The Q&A Archives: Cut Back Oriental Poppy Leaves?

Question: Is it okay to cut back Oriental Poppy leaves as soon as the plant has finished blooming? I live in Maryland, and the flowers are gone by early June. The leaves aren't quite brown yet, but they are so large and droopy that I'd like to remove them.

Answer: I know that wilting foliage isn't a pretty sight, but the roots of your poppy plants need to extract the last traces of nutrients from the leaves before they go into dormancy. If you cut the foliage down prematurely, the plants will try to sprout new stems immediately, instead of storing energy for use next spring. In a few weeks the stems and foliage will turn brown and dry up. You'll have healthier plants if you allow the tops to remain until they die down naturally. Next year, plant some shallow-rooted annuals, such as baby's breath and bachelor's button, nearby the poppies to help hide the foliage and divert focus to a more attractive sight.

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