, but benefit from winter protection. a shallow layer of mulch is desirable.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.